October 28, 2018

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The Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture Reading: John 4

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know;we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many Samaritans Believe

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Jesus Heals an Official’s Son

43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.

46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”

53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.


  1. John 4:9 Or do not use dishes Samaritans have used

Sermon: What Will We Leave Behind?”

The Guinness World Book of Records raises a lot of questions, like, “Why?” Why would anyone do some of these things for the sake of a world record that most people will never know anything about?

A case in point is Ashrita Furman. Watch as he sets a new world record that I won’t try to break anytime soon.


Ashrita has set more than 600 world records. They range from the farthest distance walked balancing a bike on the chin, the fastest mile on a pogo stick, the longest time hula hooping underwater, and the greatest distance traveled on a bicycle while balancing a milk bottle on one’s head.

One record he doesn’t hold is the one for the longest speech marathon. That wants to Ananta Ram of Nepal, who spoke for ninety hours from August 27 through August 31 of this year.

His training consisted of not saying a single word for the whole week leading up to the marathon.

Today’s scripture lesson holds several records of its own. For one thing, Jesus talks longer to the woman at the well than he does to anyone else in all the Gospels. It’s not ninety hours, but still—and there’s more.

The woman at the well is the only person who ever heard Jesus call himself the Messiah. She’s also the first evangelist, and her testimony brings many to faith.

John depicts the woman at the well as an example of growing, engaged faith. Yet what verses do many commentators zoom in on?

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” (John 4:16-18)

How someone interprets those verses says a lot more about them than it does about the woman. Conservative preacher John Piper, for example, in a sermon on this passage, describes the woman as, and I quote, “a worldly, sensually minded, unspiritual harlot from Samaria.” He later calls her a “whore.”

You heard the verses. Where did he get all that? Jesus at no point tells the woman to repent, or, for that matter, ever calls her a sinner.

She could very easily have been widowed or abandoned or divorced. Five times would be heartbreaking, but possible. There are any number of ways to see the story of this woman’s life as a tragedy, not a scandal. Why do so many go out of their way to assume the worst?

Jesus didn’t bring up the woman’s past to beat her over the head with it. He told her instead that she wasn’t defined by her circumstances, but by the love and grace of God. The fact that he was talking to her at all made that point more powerfully than anything he could ever say.

Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. It all started in 722 BC, when the Assyrian army wiped out the northern kingdom of Israel. They moved some of the Jewish people out, and moved other, non-Jewish, folk, in.

Before long, at least according to the folks in Judah, there were no true “Jews” left in what had been Israel. Their priesthood didn’t count. Their Torah was perverted. The Judean Army once even destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim.

By the time of Jesus, if someone was traveling from Judea to Galilee, that person would probably cross over to the other side of the Jordan River just so he or she wouldn’t have to set foot in Samaria.

That Jesus went to Samaria at all was a huge deal. That he further spoke to a Samaritan woman was even bigger.

She knew it, too. “You’re a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?”

Dividing the world into them and us is in part hard wired into our brains. Even young babies prefer things they’re familiar with, for example.

However, we are NOT born preferring one skin color over another, one country over another, or one culture over another. We learn all that from the people around us and the media we read or watch.

These biases, built in or not, don’t have to have the last word. Our higher brains can overrule them once we realize what they are and learn to see them at work. Prejudice, hatred, name-calling, and division happen when we let them. We need to stop them at the source, in our own hearts and minds, before they have a chance to fester and grow.

That’s what Jesus was trying to do. “It’s not a matter of where you worship,” he told the astounded woman, “but of how you worship, in spirit and in truth. Human labels don’t matter, nor do the whispered rumors that brought you here in the heat of the day.”

Like the woman at the well, who we are isn’t the wounds we bear, or the labels other give us. Who we are is a matter of God’s grace and love. “And it’s not just anyone telling you this,” Jesus added. “I who speak to you am the Messiah.”

What a gift! Why, it’s almost like winning the lottery. That brings us to our next clip from It Could Happen to You. Watch as a woman at a diner dares to believe good news brought to her by a man who only the day before had been a total stranger.


Just as Yvonne started sharing her good news by handing out pie and scoops of ice cream to every customer in the diner, the woman at the well went back to her village and shared her good news with the very people who once tormented her. Notice how she did it.

She was honest about her doubts, for one thing. John’s Greek is best translated as, “This can’t be the Messiah, can it?” It was the kind of question asked by someone expecting just one more “no” from a world that had already given her far too many.

The woman never claimed to have all the answers. What she did do was invite her neighbors to, “Come and see.” Later, they told her, “No longer does our faith depend on your story. We’ve heard for ourselves, and we know that this really is the savior of the world”

Faith, the woman and Jesus tell us, isn’t about having all the answers. It’s about talking with each other, growing and changing together. It’s about inviting others to, “Come and see.”

✓ “Come and see,” we say, with the simple witness of being here on Sunday morning.

✓ “Come and see,” we say, by serving on a committee, or by making our faith an everyday part of who we are.

✓ “Come and see,” we say, every time we share our ice cream, or anything else, giving generously of our resources, whether spiritual or material.

What changed this woman’s life could change us and our world, too. Her village, which despised her, was in turn despised by the Judeans, who had in their time been humiliated by the Babylonians. Humiliation, resentment, and violence festered and grew from generation to generation to the next.

Jesus set aside all the grudge bearing and spiritual scorekeeping. He treated everyone as if they were forgiven, and so made forgiveness possible, even for self-righteous so and so’s like you and me.