Divine Encounters With Jesus
Last week in chapter 3 we saw Jesus encounter with Nicodemus. This week we’ll be focusing on His encounters with a Samaritan woman and a Roman government official. It is interesting to note that these personal encounters Jesus had were with people from different backgrounds. A Jew, a Samaritan and a Gentile.
For the purpose of our study this morning our outline shall be:
* Jesus’s divine mission
* The Purpose of the mission
* The impact of the mission
Jesus' Divine Mission
From our passage today we see Jesus leaving Judea for Galilee. Verses 3 to 4 read: “So He left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now He had to go through Samaria”. Why did Jesus need to pass through Samaria? Particularly in those days a Jew travelling from Judea to Galilee would not pass through Samaria but take the longer and more arduous journey of crossing River Jordan and travelling the trans-Jordan highway to reach His destination. The Jews did this because the Samaritans were believed to be unclean. They were Jews who had intermarried Gentiles. They also accepted only the first five books of the old testament ignoring the prophets and the psalms and believed that the right place of worship was at Mount Gerizim and not Jerusalem. Coming back to Jesus, verses 5- 6 read,
“So He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus tired as He was from the journey sat down by the well. It was about noon”.
It was in a desert region and this was the hottest time of the day. I’m sure we can all identify with this (especially during the Summer). Jesus was tired and thirsty. In verses 7 to 16, we see that the disciples went into the town to buy food and while they were gone, a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. This was an unusual time to do so. Often women in those days would draw water either early in the morning or after sunset to avoid the intense heat of the sun. Women would often also come in a group. What is it that made this particular Samaritan woman come to fetch water under such intense heat? Why did she also come alone? Let’s see the discussion which took place between the Samaritan woman and Jesus in verses 7 to 15.
“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water. “ Sir, the woman said, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and livestock? Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. The woman said to him, “Sir give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Can we imagine how surprised the Samaritan woman was when this unknown Jew asked her for a drink? Having some knowledge of Judaism she probably recalled that Jews were not allowed to share utensils with non Jews as they were considered unclean. No wonder she responded as she did. However, Jesus did not get caught up in the history of the social problems between the Jews and the Samaritans but gave her a thought-provoking response. Remember, He was on a divine mission. He gave a response that left her puzzled (just like Nicodemus had been when Jesus told him very truly I tell you no one can see the kingdom of God except they’re born again). As far as the woman was concerned there was no way Jesus could retrieve water from the well since He had nothing to draw with. Not only that, He definitely couldn’t be greater than Jacob from whose well water had been supplied for over 2000 years. What was Jesus’ response? Basically that drinking the water from Jacob’s well would never be satisfying. You would come back over and over again for the water. However, the water I give would not only satisfy you but would become a fountain of water in you springing up to eternal life. A fountain of water, so dynamic, energetic and powerful. This was a metaphor to describe a spiritual reality that would meet the lady’s need not just at the moment but for all eternity. Did the woman understand this? From her response she definitely didn’t. She was intrigued by the thought of no longer having to come to the well alone and under such intense heat. Remember, Jesus was on a divine mission. He wasn’t through with her yet. He went ahead to teach her and confront her with the condition of her soul. Let’s read verses 16 to 18.
Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is you have five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
Can you imagine the shock? A complete stranger revealing details about her past. Not just details but parts of her life she must have been so ashamed of. How come He knew so much about her? How did He know these things? John 2: 25 reminds us that Jesus knows all men. This revelation about the woman’s life could speak volumes. It probably helps us understand why she came to the well at such an odd time and all alone. She was probably ostracised socially. Could there have been an underlying reason for her sexual immorality? Could she have been feeling empty and dissatisfied. Could she have been attempting to feel a void in her life. A void many of us were/are familiar with? God created us to be in fellowship with Him. We rebelled against Him thereby sinning against Him. We rejected His authority and put ourselves in charge. God’s word tells us “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). This resulted in a broken relationship between God and man leaving a void in the soul of everyone born into the world. Psalm 51: 5 reminds us that we were sinful from birth, sinful from the time our mothers conceived us. We have tried to fill this void in so many different ways. We’ve tried accumulating wealth, we’ve tried friendships, we’ve tried to reach the peak in our careers, we’ve tried to feel the void through our families, we’ve tried to do so many good works. All to no avail. The void stares us in the face like it did this Samaritan woman.
Still struggling with Jesus knowledge about her, we see in verse 19 that she perceived that Jesus must be a prophet. What a great opportunity to steer the conversation away from her life. How often do we do this when we are confronted with our sinfulness. When we see that our righteousness is just like a filthy rag in the presence of God. Rather than run to the one who alone can cleanse us with water and fill our heart with His Spirit we flee from His presence. We avoid the Spring of living water and dig our own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:13). In a probable attempt to evade details about her past, the Samaritan turned to the principles of worship (verse 20). She asked about the proper place for the worship of God. Was Jesus through with her? He was on a divine mission. Let’s read verses 21 -22,
“Woman, Jesus replied, “believe me a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know for Salvation is from the Jews.”
Jesus acknowledged that thus far the Jews way of worship was right as they were God’s chosen people and God had personally instructed them on how to worship him. But that was thus far. Jesus continues in verses 23 -24,
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in the Truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.”
Jesus was declaring the end of an era and the beginning of a new era. Worship was no longer to be according to the laws and instructions given by God through Moses. That was only to be a shadow of that which was to come. Jesus was declaring that worship is now to be from the depths of our souls, from our inner spirit from the core of our being. Am I? Are you going through the motions of external worship? Doing the motions, praying, reading the bible, singing hymns and doing good works? Don’t get me wrong all these are good. But if our hearts have not been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ then all these are abominations before God. We are called to worship God not only in Spirit but also in Truth. Is our worship tailored to produce fuzzy feelings within us? To meet our felt needs? Jesus says our worship must be according to the truth of God, the teaching of God, the word of God because He is truth and His word is Truth (John 14:6). Worship, according to John Mac Arthur is ascribing glory to God because of these truths, adoring Him for who He is, for what He has done and for what He has promised. What does Romans 12: 1-2 teach us about worship? It reveals that worship involves both mind and body but begins with a transformed mind. If we are conformed to the world we cannot live in the light of God’s mercies. We would end up worshipping anything but God. Our choices reflect who we worship. Whom do I worship? Whom do you worship? Can we sincerely say we worship God in Spirit and in truth?
Probably still not convinced, the Samaritan woman made a statement that would lead to a knowledge that would change her life forever. She could never have been prepared for this. This brings us to the 2nd point.
The Purpose of the Divine Mission
The Samaritan woman acknowledged in verse 25 that she knew the Messiah was coming and that when He comes He will tell them all things. Irrespective of her past and present life she was looking forward to the Messiah. Jesus plainly responded, “I who speak to you am He”. Another staggering revelation for the woman. This time rather than being filled with shame or looking for an opportunity to steer the conversation away she was filled with so much excitement. From her reaction, her eyes had been opened and she believed. This was why Jesus needed to pass through Samaria. This was the purpose of His divine mission. All shame gone as a result of her encounter with the Christ. She was suddenly free of guilt and shame. If the Messiah who knew her through and through did not condemn her but pointed her to her need for Him who could condemn her? Indeed Jesus divine mission to her was not to condemn her but to save her (John 3:17). She had to be confronted with her sin and her need for the Saviour. How faithfully and gently Jesus did this. Have you been confronted with your sin and your need for the Saviour? It is true that God is too holy to behold sin but in love He has provided a way of escape for us in His Son. His Son, Jesus came, He lived the perfect life we couldn’t live and He died on the cross bearing the awesome weight of our sin. He paid the penalty of our sin and now for all who will repent of their sin, ask for forgiveness and put their trust in Him would eternal life be given. What is eternal life? Jesus said in John 17:3,
“Now this is eternal life that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
The Samaritan woman received eternal life. Have you received eternal life? Do you know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent?
The Impact of the Divine Mission
After this staggering revelation, the woman left her water pot and ran to the very city where she was a despised outcast to not only tell of her experience but to point others to the Christ.
She said to them, “Come see a man who told me all the things I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (verse 29)?
Why did it suddenly become important that this man told her all the things she ever did? Why did she really give thought to it that He could be the Christ? Psalm 139 verses 1-4 reads,
“O Lord you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down, you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord”.
Jesus knew the woman’s deep need for that Spring of living water. That was the only thing that could satisfy her, satisfy me and satisfy you. Every other thing is a broken cistern that cannot hold water. She went forth to share this good news. The long awaited messiah had come. Her void had been filled. What was the response of the Samaritans who heard the woman’s testimony? They believed. After Jesus spent 2 more days with them most likely teaching them. They believed. Not because of the woman’s testimony but because they had heard Jesus for themselves (verse 42). They proclaimed that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. Jesus indeed is the saviour of the world. The saviour, not only of the Jews but of the sexually immoral, the outcasts the down trodden and the Gentiles. As good as it is to share our testimony of salvation we are called to point people to Jesus. Our testimony will not fill the void in people’s lives. Only knowing Jesus can.
In the midst of this when His disciples returned they urged Jesus to eat. Jesus answered I have food to eat of which you do not know. What was His food? Verse 34 answers the question. It was to do the will of Him who sent Him and to finish His work. This not only included ministering to these people of Samaria, offering them living water that wells up to eternal life it includes us too. Who among us like the Samaritan woman could have our life scrutinised by Jesus and not see our desperate need for salvation? She had had an encounter with the living Word of God in the flesh. The true light had shed His light upon her exposing the conflict between light and darkness. She tried to evade as we all do. At first she only saw a Jew seating by the well, then a prophet then the Messiah and finally the Saviour of the world.
Jesus finished this work when he said on the cross, “It is finished”. He had come to show us lost sinners the way. He showed us our lost, sinful and shameful past. He showed us our need for Him. He only could pay the penalty for our sin. Only then could I, you or anyone who believes in His name have eternal life.
Before we round up let’s see another divine encounter between Jesus and a Roman government official in John 4: 43-54. This man sought Jesus for His gifts and power. His son was sick unto the point of death and he implored Jesus to come and heal him. This happened in Cana in Galilee where Jesus had turned water into wine. The Roman government official must have been desperate as we see from his statement that his son was ‘sick unto death’. Being a wealthy and influential man he must have tried all but to no avail. This is a similar experience in our days. We have people seeking miracles but not Jesus. Jesus knew that the man had a greater need. He was dead spiritually. Jesus responded in verse 48,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders you will by no means believe”.
The man was not ready for a theological discussion he implored Jesus to come down before his son dies (Verse 49). Did Jesus go? No he had a divine mission. He simply said,
“Go your way your son lives” (verse 50a).
Whatever it was, the man believed Jesus. In the midst of His desperation He heard the promise of Christ and believed it. He trusted the word of Christ. We see that as he was going he got the news that his son lives. His expected natural reaction would have been one of excitement, shouts of joy or leaping in the air. However, he inquired when his son got better and he realised it was the hour Jesus had said, “your son lives”. Again we’ll see the purpose of the divine mission. It was not for the man’s son to be healed. It was much more than that. Through Jesus act of mercy and compassion, the man would see his need for Jesus. The impact of the mission? The Roman government official, a Gentile and His entire household believed in Jesus.
In the lives of these people Jesus mission was accomplished. He came to show them that He is the way, the truth and the life and that no one can get to the Father except by Him. Only by knowing this and believing this could anyone worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. The Jews of that day would never have believed that when the Messiah came He would have anything to do with Samaritans, the sexually immoral and gentiles. Jesus commenced the great commission. He preached the good news of salvation to these people in Jerusalem, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world (the Roman government official). Jesus crossed barriers to spread the good news to people from all walks of life: Nicodemus, a Jewish theologian, a Samaritan woman of no repute and a Gentile. The divine mission is the salvation of mankind. We see in John 4: 33-38 that the disciples seemed completely ignorant about the entire spiritual drama taking place. They were only concerned about the physical. Jesus had to turn their attention to the spiritual and the purpose for His mission: The Father sent the son (verse 34) The Son sent the disciples (verse 38) and for those of us who have been reconciled to the Father through Jesus we are being sent to be the witnesses of Jesus that in accordance with John 20: 31 people will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that by believing they may have life in His name.