LESSONS FROM A HARLOT

Jn. 4:13,14 – Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jesus loved to shock people into reality. This story in John 4 is an example of Jesus and His tendency toward shocking and borderline scandalous behavior. For us twenty first century readers we may not catch the radical nature of this story at first glance. Jesus is stepping on centuries of racial tension by going to Samaria, engaging a questionable woman in conversation, and actually asking her for a drink of water. This is unthinkable to Jesus’s disciples and unthinkable to the Samaritans living in this village. What was Jesus after? What He is always after, He was looking for worshippers. So What does He do? He decides to find a woman of the night to teach the world a lesson about worship. Here is a description from John Piper.

“Sometimes casual sleepers need to be shocked. If you want them to hear what you have to say, you might even need to scandalize them. Jesus is especially good at this. When He wants to teach us something about worship, He uses a whore!

“Go call your husband,” he says to the Samaritan woman.

“I don’t have a husband,” she answers.

“That’s right,” Jesus says. “But you’ve had five, and the man you sleep with now is not your husband.”

She is shocked. We’re shocked! But Jesus simply sits there on the edge of the well with His hands folded, looking at the woman with razors in His eyes, ready to teach us about worship.”

So what was the Lord’s point? Worship is closely associated with pleasure and satisfaction; this woman was in search of both and had found neither. So the Lord offers her what she was looking for in all of the wrong places. He told her that if she would come to Him and ask, He would give her living water that would satisfy her thirst for the rest of her life. He was offering her forgiveness for her past and a solution for her future. He is offering us the same thing today. What well are you drinking from? Is it sexual sin, or alcohol, or maybe even a career, or even something as wholesome as your family? It’s all the same and none of those wells can quench our thirst. Just leave your bucket by that worldly well and ask the Lord for a drink, like He promised, you will never thirst again.

HUMILITY – PERSEVERANCE – AND THE HEALING POWER OF GOD

Jn.4:46,47 – Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.

One of the big obstacles to receiving a miracle is our pride. Humility is the breeding ground of miracles. This royal official who worked in Herod’s regime was willing to risk his job, fortune, and reputation to see his son made whole. He came to the conclusion that the power of God was more valuable than his prestige. Secondly, he was willing to go 20 miles on foot to get a miracle for his son. I can’t begin to tell you the number of people who have told me they love what God is doing at Victory, they just don’t want to cross the bridge. You just have to make some choices in life, what you value always comes out in what you do, not so much in what you say. Here is how Barclay describes this scene.

“Here is a courtier who came to a carpenter. The Greek is basilikos which could even mean that he was a petty king; but it is used for a royal official and he was a man of high standing at the court of Herod. Jesus on the other hand had no greater status than that of the village carpenter of Nazareth. Further, Jesus was in Cana and this man lived in Capernaum, almost twenty miles away….. There could be no more improbable scene in the world than an important court official hastening twenty miles to beg a favor from a village carpenter. First and foremost, this courtier swallowed his pride. He was in need, and neither convention nor custom stopped him bringing his need to Christ. His action would cause a sensation but he did not care what people said so long as he obtained the help he so much wanted. If we want the help which Christ can give we must be humble enough to swallow our pride and not care what any man may say.”

So maybe you need a miracle or someone you love needs a miracle. I guess we all have to ask the question, just how much do I want it? If a miracle is what you need what people think or the inconvenience of driving to church and enduring the worship and preaching should pale in comparison to the longing for God’s intervention in your life.

FOUR MONTHS

Jn.4:35 – Do you not say, “There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!

Sometimes the unthinkable happens. The planters are overtaken by the harvesters. Jesus may have had Amos’s prophesy in mind when He was describing this supernatural harvest. Amos 9:13 – “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it.” Amos was describing the harvest at the end of the age, Jesus was saying that this time had come. Here are some thoughts from Barclay on this supernatural harvest.

“For once, it is the contrast between nature and grace of which Jesus is thinking. In the ordinary harvest men sowed and waited; in Samaria things had happened with such divine suddenness that the word was sown and on the spot the harvest waited. H. V. Morton has a specially interesting suggestion about the fields white for the harvest. He himself was sitting at this very spot where Jacob’s well is. As he sat, he saw the people come out from the village and start to climb the hill. They came in little batches; and they were all wearing white robes and the white robes stood out against the ground and the sky. It may well be that just at this moment the people started to flock out to Jesus in response to the woman’s story. As they streamed out in their white robes across the fields, perhaps Jesus said: “Look at the fields! See them now! They are white to the harvest!” The white-robed crowd was the harvest which he was eager to reap for God.

Jesus went on to show that the incredible had happened. The sower and the harvester could rejoice at the same time. Here was something no man might expect. To the Jew sowing was a sad and a laborious time; it was harvest which was the time of joy.”

So maybe these are the days we are living in, the days when the reapers catch up with the planters. When that begins to happen look up because the Day of the Lord is at hand. Maranatha !!!

HARLOTS AND WORSHIPERS

John 4:23 – But the hour is coming, and is here already, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for indeed the Father is seeking just such people to be his worshipers.

One of the tragedies of the fall of man is our twisted vision of life, especially the enjoyment part of life. We all tend to seek for joy and ultimate satisfaction in places that can never complete us. The world sells a bill of goods that many of us have bought. We are told that we can find our ultimate happiness if we just get the right partner in life. That’s the story of the woman at the well in Samaria. She bought the lie five times and was now working on number six. The hard lesson was that no man can ever fulfill you. That’s when Jesus showed up seemingly changing the subject. He wasn’t changing the subject at all, ultimate satisfaction belongs to worshippers. Here is how John Piper explains it.

“The first thing we learn is that worship has to do with real life. It is not a mythical interlude in a week of reality. Worship has to do with adultery and hunger and racial conflict. Jesus is bone weary from the journey. He is hot and thirsty. He decides: “Yes, even now, just now, I will seek someone to worship the Father—a Samaritan adulteress. I will show My disciples how My Father seeks worship in the midst of real life from the least likely. She is a Samaritan. She is a woman. She is a harlot. Yes, I will even show them a thing or two about how to make true worshipers out of the white harvest of harlots in Samaria.”

Rather than judging this woman Jesus gave her love and understanding. What was He saying to her? She was just drinking from the wrong well. Like everyone else she saw religion as an irrelevant separate part of her life. Like most people, she had her religious beliefs but they had nothing to do with joy or the rest of her life. Sometimes we have to be stopped in our tracks by the uncomfortable truth, we have wasted our lives in unfruitful pursuits. Jesus came to lead the woman at the well to that well of living water. It was that living water that changed her from a harlot to a worshipper.

THE UNLIKELY EVANGELIST

Jn.4:39 – And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.

The woman at the well in Samaria seemed the least likely candidate to be an evangelist. She was more likely to die an early, soon to be forgotten death. She was far too well known amongst the men of that village, she was especially hated by the women. Who knows the damage this home-wrecker had inflicted on her home town. A preacher, an evangelist, unthinkable. That all changed the day Jesus stopped for a drink at Jacob’s well. All it took was one conversation and this woman’s life was unalterably changed. Jesus had operated on her soul, the results were undeniable. Rather than hiding in the shadows, this woman of Samaria began to share the story of her life change to whoever would listen. She had drunk the living water Jesus had spoken of, the results were undeniable. Here are some thoughts from Barclay on this unlikely evangelist.

“There was introduction. The Samaritans were introduced to Christ by the woman….

It is at once our precious privilege and our terrible responsibility to bring men to Christ. The introduction cannot be made unless there is a man to make it.

Further, that introduction is made on the strength of personal witness. The cry of the Samaritan woman was: ‘Look what he has done for me and to me.’ It was not to a theory that she called her neighbors; it was to a dynamic and changing power. The church can expand until the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Lord only when men and women themselves experience the power of Christ, and then transmit that experience to others.”

So maybe she was the unlikely evangelist to people who knew her, she was the perfect choice for the Lord. Why would He trust His most precious message to unscrupulous people like this former adulteress? Surely He could have found a better choice. No this was His choice because He was all about His glory, imperfect vessels carrying the most precious substance, this is how God glorifies His grace. Those who knew the woman knew her imperfections, now they saw the power of the gospel displayed in her life. Maybe you will be the next unlikely evangelist.

MAKING IT REAL

JN. 4:23 – God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.

Is God real to you? I am not asking you if you go to church or anything like that, I want to know if believing in God even matters. This is foundational and is the heart of everything Jesus was all about. Do you remember the way Jesus responded to the formal worship of the religious leaders of His day? He was outraged by their cold hearts. He said you have all the outward trappings of religion but there is no heart in it. Jesus was upset not because of the way they worshipped but was offended by their lack of passion. No wonder He was ministering to a Samaritan harlot, maybe she would get it even if the Pharisees did not. That’s what Jesus meant in this passage. To worship in truth means to simply worship what is real and weighty in your life. When you touch the reality of God the only response can be to worship. Here is how John Piper describes this verse.

“The Samaritans rejected all the Old Testament except their own version of the first five books. Their knowledge of God was deficient. Therefore, Jesus tells the woman that Samaritan worship is deficient. It matters whether you know the One you worship! How and whom are crucial, not where. Worship must be vital and real in the heart, and worship must rest on a true perception of God. There must be spirit and there must be truth. So Jesus says, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” The two words spirit and truth correspond to the how and whom of worship. Worshiping in spirit is the opposite of worshiping in merely external ways. It is the opposite of empty formalism and traditionalism. Worshiping in truth is the opposite of worship based on an inadequate view of God. Worship must have heart and head. Worship must engage emotions and thought.”

This is why the discussion with this woman went from husbands to worship. He was looking for what really mattered in this woman’s life. That is what He is looking for in all of our lives. What is real in your life. More than that, what matters in your life. What matters is what you will end up worshipping.

FALLEN PREACHERS AND OTHER EMBARRASSMENTS

Jn4:13,14- Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.

You ever get tired of hearing stories about fallen ministers? It really brings a reproach on the gospel and is quite an embarrassment to Christians. The reasoning goes something like this, “if it doesn’t work for this great man of God how can I stay pure?” Or maybe like this “Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites. Everyone sins.” Just recently another major minister resigned from his ministry with a string of indiscretions following after him. What is the reason for these renowned ministers not being able to live the basics as a Christian?

I have pastored almost 40 years now and I think I can answer that question. Preachers are human too. All of us can get off track if……. if what? If we are finding our happiness and worth in our accomplishments. Today’s verse says it all, our joy comes from intimacy with Christ alone, nothing else can satisfy. If you are a minister looking for contentment in the greatness of your ministry it’s only time until you too are another sorry statistic. Here is a famous quote from Augustine that will help answer this dilemma.

“During all those years [of rebellion], where was my free will? What was the hidden, secret place from which it was summoned in a moment, so that I might bend my neck to your easy yoke? . . . How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! . . . You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. [There’s the key phrase and the key reality for understanding the heart of Augustinianism.] You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure , though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honor, though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves. . . .O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.”

So this is a word for ministers as well as mature Christians, look to Christ alone for satisfaction. Learn how to drink deeply of this living water. If you do Jesus says you will never thirst for satisfaction anywhere else.

COME DRINK!

John 4:13-14 ¶ Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

“Have another drink!” I had no idea what the preacher was talking about. He kept exhorting the crowd, “Drink. Don’t just sit there, go ahead and have a drink”. The preacher was Rodney Howard Browne and it was August of 1994. The services were packed with people, joy was in the air, and I had no idea what was going on. I saw some laying on the floor as if they were in some sort of coma, others were laughing uncontrollably, and some were crying tears of joy. I had never been in a service like this even though I had pastored a “pentecostal church” for sixteen years (actually I had started an Assembly of God in NOLA in 1979). This was full on revival and somehow this “drinking” was a major part of it. Here is something Spurgeon said about spiritual drinking.

“No waiting or preparation is so much as hinted at. Drinking represents a reception for which no fitness is required. A fool, a thief, a harlot can drink; and so sinfulness of character is no bar to the invitation to believe in Jesus. We want no golden cup, no bejeweled chalice, in which to convey the water to the thirsty; the mouth of poverty is welcome to stoop down and quaff the flowing flood. Blistered, leprous, filthy lips may touch the stream of divine love; they cannot pollute it, but shall themselves be purified. Jesus is the fount of hope. Dear reader, hear the dear Redeemer’s loving voice as he cries to each of us”

“IF ANY MAN THIRST,

LET HIM

COME UNTO ME

AND DRINK.”

I love what Spurgeon said, anyone can drink. From the preacher to the pimp, from the hooker to the nun, drinking is available for whosoever will. During those services in 1994 The Lord began to help me understand what this drinking really was. Drinking is a form of receiving. I had forgotten how to receive. This blessing of receiving was being restored to my life.
What characteristics in our lives enable us to drink? First, we have to come to The Lord empty. Many times we think we are spiritually mature and therefore we are the givers not the receivers. That was my problem and is the problem with many in the church today. Only the empty, the humble, can drink this spiritual water. We come to The Lord with empty hands and empty hearts in desperate need of Him. Another trait of those that drink is actually spiritual thirst. Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty…”. Are you thirsty? It takes more than just being “open”, we have to be thirsty for God. Finally, we have to make time. Spiritual drinking has to be a priority in our lives. As we wait in humility and hunger, we will find ourselves drinking in this life changing living water.

RANDOM APPOINTMENTS

John 4:4 And He had to pass through Samaria.

The Lord didn’t pass through Samaria by accident, He had an unscheduled appointment with this woman who had been married five times. Now John didn’t divulge the details of this woman’s sorry life, but it wasn’t a pretty picture. Five husbands? She wasn’t a happy camper. Her joy was long gone. She was just trying to get through another miserable day, that’s when Jesus showed up. “Give me a drink”, she heard the traveling stranger say. “How is it that you are asking this Samaritan woman for a drink?” Jewish men could never correspond with a Samaritan, especially a woman. She had no idea who He was or what was about to happen. You know the rest of the story, He told her about drinking, and living water, and a spring within that would satisfy her forever. Her life would never be the same.
That’s how it always is with Jesus, unscheduled appointments, interrupted schedules, and lives permanently changed. That’s how it was with Saul of Tarsus. One minute he is swearing about Christian tongue talkers in the temple and some horrible trip to Damascus, then the next minute, he is on his face in the dirt, worshipping the crucified carpenter that he hated more than anyone on earth. The next thing you know, Saul is on a basket ride over the wall in Damascus, his life long journey for Christ had begun. That’s how it is with Jesus, suddenly He appears out of nowhere and then, all bets are off.
How could we forget Bartimaeus, and his random appointment. It was just another day of darkness, he had been blind all of his life. Suddenly there was a crowd drawing near, shouting, praising, laughing. Before he knew it, he was caught up in the moment, shouting the name of Jesus, until he found himself standing right in front of Him. Suddenly, someone turned the lights on, brightness flooded his senses, then he saw for the first time. There he was, looking into the smiling face of Jesus, this moment was too good for words. Bartimaeus never wanted to lose this feeling that he had in those moments with Jesus. What did he do? He began to follow Jesus down the road.
Maybe you can relate to one of these characters. Maybe all your dreams have been smashed like the Samaritan woman, ever day you are just trying to overcome the depression nagging at your soul. Or maybe you are angry, like Saul of Tarsus, somebody is messing things up in your life and you want to put a stop to it. Or maybe, you are more like Bartimaeus. Maybe you are sick and don’t know how you will ever have a normal life, all hope seems to be gone. If so, you are in a good place. You are a candidate for one of His random appointments. You might be thinking, “that always happens to someone else, never to me”. Nope, I think your wrong. Actually He is standing here right now, ready or not, He is knocking on your door. Are you going to let Him in?

GLORY TO GOD

Jn.4:23,24 – But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

 

 

It’s hard for us to consider eternity, it just does not compute in our finite brain. How could someone have always existed? How can we live forever? We say we believe it, but do we really? We may have a mental belief but tasting eternity is more than a belief in something, it is touching the reality of it for ourselves. Anyone who touches the edge of eternity is immediately turned into a worshipper. In this story of the woman at the well Jesus points this woman from a theoretical religious conversation to a face to face encounter with God Himself. There are only two options, stay in your world of theory or be transformed into a worshipper of God. Here are some comments from Spurgeon.

 

“Heaven will be full of the ceaseless praises of Jesus. Eternity! thine unnumbered years shall speed their everlasting course, but forever and for ever, to him be glory. Is he not a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek? To him be glory. Is he not king for ever?-King of kings and Lord of lords, the everlasting Father? To him be glory for ever. Never shall his praises cease. That which was bought with blood deserves to last while immortality endures. The glory of the cross must never be eclipsed; the luster of the grave and of the resurrection must never be dimmed. O Jesus! thou shalt be praised for ever. Long as immortal spirits live-long as the Father’s throne endures-for ever, for ever, unto thee shall be glory. Believer, you are anticipating the time when you shall join the saints above in ascribing all glory to Jesus; but are you glorifying him now?”

What a question! Are you glorifying Him now? Touching eternity, seeing and tasting God’s love for yourself begins to clarify everything for us. The woman at the well had a religious concept but it had never effected her life. She was looking for contentment in a human relationship, those experiences had left her disillusioned and depressed. For the first time she was tasting God’s love for herself. Where did she find that love, looking into the face of the Eternal One. Look to Jesus yourself, you too will be changed into a worshipper.