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The Rev. Frank Logue
King of Peace Episcopal Church
Kingsland, Georgia
March 3, 2002

See Yourself as God Sees You
John 4:5-42

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus meets a seemingly insignificant person at the wrong place (Samaria) at the wrong time (noon at a public well). By God’s grace, the woman who saw herself as insignificant is lifted up and a cool drink of water is turned into communion with God and the coming of God’s kingdom.  

Imagine the scene. We are at a well outside town. It is noon. The sun beats down. Another hot Palestinian day. The weather forecast is sunny and hot, again. Well there is no weather forecast to check, but who needs one. The weather forecast for the week is sunny and hot today, followed by sunny and hot tomorrow, followed by, well, you get the picture. The middle of the day is not the best time to go to the well. Any respectable person comes to the well in the morning or the evening. It’s cooler then, better for the tedious task of fetching water from the well. 

The woman walks to the well with her empty water jar balanced on her head. She comes at noon to avoid the other women who gather each morning and evening to draw water. The other women might not speak to her anyway, so it is easier to come when no one else is at the well. 

As she approaches, the woman sees that someone is already at the well. A traveler no doubt. Who else would be at the well at this time of day? As she gets closer, she can see by his manner of dress, that he is a Jew. A Jew, heh? Well that settles it. She won’t need to draw water for him, or even speak to him. Jews and Samaritans don’t mix. Especially not Jewish men and Samaritan women. It is simply not done.  

The Jews view the Samaritans as beneath them. It had been so for hundreds of years. They worshipped the same God, but disagreed on where the Temple should be located. But there was more to it than that. Two hundred years earlier, the Samaritans had fought with the Syrians against the Jews and the Jews had destroyed the Samaritan temple. There was bad blood between Jews and Samaritans.  

She looked more closely at the man. He was obviously hot and sweaty from a morning on the road. He must belong to the group of Jewish men she passed on her way out of town. As she began to draw water the man did the most amazing thing. He asked the woman for a drink. That was not right. It simply wasn’t done. To insert a phrase from my own upbringing, “his Mama hadn’t raised him right.” What was the man thinking?  

The woman wanted to put this Jewish man back in his place. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” she asked.  

Jesus smiled. She did know her etiquette didn’t she? Any food or drink touched by a Samaritan was unclean for a Jew. But Jesus wanted her to know that there was more to God’s love than rules. Jesus wanted her to know that there was more to God’s love than Law. Jesus wanted her to experience that God’s love reaches out and touches anyone, anywhere. God’s love could even reach this woman of Samaria who didn’t dare go to the well when others were around. 

That day at the well in Samaria was so long ago. It would be easy to loose the significance across the reaches of time. When this meeting at the well first took place, it would have been scandalous. You see this well in Samaria is on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. And in this marginal place, the woman who shows up at the well at noon is the one the rest of the town is busy ignoring. She is too insignificant to waste time on. She doesn’t matter.  

But Jesus, of course, does not ignore her. In fact, he asks her for a drink of water. A simple request. He has nothing to use to draw the water. It’s a hot day. He’s thirsty. It’s only natural. But Jesus fully understands how counter cultural his act is. He knows that drinking water drawn by this one is no simple act. Drinking the water she draws will bind Jesus to the Samaritan woman the way Jesus was bound with the tax collectors and sinners he ate with. Jesus knows that. And so does the Samaritan woman. That’s why she put Jesus back into his place.  

Then Jesus opens up to her in his own unique double speak where he says one thing while meaning something much more. He says that she should have asked him for a drink of water and he would have given her living water. 

Living water. That sounds good to the woman. Living water would be much fresher than well water. But the man is making no sense. He doesn’t have anything to draw water. Then she asks, “Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it with his sons and flocks?” Now she is using double speech. Because the answer to that question is yes, though she doesn’t yet know it. Jesus is greater than her ancestor Jacob, who God renamed Israel. Jesus is greater than Jacob who was the father of both the Jews and the Samaritans.  

He tells her that “Everyone who drinks the water from this well will thirst again, but those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty.” He is speaking of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is the life giving water that will quench our spiritual thirst. Once that thirst has been quenched, we will be spiritually thirsty no more. 

The woman is excited about this living water. The man has promised that he can give her water so that she will never thirst again. Never again will she come to this well in the heat of the day. This living water is just what she wants, what she needs. 

Jesus asks her to go and bring her husband back with her. He knows she can’t do that, but he asks. The woman is cut back down by the question. Here comes the same old problem again. She looks down at the ground and pauses. Then she avoids Jesus eyes as she says, “I have no husband.” Jesus is pleased. She has told the truth. He agrees saying, “No you have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband.” 

This is the point in the story where many readers wander off down the wrong path. Because of Jesus’ comments about her husbands, the woman at the well has been branded a sinner. Because of Jesus’ comments about her husbands, the woman at the well has been branded a tramp. Because of Jesus’ comments about her husbands, the woman at the well has been dismissed as insignificant. 

But notice that’s not what Jesus does. Jesus never dismisses her. Jesus does not pronounce her a sinner in need of repentance. Jesus does not denounce her as a tramp. The Bible tells us that she had had five husbands, but it never mentions divorce or infidelity. The woman at the well may be on the margins of her own society. She may be afraid to mingle with the women from her own town. But Jesus never says that it is her fault.  

What the woman does next is astounding. She says, “Lord, I can see you are a prophet,” and then she asks him the burning theological question of her people. She says, “Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you people claim that the place where one should worship God is in Jerusalem.” This is really important. You see, the disciples often don’t understand Jesus. The religious leader Nicodemus had trouble understanding Jesus when he spoke of being born from above. But the woman at the well sees clearly, that Jesus can point her to the true worship of God.  

Jesus at some length explains that where we worship God is not as important as how. We are to worship God in Spirit and Truth. And if we open our spirits to worship God in Truth then where we worship doesn’t matter. We can worship God anywhere. 

The woman is amazed at what the man, the prophet, tells her. She knows in her heart that he is speaking the truth. She can feel it. So she makes a statement that is more of a question. She says, “I know the Messiah is coming and he will announce all things to us.” But what she really means is “Are you The One? Are you the Messiah?” Jesus knows her statement as a question and answers her saying, “I who speak to you—I am he.” 

Just then, the disciples come back to the well. But that doesn’t matter to the woman. She has spoken to the Messiah. He is right there at Jacob’s well. She can’t contain herself. She runs from the well, leaving her water jar in her haste. She goes to town and gathers people together. “Come and see a man who has told me everything I have ever done! Could this be the Messiah?” 

The Bible tells us that the Samaritans believed the woman. Notice that. The Samaritans believed her, the woman who did not go to the well when others were drawing water? They believed her? Maybe they never despised her. Maybe her self-esteem was so low that she was the one who did not dare be around them. Now it’s different. The Messiah has come. She can’t be afraid. The message is not about her. The message she has for her people is about God. And they do listen and believe. 

Amazing. Jesus own disciples had just come to this town, yet they did not evangelize the people. They came and went without changing a thing in the town. However, the woman who no one noticed changed everything. The woman who no one noticed was empowered by the spirit of God to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom to her own people. The woman who no one noticed became a leader of her people. She led them to God, in the person of Jesus, the Christ. 

Where are we in this story? I suspect that some of us may find ourselves in different places. You may identify with the disciples. Do you, like the disciples did, overlook the gifts God has given someone because they are a foreigner, or a woman, or because they are on the margins of our society in some way? If so, you need to look for your Lord among the least of people and expect to find him there. 

But I suspect some of us here this morning may identify with the woman at the well. Do you think that God cannot or will not use you? Alternatively, have you, like the woman at the well, forgotten your own worth as a child of God? If so, you are in danger of surrendering yourself so completely to others, that you have no life of your own.  

Don’t get me wrong, the Bible does teach that we are to serve others and put others needs ahead of our own. But putting others ahead of yourself is not all the Bible teaches. The Bible also teaches that all of creation is valuable to God. All creation has a unique worth in the eyes of our creator. When you do not value your own worth as a unique and special creation of God, it can lead to sin. Not valuing yourself as God values you can lead to neglecting your own inner life and burying the unique talents God has given you. 

See how Jesus responds to this woman that others ignore. Jesus saw the truth in her. Jesus saw her as a priceless gem—a child of God. Jesus revealed his Kingdom to her and invited her in.  

The woman arrived at the well considering herself worthless. But she heard and responded to Jesus’ call and in doing so regained her own sense of identity. Then, she did not just follow Jesus; she led her people to him. 

We are all God’s children, loved and adored by our creator who is calling us home. Not one of us is insignificant to God. Not one of us is unworthy to lead God’s people. Because our worth as a human is not about who we are in the eyes of others. Our worth as a human is determined by who we are in the eyes of God. See yourself as God sees you. To God, you are a beloved child. 



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