Wonder Women - Samaritan | Pastor Mike Fortune | August 6, 2011


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by Pastor Mike Fortune
August 6, 2011

Big Buts 

Wonder women...

  1. Speak truthfully (John 4:17-18; Ephesians 4:15,21)
  2. Leave some things behind (John 4:28-29; 2 Corinthians 5:17)
  3. Aren't ashamed to share (John 4:39-42; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Wonder women don’t have big buts because they don't make excuses. They speak truthfully, even if they have to leave some things behind—no pun intended. And because they know they’re accepted and loved like crazy flaws and all, they aren’t ashamed to share. When I re-read the familiar story in the Gospel of John chapter four we’re studying this morning, these are some of things that stood out. They reminded me of that verse in Acts 1:8 where Jesus was talking to the disciples 40 days after the resurrection. Since it’s Joshua’s 12th birthday today, I’ve invited him to read it this morning so please turn to Acts 1:8 and Josh, come on up here and read it for us.

The wonder woman we’re studying this morning lived in Samaria. Since 1948, even though most of the world rejected Jordan’s annexation of it and even after Israel drove their enemies back across the Jordan River in the 1967 Six Day War, the phrase “West Bank” has stuck and to this day is used exclusively of this hilly area north of Jerusalem, south of Galilee, and west of the Jordan River. It was known as Samaria since the days of King Jeroboam—the first king of the breakaway ten northern tribes of Israel after the death of King Solomon. 1 Kings 16:23-24 says King Omri purchased the land for two talents of silver from a guy named Shemer and made it his capital.

But in 722 BC, Assyria overran the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Assyrian annals say they carried away 27,280 inhabitants from Samaria (for more see this link). This was not the entire population; many Israelites must have remained. And those that did inter-married with the Assyrian conquerors who worshiped Greek gods. When the then-sparsely populated areas became infested with dangerous wild beasts, probably in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:26 and the promised covenant curses for not worshiping God, they appealed to the king of Assyria for Israelite priests to instruct them on how to worship the “God of that country.” The result was a syncretistic religion, in which national groups worshiped the Hebrew god while they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.

This syncretism is most clearly seen in the holy books Samaritans accepted and rejected. They accepted the first five books of Moses known as the Pentateuch but rejected the psalms and the prophets. In 432 BC, they built their own temple on Mount Gerazim (SDABC p.939). And before that, they established their own rival priesthood. You can read about some of that in Nehemiah 4 and 13. Extra biblical history even testifies that Nehemiah’s main nemesis, Sanballat, was an early governor of Samaria. Apparently, the Jewish high priests’s grandson married Sanballat’s daughter incurring Nehemiah’s wrath. Such a marriage according to Nehemiah 13:29 “defiled the priesthood and the solemn vows of the priests and Levites.”

But long before the west bank was a hotbed of hatred, long before the Jews and Samaritans despised each other and considered each other unorthodox and unclean, Samaria was home to Jacob’s well. John 4:5 says the Samaritan village of Sychar that used to be known as Shechem (click here for more information) was near the field that Genesis 48:21-22 says Jacob gave to his son Joseph before he died. And later when Joseph died, Joshua 24:32 says the Israelites finally brought his bones back after wandering around with them in the desert for 40 years (cf. Genesis 50:24-26; Exodus 13:19) to the place Genesis 33:18-19 says Jacob originally purchase in the Promised Land. Which was also be the place Genesis 12:6 says Abraham originally stopped after arriving in Canaan. So long story short: the pre-incarnate Lord appeared to Abraham in Samaria / Shechem long before he appeared to the Sychar / Samaritan woman by the well. He was intimately familiar with this area and vital trade route even though most of his countrymen in Jesus’ day by that time were not.

Because in Jesus’ day, devout Jews avoided Samaria like the plague. In part because of their prejudice and in part because of bad theology, they really thought they’d become unclean just walking through it. So you can imagine the woman’s surprise when an apparent Jewish rabbi shows her that neither one is cause for alarm. So that’s the background. And after John explains that even the Son of God got tired and thirsty, this amazing wonder woman meets him at the well during the sixth hour when she was hoping no one would be there in the heat of the day. And John 4:15-18 tells us what happens next. 15 "Please, sir," the woman said, "give me this water! Then I'll never be thirsty again, and I won't have to come here to get water." 16 "Go and get your husband," Jesus told her. 17 "I don't have a husband," the woman replied. Jesus said, "You're right! You don't have a husband—18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!"

Parables and metaphors were standard teaching tools in that culture. This woman quickly realized that this unusual rabbi wasn’t talking about the water found in Jacob’s well. But her reply echoes the same metaphorical language. “Give me this water.” But Jesus’ next words catch her off guard. “Go get your husband.” Obviously, the author of marriage between a husband and wife is still in favor it. He was assuming she was a respectable woman with a husband and home—even though nobody like that went to the well in the hottest part of the day. But being cautious, she tells him only some of the truth. “I don’t have a husband.” But Jesus already knows that. And says so. But what’s so amazing about this conversation is what Jesus doesn’t say next. Notice He doesn’t rebuke her for infidelity or a lack of purity. He doesn’t rebuke her for lying. He actually commends her for telling some of the truth! Even though it wasn’t all of it.  Which leads us to point number one: Wonder women speak truthfully. Ephesians 4:15,21 says it this way, “15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church...21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him.”

Jesus is the way, truth and life. And while this woman was learning more about all of these things, Jesus went out of his way to meet her and encourage her and basically tell her that she’s on the right track if when you’re confronted by Him and His word, you speak truthfully. Jesus said in Matthew 5:37, “37 Just say a simple, 'Yes, I will,' or 'No, I won't.' Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” Commenting on these words, one author wrote, “Even facts may be so stated as to convey a false impression...Everything that Christians do should be as transparent as the sunlight. Truth is of God; deception, in every one of its myriad forms, is of Satan” (Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 1955 [originally published 1896], p. 68).

So like Jesus, let’s focus on the truth. Even if we can’t handle all of it. Because Jesus is at work in us. He doesn’t deny our sin, He just doesn’t focus on it. Instead, he commends us for the truth we do know. And are willing to admit. Wonder women learn to speak the truth in love. Even about themselves. And I think they also proactively look for ways to commend others who speak truthfully. They focus on the good in others, on the areas where they are doing well. They highlight strengths not weaknesses.

Skip ahead with me to verses 28 and 29. She figures out that yes, Jesus is definitely some kind of prophet. Maybe even the Messiah the prophet Moses promised would come in Deuteronomy 18:15. She wouldn’t need the Psalms and Prophets the Samaritans rejected as Scripture to identify Jesus. Because she knew from Genesis 3:15 and Deuteronomy 18:15 that the Messiah was coming and that when He comes, He would explain everything to them. And just when the disciples return with lunch, they arrive in time to hear Jesus tell this unclean, unorthodox, previously unaccepted Samaritan woman born and raised in a pagan religious system that He was her Messiah! Think about this: The very first time Jesus chose to reveal Himself as Messiah, it was to an impure, unfaithful, almost pagan Samaritan woman who secretly longed for the Messiah. There are people everywhere we go that are secretly longing for more about Jesus! That’s why we mingle with me, desire their good, and bid them to Jesus. And after Jesus stuns them all into silence (John 4:27 says none of them had the nerve to ask, "What do you want with her?" or "Why are you talking to her?), John 4:28-29 adds, “28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone,29 "Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?"

Point number two: Wonder women leave some things behind. She didn’t forget her jar. She planned on coming back to get it. But not before she brought everyone from her village with her. What are some of the other things she left behind? I think she left behind the mistaken notion that worship is about location, location, location. If we all took this conclusion as seriously as Jesus did, we might have a much humbler explanation for our doctrine of the remnant church. She left behind the false system of syncretism. After the Protestant Reformation, many churches including ours as recently as 1888 were still struggling with the scandalous nature of grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. She left behind the idea that acceptance is based on rules of cleanliness. When people read stuff I’ve given you before from the White Estate that Ellen White ate clean and gasp sometimes unclean meat long after her health vision, some people freak out. She didn’t. She knew salvation was not a matter of diet and foods and pleaded with us not to make lifestyle and diet a matter of church membership.

The Samaritan wonder woman left behind the guilt and fear and rejection her life of infidelity yielded. For she finally found someone who didn’t deny these things, but instead, commended her for speaking truthfully about these things. Because some things are good to leave behind. Michael Card has a great song called “Things We Leave Behind” that reminds me of the freedom we find from the things we leave behind. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Wonder women speak truthfully (John 4:17-18; Ephesians 4:15,21). Leave some things behind (John 4:28-29; 2 Corinthians 5:17). And point number three: They aren't ashamed to share (John 4:39-42; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10) because they’re basking in the glow of God’s grace and forgiveness and acceptance. John 4:39-42, “39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, "He told me everything I ever did!"40 When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days,41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.42 Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Some people think this woman’s reaction is simply the reaction of someone who first understands the Gospel. And it’s true, this woman for the first time begins to believe that God loves her like crazy. But please notice, this is also the same reaction Jesus tells his disciples 40 days after the resurrection that His true followers will continue to convey long after He leaves. Acts 1:8, “8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

So whether it’s day one for being a new creature or year 101, only when we bask in the glow of grace and acceptance are we unashamed to share. That’s when the excuses disappear. And stop caring about our big buts. You knew I was gonna come back to that one right? Wonder women don’t have big buts. They don’t make excuses. They’re as excited about sharing Jesus at the end of their lives as they were on the first day they heard about Him. For them, the truth that is in Jesus is the most exciting, long lasting, life transforming thing they share throughout their lives.

Notice verse 29 says she told everyone everything she ever did! I don’t think revival in the church can be manufactured by clarifying our eschatology or studying the pioneers of our church. Revival in the church comes from understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And knowing we are loved and accepted flaws and all. When we aren’t ashamed of the Gospel, we will share it. When we aren’t embarrassed by church, it will be become a place you bring your friends. When we see the significance of the Messiah, we will want to worship Him. That’s the new normal way it works for everyone. It’s about His love, His grace, His truth. And when you understand that, it’s a glorious day.

Great and Mighty is He! A God to truly wonder. Who gives us glorious days to bask in His grace and tell others that He knows everything about us, but loves us flaws and all anyway. With His help, the things of this earth will grow strangely dim. And we won’t mind leaving some things behind. But let’s let God take care of that. In the meantime, let’s speak truthfully. And let’s not be ashamed to share.

Because the impact of this woman’s glorious day led to many more. Within three years, there was a church in Samaria where true worshipers whether you were a Jew or Samaritan, Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female met to worship. Multitudes came to Christ because of her and many still do whenever her story is told. I love the words to our closing hymn # 255. I cannot tell how all the lands will worship / When at his bidding every storm is stilled / Or who can say how great the jubilation / when all our hearts with love for Him are filled / But this I know the skies shall sound His praises / Ten thousand thousand human voices will sing / and heaven to earth will answer / that at last the Savior of the World is king!

In closing, would you read out loud with me our memory verse? 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV), “9 My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”