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Worship Message - Conversations With Jesus #4

Conversations With Jesus - #4
Two Extremes


We are in a series of messages highlighting some of the conversations Jesus had with people during His ministry. Conversations that sometimes expressed His power or His love. Conversations that sometimes expressed His compassion or His dedication to His purpose.

Toward the end of last week’s message, the point was made that Jesus is for everyone. That includes the middle class fishermen - Peter, Andrew, James, and John - who were the first four to be selected by Jesus to be His disciples. It also the two rich tax collectors we thought about last week - Matthew, who became another disciple of Jesus, and Zacchaeus, who became a devoted layman.

Today, two more conversations, these pointing out even more extremes in who Jesus talked with.

The second conversation was with a rich young ruler. A conversation that did not turn out well.

The first was with a rejected woman. A woman known for her sins. A conversation that had a much better result. A conversation recorded in chapter 4 of the Gospel of John, beginning with verse 7.

To set the stage, one day Jesus and His disciples were on their way from Judea, the southern province of the Jewish homeland, to the northern area of Galilee. Between Judea and Galilee was the area of Samaria. At the time of John 4, Jesus and His disciples were in Samaria. About noon that day, they arrived near the city of Sychar, where, about a half mile outside the city, there was a well. It was there Jesus and His disciples stopped.

After a short rest, the disciples left to go into the city to buy food for that day’s lunch. Jesus remained at the well. Suddenly, a woman appeared, her purpose to draw water.

The timing of the woman’s arrival is a clue there was something wrong with the woman. The normal time for drawing water was the morning, when it was cool. She was at the well at noon, which was the hottest part of the day. And it was common for all the women from Sychar to go to the well at the same time. One purpose of that was safety in numbers, but it was also a time to see and talk to other people. It was a good fellowship time. But the woman referred to in today’s first conversation was by herself.

The reason that woman was at the well alone at that time is an indication there was a problem. The problem was that she was rejected by the other women of the city.

The reason for the rejection we will get to in a few verses, but that noon, a woman arrived at the well where Jesus was resting. While she was there, Jesus spoke to her, which is another strange thing. First of all, proper men never spoke to women, other than family members, in public. Second of all, good Jews never spoke openly to any Samaritans. There were lots of historical reasons for that, but the point is that pure Jews and residents of Samaria did not normally talk to one another.

Yet Jesus spoke to the woman. He said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

That no doubt shocked the woman. partly because she was usually alone at the well. Company was unexpected. Having anyone else there might have been scary for her. And a man talked to her. What was that about? Was He going to be a danger to her?

The woman answered Jesus. She answered with a question of her own. She asked, “How is it that You, a Jew [it might have been how He was dressed that let her know He was a Jew or maybe it was His accent] ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”

What made it even more confusing for the woman was that Jesus had nothing with which to draw water, which means if He was going to drink, it would have to be from her water jar, which she knew was not allowed. It was considered a sin for a Jew to even touch, let alone drink from, a utensil a Samaritan had touched. That is how strong the feeling was against Samaritans.

Jesus answered the woman by saying, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

“Living water” represents spiritual refreshment. It is what we all need to rise above the fears and troubles and problems and temptations of our worldly lives.

We know that. However, the woman did not understand Jesus’ words. That is clear by her response. She said, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep? Where do You think You are going to get that living water?”

The woman then teased Jesus a bit. She asked, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of the water of this well will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus’ words again had spiritual meaning. The meaning that what He had to offer was refreshing, not only now, but for all eternity. Refreshing in a spiritual sense.

But again the woman did not understand,so she teased Him some more, this time saying, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst nor have to come here to draw.”

What a wonderful thing the woman thought Jesus was claiming to provide. And think of it. It would be nice, would it not, to never thirst again physically? And for the woman, how wonderful it would be to not have to make the half mile journey to the well and the half mile journey back home every noon and every noon and every noon. “Give me some of that water,” the woman said to Jesus. “That sounds really nice.”

Suddenly Jesus changed the conversation. He said to the woman, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

I wonder if the woman dropped her head or looked away from Jesus. No more was she in a teasing mood as she answered, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying that because you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband.”

Remember the point that the woman was at the well alone in the heat of the day because she was rejected by the other women in the city. Here is the reason. The woman was known as a home-wrecker. Five men had been her husband. I wonder if all five had been taken from other women. The man she lived with at that time was not her husband. They just lived together. Maybe that man had been someone else’s husband. At the least, she was living in sin, which was of course a horrible example for others in Sychar.

No other woman of Sychar wanted anything to do with the woman who was at the well that noon. Plus, except for the man with whom the woman was currently living, I wonder if anyone else was in the habit of talking to her at all.

The woman quietly told Jesus she had no husband, which Jesus shared He already knew, even though He and she had never met. That impressed the woman, who said, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.”

The woman sensed there was something special about Jesus, which then began another spiritual part to the conversation, this part centering on where and how God was to be worshiped.

in that part of the conversation, Jesus taught the woman that the place of worship is not as important as how worshiping is done. That it is to be done in spirit and in truth. That everything about God is to be known and followed with every part of a person’s being.

The woman added that she knew Messiah - the Christ - was coming and that when He came, He would show people all things. Jesus ended the conversation with these words. “I who speak to you am He.” He claimed to be the Christ.

Maybe the conversation would have continued, but just then, Jesus’ disciples returned from the city. They, too, marveled that Jesus was talking with a woman. They did not ask about it, but they were surprised.

With the distraction of the return of the disciples, the woman left the well. But how she left is interesting. She left without her water jar.

That is interesting because it was some of her property, and leaving without her jar means she had forgotten her purpose in going to the well. She returned to Sychar without the water she went to the well to get.

The woman left. She returned to the city, where she talked to the people.

Hey, how amazing is that? Remember she was a rejected woman. Remember the point that the rejection might have extended to her not being talked to by much of anyone except the man with whom she lived at that time.

But the conversation the woman had had with Jesus was so exciting that when she returned to the city, she talked to anyone and everyone who would listen. “Come,” she said. “See a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ? He claimed to the Messiah. Is He?”

I am impressed that the woman was so excited about having talked with Jesus, her energy was contagious. So contagious that many of the other citizens of Sychar left the city and made the half mile journey to the well. There they, too, met Jesus. It was confirmed He knew about the woman. The result? Many Samaritans from Sychar believed in Jesus.

Many of those who believed asked Jesus to go with them back to the city and stay with them. Jesus honored the invitation. He stayed in Sychar two days. The result was that many more people believed in Him. For them, not because of the woman’s testimony, but because of what they had heard from Jesus. Words that convinced them He was - He is - indeed the Savior of the world.

That day, Jesus met a woman - a sinful, rejected woman - at a well. He overcame all the protocols that said He should have nothing to do with her. He talked to her, made her face her sins, and offered her forgiveness. Her response was so positive, she drew others to Jesus. Many in Sychar came to know Jesus as the Savior He is.

Let’s move earlier in the Bible to Matthew 19:16-26. A passage in which Jesus had a conversation with someone on the other end of the social scale. A man described as rich, young, and a ruler. Unfortunately, this conversation did not have the positive result as the one with the woman at the well, but let’s think about it.

One day, when Jesus was again in the southern region of Judea, a rich young ruler went up to Him. The man apparently had heard about eternal life, which Jesus had been preaching about. The man was apparently interested in learning more about eternal life. The man asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

It is interesting the young man wanted to know what he had to do to have eternal life. I think that is a fairly common thought. I mean, even though I know - we know - that salvation comes from faith alone, it still is easy to get into the mindset that I ought to be doing something to somehow earn eternal life.

Indeed, there are things we who are saved are to do to show our appreciation for the gift of salvation, but we are never taught we have to earn being saved. However, that is what the young man asked Jesus. “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus answered, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which commandments?” the man wanted to know. Jesus listed several, many of them from the Ten Commandments. The commandments in that list directed toward treating other people well.

Jesus said, “You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.” Jesus added, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man must have felt pretty good at that point. “Whew,” he might have said to Jesus. “All these I have observed. I have observed them my whole life.”

I wonder if Jesus was not smiling at the man. I wonder if that caused the man, despite his obedience to the commandments, to still not feel confident about his spiritual state. I wonder because the young man had another question. He asked, Jesus, “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess, and give to the poor. That way you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

I have read this conversation many times in the past, but something occurred to me as I read it in preparing for this message. I noticed that the young man was to sell what he had. According to the account in Luke, he was to sell all he had. But the word “all” - the implication of “all” - does not seem to be attached to the direction to give to the poor.

I could not find anything definitive in my study of that part of the conversation, but it seems Jesus did not require that the rich man become poverty-stricken. It is just that he was to have a willingness to give at least some of what he had to help with at least some of the needs he saw around him.

Remember when Peter and Andrew and James and John and Matthew had conversations with Jesus? At the end of those conversations, those men immediately left what they were doing and immediately started following Jesus.

Remember when Zacchaeus had a conversation with Jesus? At the very end of it, Zacchaeus voluntarily gave half what he owned to help the poor and he promised to voluntarily make restitution to any and all he had cheated in his job as a tax collector. That is how he responded to Jesus.

Remember the woman at the well? As soon as her conversation with Jesus was done, she went to her city and convinced others to find out about Jesus.

This time, though - this conversation - there was no interest in giving up anything. No interest in following Jesus or telling others about Him. When the man heard what Jesus said, he went away sorrowful. Why? For he had great possessions.

I wonder if Jesus was disappointed in the reaction of the rich young ruler. He must have been since His purpose was to heal those who were sick, including spiritually. Since His purpose was to seek and to save the lost.

In His disappointment, Jesus then had a conversation with His disciples. He said to them,  "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Note Jesus did not say it is impossible for a rich person to enter Heaven. There is nothing wrong with money as long as it does not become the main focus of life. But money can become intoxicating. Which means, as Jesus continued, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying in their part of the conversation, “Who then can be saved?”

It seems the disciples were in agreement with the world’s viewpoint that those with riches are somehow superior. Their question seems to be that if the rich cannot make it to Heaven, what hope is there for anyone else?

Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God [by accepting His Son Jesus as Savior and showing by your actions that you believe], all things are possible.”

*       *       *       *       *

Two ends of the social scale - a sinful, rejected woman from Samaria and man who was rich, young, and important. Jesus had conversations with both of them. What can we learn from those conversations?

How about this? May our reaction to Jesus be like that of the woman at the well. So impressed by Jesus - His knowledge of us, including the bad stuff about us, and His offer of living water, despite whatever bad stuff there has been or is in our lives - may our reaction to Jesus be so positive that we, like the woman at the well, will tell others about Him. And may our telling be with excitement, at least in attitude, so that others will also be impressed by Jesus.

And may we know how important that is. It is recorded that after the woman told the people of Sychar about Jesus - as many people from that city went out to meet Him - Jesus looked at the crowd and said to His disciples, “Lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest.” Most people back then wore white garments. It was those people to whom Jesus referred.

The call was for the disciples to work with people for their spiritual good. Guess what. The fields are still full. There are many, even today, who need Jesus’ salvation. Let’s us be willing to work for the harvest.

And how about this? May we learn from the conversation Jesus had with the rich young ruler to put things in perspective.

Is it fun to have some money? Of course it is. It is nice if there is more money than is needed for our basic needs.

And again, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with having money. But we do need to have the correct perspective. We do need to know that happiness - true happiness - spiritual happiness - comes not from money, but by obeying God’s commandments, including the commandment to accept Jesus as Savior and the commandment to show our acceptance by how we live, including having a willingness to share the money God has allowed us to have.

Let’s accept Jesus. Do that if you have not already done so. Let’s be excited to tell others about Jesus. Let’s allow our obedience to Him be another way of telling others about Him. That is what we can learn from today’s conversations with Jesus.

Today’s closing, which will also serve as the benediction, is going to be read. It is based on the hymn Hark, the Voice of Jesus Calling, which is based on the part of the conversation with His disciples in which Jesus encouraged them to do His work in the world, which He calls us to do as well with people like the woman at the well, the rich young ruler, and all the social steps in between.

Hark, the voice of Jesus is calling, “Who will go and work today?”
Fields are white and harvests of souls are waiting.
Loud and long the Master calls, “Who will go?”
Rich rewards He offers free.
Who will answer, gladly saying,
“Here am I. Send me, send me.”

If we cannot be the watchmen standing high on Zion’s wall,
pointing the path to Heaven and offering life and peace to all.
If we cannot speak like angels or preach like Paul,
we still can tell the love of Jesus.
We still can say, “He died for all.”

Let no one hear any of us idly say, “There is nothing I can do,”
saying that while so many souls are dying
and the Master calls us to work for Him.
Take the task He gladly gives you.
Let His work our pleasure be.
Let’s answer quickly when He calls.
May our answer be, “Here am I. Send me, send me.”

Amen.

 

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