Interesting Bible People: The Samaritan Woman
We Learn a Lot About Jesus in This Story Of The Samaritan Woman
The Samaritans were greatly despised by the Jewish people of Jesus's time. In this hub I will tell you of their origins, they were in fact, partly Jewish. This hub is in the form of one of my services. I preached the sermon on March 27th, 2011. I am giving you the whole service, including hymns and readings. If you want to find out about the Samaritan woman right away skip to the sermon..
Come to a service
This morning I am taking the service at a little chapel out in the wilds of Devon. It is next to a small airport which was used by the Americans in the Second World War. The chapel is more or less square. There is a communion table at the front and to one side a reading desk for the preacher. There are twelve people in the congregation. The service begins with the steward reading the notices. Then I begin the service proper by reading Psalm 130. Why don't you join in and enjoy our service with us?
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem us
The First Hymn
I announce the first hymn and we all stand to sing. The hymn is Be still for the presence of the Lord. This hymn reminds us that when we meet together to worship and think about our Lord, he has promised to be with us. Even if there are only a few of us.
The people settle in their chairs and we have a prayer
Lord, you are great and mighty. You made all things. You made us. We find it difficult to comprehend one tiny part of your wonder but we continue to try.
Sometimes we feel like outcasts spurned by others but we know you love the outcast and the stranger. Thousands of years ago you told your people the Israelites to treat the stranger and the outcast with respect. Also Jesus showed this love of the outcast and stranger. He went out of his way to meet with the Samaritan woman at the well. He healed the Syro Phoenician woman's daughter. He touched and healed the leper.
Without him we too would be outcasts from your love, but in Jesus we find your forgiveness, your love and your acceptance. You promise your forgiveness to all who admit their sinfulness and come to him. We now spend a time of silence in which we confess our sins to you.
Lord you have promised to forgive all those who confess their sins to you. We now thankfully accept that forgiveness and go on our way rejoicing. Amen.
This is followed by the Lord's Prayer.
Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For yours is the kingdom the power, and the glory
Forever and ever. Amen.
Our Next Hymn
Next we sing O word of God incarnate. This hymn talks about the Bible and its importance in our faith. We are singing it here because the Bible reading comes next.
A Bible Reading
John 4 verses 4 - 26
And Now My Poem
A woman walked out
In the heat of the day
In Palestine long ago.
All alone to that well she went
Despised by others as low.
But she had a shock
As she nearer drew
For a foreign man sat there,
An enemy she could see by his clothes
In fact he was a Jew.
What did he there
Was the thought in her mind,
Then he asked for a drink.
She challenged him
That Jews would never drink
From a Samaritan dish
He said he could give her water
Such as she would never thirst again.
She said he did not have a bucket,
But he spoke
Of ease for her pain.
He told her to fetch her husband
She said she had none.
He said this was true
She had had five
And the man she had now
Was not her husband.
All this he knew.
She changed the subject
And spoke of religion
Of Jerusalem's temple
And their own on Mount Gerizim.
He said worship must be
In spirit and in truth
With no restriction.
She said Messiah would come.
He said "I am he."
She believed and went
To tell the men of the town.
They came back to listen to him
And pleaded with him to teach them more.
He stayed for two days
In that place of outcasts.
It was God come amongst them you see.
Getting Ready For The Sermon
We are now ready to sing our next hymn, Break thou the bread of life dear Lord to me. This prepares for receiving the bread of life which God gives us when we think about the Bible passage for the day.
The Sermon Begins
Have you heard about the four blind men and the elephant? The men wanted to know what an elephant looked like. A friend took them to the zoo and made special arrangements with the keeper to take the blind men to see what an elepant was really like. They got very close. One man stretched out his hands and felt the side of the elephant. "Oh," he said, "It's like a great wall." "No, no,said the man holding the tail,"It's like a rope."
The third man put his arms around a leg and said,"It's like a tree trunk." The man at the trunk said,It's like a large vacuum cleaner. " And so they argued until their friend said they needed to put their information together to get a clear picture.
This might help us to understand why the gospels are different. In particular John's gospel is very different from the other three. Matthew, Mark and Luke seem more concerned with the historical facts of Jesus life whilst John who wrote much later is concerned with the meaning of Jesus' life. The synoptic gospels Matthew Mark and Luke tell of Jesus healing many people and particularly, in Mark he is seen rushing from one activity to the next.
Mark starts his gospel by stating that Jesus is the Son of God and then tells of John the Baptist and of Jesus calling his disciples. Matthew starts with a family tree going back to Abraham. Luke starts by stating he is writing an orderly account of the things he has discovered from eye witnesses. If you feel the gospels that are written close to the events are the ones you will chose to rely on, then these three are the ones. John wrote much later but he was a disciple very close to Jesus, among the three, Peter James and John who witnessed the Transfiguration, although strangely John does not write about this. In John's gospel we see the writings of an older man who has had time to think through what are the important things about Jesus.
A Short Introduction To John's Gospel
John shows these by statements where Jesus says "I am" The one that shows the true significance is when he says "Before Abraham was I am" which sounds like very bad grammar until we realise that he is declaring himself to be Yahweh as the Jews called God. Remember the story of Moses finding the burning bush. He spoke with God who spoke out of the bush and when Moses asked him his name said "I am who I am." Where we see only bad grammar the Jews would have seen a declaration that Jesus is God.
There are seven main "I am"s, including I am the way, the truth and the life which we will sing about in the hymn that follows. I am the good shepherd, I am the bread of life are others. Alongside these were encounters with individuals such as the woman at the well, Nicodemus and Thomas. Also there are passages of teaching from Jesus in much bigger chunks than you will find in the other gospels, enough to call them discourses. Also in John there are no parables, those earthly stories with a heavenly meaning, like the sower and the prodigal son.
Who Were The Samaritan People
I expect you have realised I am going to concentrate on one of the encounters, that with the Samaritan woman at the well. Samaritans were descended from the Jews who had lived in the Northern kingdom of Israel. Back in David's time the Jews had all been in one nation, but after Solomon the kingdom split into North and South. Many years later the northern kingdom had been overrun by the Assyrians and most of the population taken into exile, but the poor people were left behind and had intermarried with the people around them, and with five groups of people that the Assyrian king had imported. Let me tell you what it says in 2 Kings 17 v24 -29.
These foreign people settled in Samaria where the few poor Jews had been left behind. These people came from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim. After a while they were attacked by lions and many killed. They were naturally worried and sent word to the Assyrian king to tell him they didn't know how to please the god of the land and so he had sent lions to kill them. The king sent a Jewish priest to teach them the ways of God. Then they learnt to worship God, but they also kept worshipping their own gods too.
So these were the Samaritans from which those of Jesus's day had descended.
What Did The Jews Think Of The Samaritan People?
The Jews of Jesus's time had descended from the people of the Southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. These too had been taken into captivity, by the Babylonians, but somehow on returning to their land they had managed to keep their racial purity. They would have nothing to do with the Samaritans and certainly would not use the same crockery. The Samaritan's had built a temple on Mount Gerizim. In Deut 11 v. 29. we read that Mount Gerizim was where the blessings of God were declared to the people of Israel, in the time of Joshua.
So this gives you some of the background to this incident. Jesus is sitting on a Samaritan well and asks a Samaritan woman to give him a drink. The woman is utterly amazed. She has just come out of the town in the heat of the day to fetch her water. This was not the usual time to fetch water, all the other women in the city would have fetched theirs earlier in the day when it was cooler. But this woman was an outcast and came when there would be no one else about. She was surprised that a man would be at the well and even more surprised when she realised he was Jewish. The surprise was further heightened when he asked for a drink. It was unheard of for a Jew to ask a Samaritan for a drink. She asked him how he could possibly be asking her for a drink when he was a Jew and she was a Samaritan.
As so often Jesus does not give a direct and simple answer, but says, "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."
Jesus is of course speaking of spiritual water but the woman takes him literally and asks him where he could get this water since he doesn't have a bucket and the well is deep. She wonders if he is greater than Jacob who had the well dug. Jesus tells her that everyone who drinks the water from that well would get thirsty again, but if they drink the water that Jesus can give they will be satisfied forever and that water will be like a spring inside them giving them eternal life.
The Samaritan woman is still thinking in earthly terms when she asks for this water, she is thinking that she won't have the daily chore of fetching water from the well.
Touching on a Raw Nerve
Jesus changes tack and tells her to fetch her husband. This touches a raw nerve but she replies that she does not have a husband. Jesus says, " That's quite right, you have had five husbands and you now have a man who is not your husband." He says she has spoken quite truthfully in saying she had no husband. Imagine her surprise that Jesus knew so much about her.
It seems very obvious to me that Jesus had planned this meeting with the Samaritan woman. Jesus goes out of his way to meet all sorts of people. He despises no one except those who despise others. Jesus had not come to judge this woman but to save her. Deut 10 v 17 - 19 tells us of how the Jews were commanded to look after the outcast and the alien, so Jesus was fulfilling the law.
Let's Change the Subject
Having been caught out about her husbands the woman changes the subject to discuss the fact that the Jews believe that Jerusalem is the place to worship and the Samaritans worship on Mount Gerizim.
Jesus turns things around to what really matters that people should worship God in spirit and in truth. It isn't a matter of where but of what is in your heart. The woman then makes a break through by saying,"I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. Jesus says "I who speak to you am He." At this point his disciples who had been to buy food came back and were amazed to find him talking alone to a woman and worse still a Samaritan woman.
The Saviour of the World
At this point the Samaritan woman is obviously very excited, because she left her water behind, went off to the town to tell the men folk that she had met a man who knew everything about her and she thought he must be the Messiah. The men came out to see Jesus and asked him to stay and he stayed for two days. Many of the people believed during this time, that he was the Saviour of the world.
Now what can we learn from this? There is something called prevenient grace. Pre meaning before and venient from the Latin to come, so it is God's grace that comes to us before we even know we need it. Jesus came to that well specially to meet that woman. She had no thought of meeting him, but he came. God comes like that to us. We don't know our need of him, but he comes into our life anyway. He draws us to himself, sometimes speedily and sometimes slowly as he sees we need it to be. And in entering into one life so he draws others to himself, just as the Samaritan woman went back to the town and excitedly told her news to the town's folk.
What Does This Mean For Us?
What of us? Jesus also offers us the water of life. Our lives can be empty and unfulfilled but Jesus offers us the living water, his Spirit within us giving us life. He doesn't wait for us to make ourselves ready but comes to us while we are yet sinners. We love him because he first loved us. He gives us what we need, forgiveness and we just have to take it.
A Hymn Follows the Sermon
This Hymn bases it's words on the verse in the Bible, "I am the way, the truth and the life." These were mentioned at the beginning of the sermon and tie in with that. The hymn is "Thou art the way."
At this point in the service we pray for people and situations all over the world. I will not put in our actual prayers from this day as they will quickly become dated. We also pray for people known to the congregation, especially people who are ill or in trouble. You can say some prayers for your friends and for whatever the world situation is today
Our final hymn
This modern hymn tells the good news so well. Not many of the churches I go to have the tune for this, but this church does so I was happy to include it in my service. It is In Christ Alone.
The Final Prayer and The Grace
Lord send us out into our world and your world to take your love and forgiveness to our neighbours. May we never treat another person as an outcast but offer your love to all. Amen
Let's say the Grace to ane another.
May the Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ and the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all now and ever more Amen.