In last Sunday’s reading, from John we read of Jesus’ conversation with
Nicodemus. Remember = where Jesus said you must be born or water &
spirit. Nicodemus says “how can you be born twice”?
This is the second week in a row that Jesus uses water as a prop.
Last week he told Nicodemus that he had to be born again of water and
spirit. This week he tells the Samaritan women about the living water.
In today’s reading, Jesus is on his way to Galilee and passes the city of
Sychar in Samaria. Most travelers would have avoided Samaria, gone
around, as the Samaritans were a despised people.
Our main character last week, Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of
the Jewish people.
This week, the conversation is with a Samaritan woman – the woman at the
well someone, at the other end of the social spectrum.
Thinking about this reading a bit, we can see a couple of things that stick
First - God uses everyone – no matter where they come from, rich, poor, no
matter what color they are, no matter what language they speak, male or
Second – don’t judge a book by its cover.
Notice how the Samaritan women said
“I know the Messiah is coming and when he comes, he will proclaim all
things to us”
Remember that Samaritans were not Jews, they were not Christians, they
were basically pagans, so how does a poor Samaritan women know this?
The Samaritan women was everything that Nicodemus was not. (or so we
“He was a Jew – the cream of the crop, she was a Samaritan. Samaritans
were the community of outcasts.
He was a man, she was a woman – women were of no voice – men ruled.
He was learned, she was ignorant, - or was she?
He was morally upright – a Pharisee – a ruler, a law abiding citizen - she
was of loose morals – she had 5 husbands and was now living with yet
He was wealthy and from the upper class, she was poor – drawing water
from the well.
Nicodemus recognized Jesus’ merits, the woman at the well saw him
simply as a traveler.
And so today we see Jesus presenting the Samaritan woman with the
Gospel in a totally different way than how he did last week to Nicodemus.
Jesus was an artist – who knew how to read people, he read people’s
hearts. He met people where they were in life and he still does, in ways
they and we can understand his message.
He brought the Gospel to Nicodemus by giving him an intellectual
“You must be born again” - and told him to go away to and think about it.
To the Samaritan woman at the well, he brought the Gospel to her by
telling her about her life through his prophetic power.
How does he speak to you? Does he use the intellectual way or does he
use a touchy feely way?
I can tell you that he seems to use more touchy feely to me. By humbling
me and in odd ways, reminding me who I really am.
Jesus always defied convention, using it to give him an opportunity to share
Conventional wisdom said that this meeting at the well with the Samaritan
women should never have taken place.
There were a couple good reasons that why no Rabbi, such as Jesus
would have talked to this Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar:
1. She was a Samaritan – a social outcast – lower than a shepherd.
2. A man did not strike up a conversation with a woman and on top of that,
she had a pretty loose moral history
Yet Jesus defied the norm.
Why? Because he saw a person who needed to hear his message. A
person who was more spiritually awake than one would notice.
Jesus touched her where she was, at her point of need. Even though she
didn’t know it.
His questions to her awakened her spiritual need.
As you follow the story, you get the feeling that Jesus is like a fisherman.
First, Jesus casts his bait by asking her for a drink and then follows it up by
“If you knew …..Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked
him and he would have given you living water”.
And before she realizes it – she’s hooked into a religious conversation.
And then he reels her in slowly.
Remember – she is thinking practical – water. Jesus is talking spiritual.
She sort of sounds like me – practical – what can you do for me now?
Not always remembering that Jesus speaks to us spiritually – not
He invites her to drink from “a spring of water that will well up to eternal
life.” and she responds by asking Jesus to give her that water.
Suddenly Jesus changes the conversation a bit. He asks her to get her
husband. And she replies by telling him that she has no husband. Jesus
“You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is that you
have had five husbands and the man you are now have is not your
I am taken back of the honesty of this 5 times married, living with a man
lady, who said “I have no husband”. She doesn’t hide her past. Most of us
may have not been quite so transparent.
I am again reminded not to judge a book by its cover. This 5 times married
and living with yet another man, this poor Samaritan lady, is honest in her
reply to Jesus, she has some basic understanding of scripture and is open
to what Jesus has to say. More than what I can sometimes say about
When Jesus speaks prophetically to her, she realizes that he is no
ordinary traveler. She suddenly realizes who Jesus is – the Messiah.
Look at her response - the first thing she does is to go and tell others in the
village that she has met the Messiah. At the end of our reading we heard
that “many came to believe” because of this woman’s testimony.
You might say she was one of the first Christian missionaries. Yes, a
women who was a non - Christian, a non - follower, a woman who is of low
social status, married 5 times, clearly she must have had relationship
Jesus sees this Samaritan lady and all people’s potential. She might have
seemed the most unlikely person to start a revival in the village, but God
often uses the most unlikely people.
I think of:
Moses – a Hebrew slave – who delivered the Hebrew nation from bondage.
Aaron – Moses brother, who was unable to the stand the pressures of
others, who built a golden calf to keep the crowd happy.
Job – a man who had it all – had it taken from him
I think of Paul – a once enemy of the Gospel
I think of Peter – the guy who denies Jesus three times
John the Baptist – the guy who takes a back seat to Jesus
Martin Luther – a man who says “you – the Catholic Church are wrong”, the
man who without, the Episcopal Church would not exist.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – a Lutheran priest – involved in the plot to assassinate
Adolf Hitler in order to save those suffering.
Desmond Tutu – who fought for people’s rights
Martin Luther King – who fought for human decency
The people of ST. David’s – who serve, and spread the Gospel.
Conventional wisdom would say that Nicodemus the theologian, the
Pharisee, the leader would have been the better person to start a revival –
but then God is not into conventional wisdom.
The Church was given a single Commission and that was to preach the
Gospel. If we want to see growth in our church, there is no better way than
follow Jesus’ lead in preaching the Gospel to people like he did to
Nicodemus and the Samaritan lady – by meeting people at their point of
Our friends, the people we minister at the Church without Walls, the
Veteran’s lunches, Ashes to Go, the refugee families, our new comers.
And in preaching the Gospel to others we can learn from today’s lesson.
Jesus taught people on their level, in a way they could relate and
As we preach the Gospel, we do not need to be theologians, rulers, leaders
or highly educated. We need to be ourselves. We share how God has
impacted our lives, humbled us, given us his mercy and how he has loved
By sharing ourselves with others, we are meeting them where WE ARE. In
a way that we understand and can express that to them.
In other words – our Gospel of Jesus comes from our hearts.
It comes from how Jesus touches us.
Jesus cared for one social outcast and reached the whole of the Samaritan
If we want to see great things happen in our church, there are no shortcuts.
We need to share the Gospel
We need to meet people at their point of need, we can do this by sharing
the Gospel the way the woman at the well did. By telling our story, like she
Totally unprepared, totally unlearned, just experienced and yet spread the
word from the heart.
Now, let’s all go and share the Gospel – our Gospel.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan