Leading People to the Living Water

Jesus and the Woman at the Well

A sermon idea based on John 4:5-42.

The Big Idea

God is always actively seeking those who need him and he invites us as believers to join him in the mission of introducing everyone we can to Jesus, the Living Water.

John 4:5-42 NRSV

[5] So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. [6] Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

[7] A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” [8] (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) [9] The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) [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 no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? [12] Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” [13] Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, [14] but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” [15] The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

[16] Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” [17] The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; [18] for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” [19] The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. [20] Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” [21] Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. [22] You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. [23] But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” [25] The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” [26] Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

[27] Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” [28] Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, [29] “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” [30] They left the city and were on their way to him.

[31] Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” [32] But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” [33] So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” [34] Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. [35] Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. [36] The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. [37] For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ [38] I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

[39] Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” [40] So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. [41] And many more believed because of his word. [42] They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

I love the way the evangelist gives us one story of a well-known, highly-respected religious leader seeking spiritual truth and then follows with another story of a woman who couldn’t possibly be more opposite.

Nicodemus came to Jesus seeking answers to tough theological questions. The woman, on the other hand, was thinking almost exclusively about her natural life until Jesus opened the door to a deeper conversation.

And while the conversation with Nicodemus seemed to have been the end of the story for a while (the Pharisees didn’t come to Jesus in droves and Nicodemus doesn’t come back up until much later in the ministry of Jesus). But the conversation Jesus had with the woman at the well launched a movement of others seeking Jesus in a region thought of by the Pharisees as irreligious altogether.

Jesus gives us a model to follow in this story. If we really do feel called into the harvest to gather people into God’s family, then Jesus is our prime example of how to accomplish that mission. If you really want to see the lives of people changed in radical ways both now and forever…

1. Join God where he is working.

According to verse 4, it was “necessary” that Jesus take the route through Samaria, not because he was in a hurry to take a shortcut (he wound up staying there a couple of extra days) but because there was a divine appointment waiting along the road that most Jews avoided.

The lesson for us is to keep our hearts attuned to those around us, seeing everyone as valuable and worthy of being known and loved, and being open to opportunities to talk with people about deeply personal and spiritual issues.

2. See everyone as worthy of love.

We aren’t worthy of love because we are good. We are worthy of love because a loving God created us so that he could love us. And that’s true for every person you will ever meet.

Jesus was willing to make the first move. I fear that, too often, we expect those who are spiritually lost to find their own way home. We advertise our church service times and hope for the best. The truth is, there is a world full of people beyond the walls of the church to whom we must go on a mission of love.

3. Offer the Living Water freely.

Water cleanses. It produces growth. It can refresh the thirsty and bring to life that which seems wilted and dying. And that’s what Jesus is to anyone who will have him.

We aren’t merely offering the promise of community, a list of rules or rituals, or a step-by-step plan for escaping earth into heaven. We’re offering the gospel – the story about Jesus coming to save a broken world – to those who desperately need a word of good news.

From the beginning of human civilization, human beings have known that water is life. From the fertile crescent outward, along every waterway and river bed, humanity has spread out to farm the earth for its nourishment.

And when someone comes to know Jesus in a personal way, we can watch as life springs up!

4. Empower others for the harvest.

Jesus uses the situation to teach His disciples some lessons about sowing and reaping, but there are two lessons that stand out.

First, every soul is precious!

Second, many more will come.

Once a person has tasted the gift of eternal life, they can’t help but share it and tell others about it! The harvest will be great when we get excited about the Living Water!


About the Cover Art: Siemiradzki, Henryk, 1843-1902. Christ and the Samaritan Woman, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

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