Lenten Sermon; John 4:5-15: The Redemption of the Bride

Introduction: In our Gospel Lesson, the Samaritan woman is incorporated into a new community by the love of Christ, the great Bridegroom.

Prayer: May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Kinsman. Amen.

Sermon: The story of redemption is a story overflowing with poetry; its story is abundantly typological; it is adorned with the language of love; in fact, redemption is a romantic description of how Yahweh woos and draws His bride to Himself when the Bride is most undesirable, unattractive, and unlovable. Such a poetical description of this love is found in our narrative this morning. John four is one of the most profound passages in the Scriptures because the imageries, the language, and the precise and intricate wording of this narrative brings to our attention the great story of Yahweh’s love for His Bride.

St. John begins to describe this narrative with these words:

5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.”

 

There are several fascinating aspects to this context. First, we cannot escape the geographical citation. Why would Jesus go through Samaria? As John indicates, there was a sense of necessity in our passage. Jesus had to go through Samaria. Historically, the Jews avoided going through Samaria at all costs. They would ordinarily take a longer route in order to avoid contact with the Samaritans.[1] That Jesus had to go through Samaria is an indication that this is no ordinary route; it is a divine meeting.

Secondly, the text is clearly calling our attention to Jacob’s well. What do we know about wells in the Bible?[2] In Genesis, Jacob meets Rachel at a well.[3] It is also at the well where one of Abraham’s chief servants finds a wife for Isaac.[4] In Exodus[5] as Moses was sitting by a well he meets his bride, Zipporah. You see, in the Scriptures, wells have a bridal significance. It is the place where God prepares His servants to meet their brides. Wells, in the words of our friend and composer Jamie Soles, are the place where you hear “of wars and wedding bells.”[6] When you see God’s servants at a well there is either a war or the sounds of wedding bells coming. This is significant as Jesus approaches this woman. Just like the patriarchs sat or rested by the well, so too, our Lord rests by the well.

Thirdly, Jesus was wearied from His journey. This is an indication of the humanity of Jesus. In the words of St. Augustine, Jesus “fashioned us by His strength, He sought us by His weakness.”[7] When Augustine says Jesus sought us in his weakness, he is referring to his humanity; His incarnation. Jesus became weak for us, so we might be rescued from our own weakness.

Finally, we see in these first few verses the very striking time reference that it was about the sixth hour. The sixth hour is very crucial in the life of Jesus, and John is purposefully pointing us to another sixth hour in the life of Jesus. It was the sixth hour of the day when the Jews declared that Jesus should be crucified[8] and it was the sixth hour of the day when our Lord breathed His last breath for our sins.[9] The sixth hour points us to His crucifixion; to His atoning sacrifice; to the cruelest event in history, but to the most redemptive act in history: the day when the Bridegroom died for His Bride.[10]

It is in this context of marriage, crucifixion, and Christ’s humanity that makes this meeting a divine necessity.

7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

 

This is a familiar passage, but I wonder how often we consider how shocking this passage truly is. This conversation is a scandalous conversation. We get a glimpse of this when in verse 27 the disciples come back and their reaction is to be appalled by what they are witnessing; they marveled that Jesus would have the audacity to speak to a Samaritan.[11]

A religious teacher would never be seen speaking to a woman. Not only is this a woman, but a Samaritan. Wrong sex, wrong race; Samaritans were half-breeds. Christ breaks down barriers by the ones he touches. The Jews were all about purification and Jesus is regularly breaking these rules that no self-respecting rabbi will break. Jesus is unlike the temple in Jerusalem which can be defiled; Jesus cannot be defiled.[12]

She says to Jesus that Jews have no dealings with Samaritans, but Jesus is no ordinary Jew; He is the true Israelite; the True priest who comes to cleanse the temple and cause righteousness to spring forth like living waters.

10 Jesus answered her, “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.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

 

The woman draws our attention to Jacob’s well and she asks if Jesus is greater than Jacob; the same Jacob who met Rachel at the well at the high noon hour just as Jesus meets this woman. All her questions indicate that she is in need; a woman who has had five husbands and who is now with another man who is not her husband.[13] Six men in her life; and here comes a seventh man. Will he love her? Will he be the perfect Bride-Groom as the seventh bridegroom? Does Jesus exceed Jacob as husband? Jacob loved the pure and beautiful,[14] but Jesus loved the one who has had five husbands.

(Jesus) sees in her as the one the Father has chosen as a picture of his bride…the Son of Glory is espousing himself in love to a woman of Samaria.[15]

Jesus woos her to himself and promises something no other husband has promised: to love her and to be her provider. Jacob provided for His people from His own well, but Jesus Himself will become the well of life. He will be the source of life for His Bride. Jesus exceeds Jacob in every way.  When Jacob provided for His bride she would be thirsty again, but when Jesus provides for His bride she will never thirst.

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

If you drink this water you will thirst again, but if you drink of me,” Jesus says, “you will never be thirsty again.” There are those who are satisfied with the temporary pleasures of this world and fail to find satisfaction in the true pleasure of mankind, Jesus Christ. Jesus provides everlasting life to those who drink of Him. He is the true well. The Samaritan woman came seeking to satisfy her physical thirst, but she failed to realize that she needed to satisfy more than that.  She needed to be re-made by God. She needed to be washed by the Groom. She needed to drink of the well that satisfies the world. When the Spirit of God opened her eyes, her response was immediate: “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Her reaction was quite stunning for someone who has just encountered Jesus. She doesn’t quite know what to do with Jesus’ statement, but she does know that Jesus will right all wrongs; that Jesus will take away her past sins and cleanse her and cause her to thirst no more. This is the glorious picture of redemption.

There is actually a contrasting parallel between her story and Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus comes by night; Jesus meets her in the brightness of the day.[16] Nicodemus becomes a disciple of Jesus much later on, while the woman becomes a disciple of Jesus at that moment and proclaims His salvation with great joy to her village. She is overwhelmed with gratitude and her response is proclaiming the work of the One who is the true and living water. Both examples tell us that there are different types of progressions. At times, the gospel penetrates immediately, and with others it takes time. Yet, both testify that when the truth is proclaimed God is at work in restoring and bringing people to Himself in His timing.

How Shall we then live?

We gather from Jesus that once we drink of this living water we too become wells before the world. The Spirit flows from us producing water that cleanses the world. Jesus is becoming life to the Samaritan people. He becomes this woman’s salvation giving us a sign that salvation goes also to the Samaritans.

Becoming wells to the world means embracing the poor, the despised, and neglected in our culture. It means caring for the needy in our midst by providing words of comfort, encouragement, and overwhelming them with life.

As wells of life we are the cleansing agents of this world; the ones who are charged by our Master to clean up the mess before us and provide a clear vision to the world for how to live as the Bride.

The picture of the Samaritan woman fits so perfectly because it is a picture of imperfection; of incompleteness. She represents the Bride in her imperfection and incompleteness. It is Christ who perfects us and cleanses us. We are called to mature in godliness and holy lives before our God. We are the Bride of Christ; imperfect, but being perfected.

Jesus is constantly drawing out of the Samaritan woman a confession. He wants her to see that everything is not lost. Our lives are bound up in the life of Christ; though we suffer the pains and sorrows of life, we are not alone; we are united to One Lord and formed into one Bride. It is in this very time of sorrow that we do not run away from God’s people, but rather we come closer to God’s people. We find satisfaction in this life as believers when we find satisfaction in the company of one another; when we live as community and we offer Jesus’ hope to those around us. The Samaritan woman had no community, no love, no true husband; Jesus met her at the well and incorporated her into a community, became her true love, and embraced her as a true husband.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 


[1] Robert Rayburn, Lectures on John. Rayburn also argues that there is some evidence that Jews did not ordinarily take a different route. He argues that John may be indicating that there was no other way to get to their destination but to go through Samaria. However, I don’t think this fits with the overall poetic nature of John’s gospel. The “must go through Samaria” in my estimation has something to do with the gospel going beyond ethnic, pure Israel, even to “half-breeds” as the Jews would describe the Samaritans.

[2] Some of this comes from Leithart and Jim Jordan’s excellent well typology.

[3] Genesis 28.

[4] Genesis 24

[5] Exodus 2.

[6] From one of his cd’s.

[7] Homilies on the Gospel of John http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf107.iii.html

[8] John 19.

[9] Luke 23.

[10] Dennis Tuuri (we do not have the time to delve into this) argues that the seven statements of Jesus in John 4 corresponds to the seven days of creation.

[11] The shocking nature of this discourse was brought to my attention by Professor Warren Gage in his lectures on John’s Gospel. Dr. Gage also sees strong parallels between John 4 and Genesis 28 and 29 (though there is not time to develop it in this sermon.

[12] Warren Gage, Lectures in John’s Gospel.

[13] John 4:18.

[14] See Gage.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Gleaned this insight from Dennis Tuuri.

 

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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