Sermon Text-John 4:5-26, 39-42
JESUS’ TEACHING CREATES A CLEAN HEART
Prayer: Yes, Lord, we are sinners, and our sin is inexcusable. We know Your Law, and still transgress it. We flee to You, Lord Jesus Christ! Wash us, and we shall be whiter than snow! Forgive our sins, since You bore them for us and put an end to them. Give us Your Holy Spirit, that henceforth we may strive against sin and serve You according to Your commandment. Amen. (C.M. Zorn, The Lord Will Answer p. 213
Lord, this is Your Word and these are Your words. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ, who is the Savior of all people:
Jesus’ visit with the Samaritan woman at the well has been seen as a model for how Christians can evangelize the world, or bring people to know Jesus. This woman was “on the outside.” As a Samaritan, her religion mixed the true and the false; she would be excluded from Israel’s worship services.
So she represents those who don’t know God, who don’t know or practice the true faith, or make up their own faith from different sources. She’s also caught up in godless attitudes to marriage and sexuality.
We see how Jesus patiently reveals to her that He is not only a man but also that He is God. He brings her to confess that He is the Christ, the Messiah. It’s a great success story that ends with all her fellow Samaritan villagers coming to believe in Him. So we tend to think of this in terms of how we can reach people in our world who reject God and His teaching.
It’s true, she does represent those outside the church. It’s good for us to think about this. There are an awful lot of people in our world who haven’t been given a true picture of God, and we need to think of how to help them. But she doesn’t only represent them. The church has been infiltrated by the world’s evolving beliefs especially about gender, sex, and marriage.
We teach in the church that God’s will – according to the 6th commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” and everything else the Scriptures say about it – that God’s will is for us to live a chaste life, that His gift of sex is reserved only for marriage, and marriage is only between a man and woman. But through schools, popular media, and peer relationships the devil leads Christians to give up this teaching. Not long ago, in regard to God’s condemnation of homosexuality, the world asked for toleration, then for approval; now it demands the church not speak against it. The world fills the movies and shows we watch with sexual promiscuity and homosexual relationships. It gets us to laugh it off, to accept it.
So this woman also represents the church. The average Christian needs this teaching. Due to peer influences, Christians might begin to be uncomfortable with what the church teaches – what Jesus teaches – on these issues. Than to silently reject it, or to reject aspects of it. They remold their faith from different sources. All the while they keep their own counsel, have the conversation apart from what the Bible or Jesus says. This can lead to leaving the church, or changing their faith, or aspects of it, without Jesus/the Bible being in the conversation.
This story shows that Jesus wants to be in the conversation. But not a conversation that we run. He wants to run it. He does that here. He teaches her. But He teaches in order to cleanse. Jesus’ teaching creates a clean heart.
First it’s important just that Jesus initiated this conversation with the woman at the well. This was her turf. He asked her for a drink. She responded: “How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me?”
But Jesus is making clear that it’s not really her turf. It’s His. She came to draw water. He came to draw her. But He doesn’t force anyone into His kingdom. He draws them gently, lovingly. He says of the Samaritans, “the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.” So, He’s seeking her.
If you hear people say the God of Christianity was invented by a patriarch- al woman-hating culture, that He oppresses and diminishes women, don’t believe it. Jesus would be seen as an immoral man for speaking in public with a strange woman, a woman of bad reputation, yet He’s willing to be seen that way if He can bring her to repent and believe in Him as Savior.
Jesus treated women as equal members of the human family. He respected them. He cared about saving them as much as saving men. He knew they could understand God’s Word, believe it, and form their lives according to it, as much as any man. That’s what faithful Christianity – Jesus’ teaching – says. If you’re a woman, know that Jesus’ love and concern for you and your spiritual well-being is just as great as His love and concern for any man.
He loves us all equally. His love means that He speaks about the sins. He brings out her sins of divorce and that she has a live-in relationship with a man who isn’t her husband. Notice, He doesn’t say it’s no big deal or that this sin is no worse than any other. He brings it into the open. Why does He do this? The world would say this is humiliating, it’s cruel, abusive, unkind.
But actually this is loving. Jesus is putting a halt to her downward slide. All sins condemn you, all sins equally make you unclean. But Paul implies in 1 Corinthians 6 that the 6th commandment sins damage a person more since they aren’t just “outside the body.” The more you continue in them the more hardened your conscience gets. It hurts at first to do them, but you get numb to it. The devil first convinces you it’s no big deal, then he accuses you and says it’s a very big deal; that you can’t be holy, you’re unfit to be here.
Jesus is exposing her 6th commandment sins, bringing them into the open, so she’ll repent and be forgiven. So that she can be cleansed by Him. So He can wash her and make her clean. “The living water” that she thought was for drinking is actually for cleansing her, giving her a clean heart!
This is Jesus’ goal for you too, that if what you’ve done – or the sins that have been done to you – especially if there are 6th commandment sins in your past, or today, that give you a burdened conscience, that make you unclean and tempt you to feel that you have to stay away from God and church, He is saying No! He is here to wash you and pronounce you clean. But the first step is that He exposes the uncleanness through preaching the Law.
This preaching at first makes her squirm and she wants a distraction. Her heart doesn’t want to repent. She diverts it to a question about worship.
She makes it about “where people ought to worship.” Jesus says it’s not about a place. “The hour is coming, and is now here” – because Jesus is here – “when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth … God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Jesus answers that true worship is not about a place. It’s about a Who.
It’s about Him. This subject of worship is not to be a distraction from the sins that trouble her (and us). To worship Him “in spirit and truth” doesn’t mean you worship however you want. It doesn’t mean it’s about being sincere in your worship. It isn’t about an emotional high.
It’s about God the Spirit – the Holy Spirit – and it’s about truth. True worship is hearing His truth, and speaking His truth. First it’s the truth about your sins – by which He leads you to say the truth about yourself and confess your sins. Then it’s the truth about your Savior who died for you and takes away your sins. So you believe His words that you’re forgiven.
Let’s go back to the woman and how Jesus’ words made her uncomfort- able. This should happen in church, in the true preaching of the Word. The Law is preached and we squirm. Maybe there are some areas in your life where you’re uncomfortable to hear what God says about it. Some sins you aren’t ready to give up. Some beliefs that aren’t in line with Scripture, yet you still hold onto them especially if they give you more credit with others in the world. Some obligations and duties you’re not ready to fulfill. Maybe like this woman you too would want to change the subject.
In a liturgical church like ours, we don’t get to change the subject. We don’t make the service to be about us, or construct it so it’s only about what we are comfortable discussing or makes us feel good. But in a liturgical church service, Jesus runs the conversation. Just like with her, He teaches.
He has the Law spoken to you, He exposes your sins, so His Holy Spirit can lead you to repent. Then the Gospel is spoken right to you. This is always Jesus speaking to you, lovingly bringing the gifts He won on the cross to you. Then you believe it. You’re comforted. You’re made joyful and confident through the forgiveness of your sins. Just like the woman, who suddenly left her waterpot there and courageously went to spread the word to people who also knew all about her. The Holy Spirit does this for us too in the church service. It’s why we come, isn’t it? To hear the Gospel and be given faith.
You come so that Jesus can speak to you. The church service is about Jesus, who today says to you: “I Am, who is speaking to you.” (His first I Am statement). He speaks to you a sinner, imagine that! He speaks, to make you clean from all your sins. His teaching creates a clean heart – in you. Amen!