John 4:1-30; 39-42

Jesus knows just where to find you! This is the most exciting passage of the Bible, so far, for all "Joy for Life" students! It shows us how Jesus went out of His way to meet the enormous need of one, individual woman, who was certainly not accepted by the crowd. Just one encounter with the living God completely changed how she saw herself, her town, her enemies, her sin and her future.

If we take this wonderful example of God’s personal encounter with one woman, we can see how He will go to any lengths to meet with us and change our disasters into His victories.

Jesus had no difficulty making the decision to go through the country of Samaria because He had the love of God for all people and didn’t feel any cultural restrictions. The quickest way from Judea to the Galilee was through this country, whose people were real enemies of the Jewish people. This enmity had begun when the Northern Kingdom (with its capital, Samaria) had set up an alternative centre for worship on Mount Gerizim to parallel the temple worship at Jerusalem. This act eventually brought down God's judgment on the Northern Kingdom, which was overrun by the Assyrian Empire. Many Jewish people were deported to Assyria and foreigners were brought in to settle the land and help keep the peace. (2 Kings 17:24) Intermarriage between these foreigners and the remaining Jewish people resulted in a mixed race - "impure" in the eyes of those Jewish people who still lived in the Southern Kingdom (Judah).

As a result, in Jesus' time, Jewish people from Jerusalem did everything they could to avoid travelling through Samaria. Jesus' route took him past Jacob’s Well - a popular watering spot, attracting local women and their servants twice a day, morning and evening. The Samaritan woman, who features in John's gospel, came at mid-day, probably to avoid meeting other people who knew her reputation. Jesus’ timing was always spot on. We see several situations throughout this gospel when Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to move on to where the Father wanted Him, at just the right time. This woman’s opinion of herself appears to have been so low that she went out of her way to avoid company and would certainly never have expected someone like Jesus to want to make contact with her.

An unusual approach

Jesus displayed no prejudice, bigotry or hatred. He knew all about this woman and knew it was an appointment made in the heart of His Father. He did not look on her with condemnation or with religious prejudice, either of which would have prevented Him from talking to her. Since she was a woman, a samaritan and an adulterer, the prevailing cultural norms meant that any social interaction between them was unthinkable. No respectable Jewish man would talk to a woman under such circumstances and certainly would not use her water container. That would have rendered a Jewish man ceremonially unclean. But Jesus saw the good news of the kingdom of God as being for all people, no matter what their circumstances, social position, race or past sins.

What about us? Have we asked the Holy Spirit to reveal any unrecognised areas of prejudice or racism, resentment or insensitivity to others within us? Are there opportunities for service or relationships that we are holding back on because of these feelings? Such things are not appropriate for the children of the King or those who are joint-heirs with Jesus. He has no favourites. Let's ask the Holy Spirit to deal with any such attitudes in us as soon as possible.

Will you give me a drink?

Jesus used her everyday job of collecting water as an illustration of her desperate need for a life-changing experience. He knew that there was no point in ramming down her throat that she was a dreadful sinner. He wanted to show her how she could satisfy her deepest needs and to bring about a miraculous change in her outlook. So, He talked to her about "living water". This interested her at first in purely a material sense, because it would have avoided the need for her having to do this heavy, tedious job every day. She didn't realise that all the water in the world would not satisfy her true thirst. The drudgery of her daily life was not her real need. Her desperate need was in her spirit. That was exactly what Jesus was interested in, getting her to see her desperate need and to acknowledge it. She was so taken up with her everyday living that she had not given any thought to her spirit or her eternal future.

Go, call your husband.”

Jesus then uses the familiarity of cultural convention to gently get her to face up to the truth of her situation before God. It would have been the most natural thing in the world for Jesus to ask to speak to her husband, rather than talking to her directly. But, of course, she had no husband - and Jesus was well aware of that. He wanted to bring her to the point of recognising her own sinfulness and being willing to repent (turn around from it), rather than simply condemning her for having sinned repeatedly. The woman herself quickly realised that Jesus was someone special. She saw that her life was like an open book to Him and she could not lie to this man. Yet she also understood that He neither despised nor blamed her. Perhaps she began to see that Jesus could not give her His "living water" without first dealing with her sin.

Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.”

Feeling very uncomfortable on being confronted with her own sin, the samaritan woman sought to turn aside Jesus' challenge by turning the conversation towards religion. She tried to divert Jesus away from the subject of her lifestyle on to the safe subject of worship, which she could discuss for hours whilst not having to face her true feelings or relationship with God.

Worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.”

Jesus did not ignore her question, but pointed out that the place was not as important as the attitude of the spirit, because God can be worshipped anywhere at any time. We have the help of the Holy Spirit. He prays for us (Romans 8:26), teaches us the words of Christ (Romans 14:26) and tells us that we are loved. (Romans 5:5)

Jesus then took the opportunity to teach this precious woman about true worship. He knew He had come to this place especially for her. He knew that, after He had left Samaria, the most vital part of her life would be her time of intimate love with her heavenly Father during worship. So what seemed like a side-track became a very valuable teaching time. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy, even what seems to us to be a diversion. Jesus knew that her heart was filled with a deep longing to see the Messiah. He Himself was looking for people who would seek Him with their whole hearts and who wanted to follow Him totally. He also knew that people can only come to the Father on two conditions: firstly, they have to acknowledge their sin and, secondly, they must trust in, cling to and rely on Jesus Christ.

I who speak to you am He.”

In a split second she saw it all very clearly. She was sinful, horrible and contemptible. He was full of love. He was also understanding and forgiving. She understood that this was the reason He had sought her out. She received Him into her heart. She said "yes" to Jesus Christ. She was now free of all condemnation, from both herself and others. She was free from the past - a new creation with a new sense of direction and purpose. This was the reason she went immediately to tell all her neighbours, forgetting her water pitcher (representing her past), and openly testifying to everything that Jesus had told her about her past without shame. She was so changed that they all wanted to see this amazing man. At first they believed because of her testimony but, when they met Him for themselves, they believed because of His words. (John 4:41) This woman of the world, who had no hope of any change in her life; who certainly had no security and no future, was completely changed on one day by one conversation with the one, true, living God. She was used by Him to reach her whole town. Thus, the most "value-less" member of that society became the most valuable as she showed them the way of eternal Life.

How do we judge our own value?

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