Sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Lent (3/16/14)
Theme: You Are Exactly Whom God Wants!
Text: John 4:5-26
I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase before. Chances are, you have said (or at the very least thought) the phrase on more than one occasion. You heard it when your friend got engaged to that guy who didn’t have his act together yet. You thought it when your boss hired someone that you personally knew wasn’t going to be a good fit for the position he was given… you could have done better. If only your friend hadn’t been so eager to marry the first guy who came along – she could have done so much better. If only your boss had done his homework a little more before hiring this guy – he could have done better.
It’s that little phrase that slips between our lips so easily when we see someone get something we don’t think they deserve… you could have done better.
It’s that little judgmental phrase that leads to clicks, even in a church. It’s that little phrase that leads you to treat someone differently because their accent is a little thick, they work a different job, or have no job, they look, they dress, they smell, or they sound different than what you are comfortable with – you could do better… your time, your energy, your love could better be spent elsewhere. You could do better.
Maybe you would never admit it. You probably would never say it out loud in front of me because you recognize how silly it sounds, but I know it’s there, because it’s the only thing that can explain why you treat some people better than other people.
And this little judgmental phrase that we throw out there so often because someone fails to live up to our standards is nothing new. It’s certainly what everyone in Jesus’ day would have thought if they read what we just did in John 4. It’s certainly what the disciples were thinking when they came back and found Jesus talking to this unnamed Samaritan woman. The very next verse that we didn’t read says, “Just then the disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’”
They didn’t say it, but they all were thinking it… Jesus, you could have done better.
“Can’t you see this is a woman? Don’t you know that no teacher worth his salt speaks to a woman in public?” said every social norm of the day.
“Can’t you see this is a Samaritan? Can’t you tell by her accent and the way she looks that she is one of those Samaritans, one of those ‘half-breeds?’ Half Jew, half Gentile, half worshiper of the true God, half worshiper of pagan gods. Don’t you know that no self-respecting Jew talks with a Samaritan? Don’t you know it’s against the law to even share a cup of water with one of these no good half-breeds?“ said every social norm of the day.
“Didn’t you notice she is down here by herself in the heat of the day drawing water? Don’t you know that any respectable person gets water from the well in the cool of the morning? Don’t you know that the very fact that she is here now by herself means that she has been rejected by her own half-breed people, probably for some awful immorality, some terrible sin?” said every social norm of the day.
Jesus, you could have done better. You could have done better than talk to this immoral Samaritan woman. You could have asked any one of your disciples for a drink and they would have gladly gotten it and you wouldn’t have had to soil yourself in this way. You wouldn’t have even had to recognize that this woman existed! You could have done better.
And yet here he is… Jesus certainly knew better than the disciples did all the reasons why this immoral Samaritan woman should have no right to talk to him, the Son of God. We know that because with a simple request Jesus cuts right to the heart of her immorality. When Jesus said to the woman, “Go, call your husband and come back,” he already knew that this was going to be a problem for this woman.
The question that begs to be asked is: Why? Why would Jesus abandon the social norms? Why would Jesus talk to this woman? And why did he have this account recorded for us?
When you ask that question it becomes clear that he did this so that he could teach his disciples something – he did it to teach us something. He did it to get the disciples to start questioning the social norms that tell us that some people are better than others. He did it to help us see things from his perspective.
With one simple request Jesus awoke well-deserved guilt and shame in this Samaritan woman. With one simple request Jesus proved that this woman deserved nothing from him. What do you think the chances are that he could have done the same for the disciples – with one request cut to the heart of their shameful sins? What do you think the chances are that he could do the same to you? What do you think the chances are he could look at you and with a simple request cut through all the layers to the sins that reign in your heart?
Maybe for you it would be the exact same request, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “Oh no, not today Jesus. You see I have already chewed through five husbands, and the man I am with now is not my husband.”
Maybe for you the request would sound a little different. “Go, bring me your Bible.” “Oh, not today Jesus. Because truth be told, my Bible still looks pretty brand new. The crisp, white pages would reveal how little time I spend in your word.”
Maybe for you it would be Jesus saying, “Go, bring me your checkbook.” “Oh, not today Jesus. I couldn’t do that, because then you would know just how little I have thanked you for everything you have given me.”
Maybe for you it would be Jesus saying, “Go, bring me your calendar.” “Oh, not today Jesus. I couldn’t do that, because then you would see how full my calendar is with time spent on me, and how little time I have set aside for you.”
Can you see the problem with this little phrase? It’s not just the Samaritan woman that’s not good enough for Jesus… From God’s perspective it’s you, and it’s me because we all harbor sins that make us not good enough for Jesus.
“Could have done better,” is what the disciples thought. “Could have done better,” is what we think in our arrogant moments. But realize that from Jesus’ perspective, we are all in the same boat as that Samaritan woman.
But did you notice that we never once heard Jesus think or say that? Never once does Jesus give the impression that he is too good for this woman.
That’s because, from Jesus perspective, he couldn’t have done any better. He couldn’t have found a better target for his love than this adulterous Samaritan woman. The message that Jesus wanted to preach that day is crystal clear. The water of life, heaven – it’s a gift. And a gift isn’t something you earn by being the right race, the right gender, or living the right way.
That’s why Jesus walked through Samaria this day. He could have walked around Samaria (as was the custom of many Jews). That’s why they made a pit stop at this little Samaritan town. That’s why he let the disciples go ahead of him into town. He did it all so that he could meet this woman and give her a gift.
You see, when Jesus looked at this woman he didn’t just see a adulterous Samaritan woman. He didn’t think, “This woman isn’t good enough for me.” He thought, “This woman needs me.” He looked at this woman and he saw someone who was thirsty, caught in the arid, dry downward spiral of her own sinfulness and he didn’t dwell on the fact that he deserved better, he dwelt on the fact that this woman was the very reason he was here on this earth in the first place.
Jesus stopped at Jacob’s well so that he could offer the free water of life to a woman who was desperately thirsty. Jesus stopped at Jacob’s well that day so that he could take someone who didn’t deserve him and treat her as if she did. Jesus stopped at Jacob’s well that day so that he could make clear to his disciples – so that he could make clear to you and me – that he couldn’t find anyone better, because he came to save sinners, and that’s exactly what this woman was, which means she’s exactly what Jesus wanted.
Which means that Jesus stopped at Jacob’s well so that he could make clear to you that you are exactly the kind of person he wants. Look at the conversation between this woman and Jesus today and realize that everything he is offering to her, he is offering to you. Realize that Jesus came to give the water of life to sinners, which means he came to give the water of life to you and to me.
Jesus stopped at this well so that he could make clear that the water of life, heaven, is his gift – a gift bought and paid for at the cross – a gift he offers completely free of charge to sinners, each and every one of them. A gift we receive simply by trusting him when he says that this water he is giving us will make us never know thirst again and will bring us eternal life.
This gift comes simply by faith – faith like Abraham, the man who simply trusted that God would take him from what he was (a barren 75 year old man) and turn him into something he wasn’t (a great nation).
It’s faith that makes a person worthy of the water of life, not race, not language, not works. Its faith in the promise of God that he wants to take people and make them what they are not – worthy of heaven. When Jesus looks at you he doesn’t see just a hell bound sinner. He doesn’t think, “I could do better.” He thinks, “You need me. You are why I am here. I couldn’t do any better than you because I came to save sinners, which means I came to save you.”
Now stop and think about what that means for every day of your life, and for every interaction you have with people in this church and outside those doors. This love of God levels the playing field, and forces us to change our perspective – it helps us see that we are all sinners in the presence of a perfect God. It helps us see that we are all sinners whom God wants to save.
If God looks at every person and sees exactly whom he wants to save then that new guy at work is not just another guy – he is someone whom God wants to hear about the Bible. If God looks at every person and sees exactly whom he wants to save then that maid at your hotel is not just an unknown person speaking a different language – she is someone whom Jesus died. If God looks at every person and sees exactly whom he wants to save then those people on your tv dealing with death, disease and disaster are not just unlucky strangers– they are people that God wants to offer the water of life.
So go, see all people the way God sees people. Offer them the same water of life God has given you. Echo his thoughts when he looks at you and says, “I couldn’t find anyone better. Here take and drink and know that heaven is yours.”