Sunday, October 22, 2023

“Living Water” [Matt's Messages]

“Living Water”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 22, 2023 :: John 4:1-26

Have you ever been really thirsty?

What’s it feel like? 

Your mouth gets kind of dry. Maybe your throat gets scratchy. I start to get a headache when I’m really thirsty and heading towards dehydration.

It’s something you feel through your whole body, isn’t it? Not just your mouth. It’s your whole body, all of your tissues, calling out for hydration.

Are you feeling thirsty all of a sudden?

Just hearing the word “thirsty” makes me feel thirsty! How about you?

There’s nothing like a tall glass of cool sweet water when you are thirsty. And how it replenishes your whole body.

In John chapter 4, Jesus is thirsty, and He uses the idea of thirst as an inroads illustration for the answer to our spiritual thirst which is what He calls in verse 10, “Living Water.”

Let me show you what I mean. Let’s start in verse 1 to set the stage. Verse 1.

“The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John,  although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.”

If you remember from a couple of weeks ago, Jesus had been, through His disciples, baptizing new believers in Him–so much so that John the Baptist’s disciples had become a little jealous. But John had not. John was just the “friend of the bridegroom.” Jesus was the bridegroom. John wanted to decrease and wanted to see Jesus increase above all.

And that was happening. And the Pharisees, who had been investigating John, now got to investigating Jesus. And Jesus knew it wasn’t yet time to get into a tussle with them right then, so he left the southern part of Israel called Judah (where He had been born about 30 years before) and headed back north towards his home (where He had grown up) in the region called Galilee. Verse 4.

“Now he had to go through Samaria.” 

Stop there for a second. I want to say something about this. John says that Jesus HAD TO GO through Samaria. That doesn’t mean that there was no other way to get to Galilee. In fact, a lot Jews headed from the South to the North took the by-pass. You might want to look on a map, in the back of your Bible for this. A lot of Jews crossed the Jordan when they got to the border of Samaria and traveled north on the East of the Jordan so that they didn’t have to go through the middle area, the in-between region, called Samaria.

If you aren’t aware, there was all of kinds tension between the Samaritans and the Jews. The Jews thought of the Samaritans as half-breed traitors. They were the result of inter-marrying between those who were left in the North after the Assyrian exile in the Old Testament with a bunch of squatter foreigners. And they had developed their own worship system and version of the Bible–mainly just the first five books of the Bible and rejecting the rest.

The Jews did not like the Samaritans and vice-versa. They despised each other. So the Jews often took the by-pass. 

But John says Jesus HAD TO go through Samaria. Why?

Because He had to have this conversation.

Because Jesus was on a mission to seek and to save that which was lost.
Because Jesus was not racist. 
Because Jesus was finding His people.
Because God so loved the world that He sent His One and Only Son on a rescue mission (John 3:16).

Jesus HAD TO go through Samaria because God wanted Him there.

I think we can all learn something from that. God also is directing our steps and putting us in various places to reach people for Him. Even people incredibly different from us. Maybe people we don’t like that much. Maybe people we have even been trained to hate. Who might that be for you? V.4.

“Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.”

Read Genesis 48 and Joshua 24 for the backstory here. John puts this story on the map. There was a well there which Jacob had gifted to Joseph. And there still is a well there which is over 100 feet deep.

And Jesus plops down by the well. And He’s tired.

Do you ever think about Jesus being tired? Jesus is fully human. Like fully. He got tired. He got so tired. One time He was so tired, He fell asleep in a boat and slept through a storm at sea! That’s not because He was super-human. It was because He was fully human!

And these guys have been traveling. And Jesus is just whipped. And He’s thirsty.

You see what time it is? John says it was about the sixth hour. That’s the sixth hour from sunrise, so it’s about noon. Noon in the Middle East, and He’s been traveling. He’s hot and tired. And thirsty.

And He’s right next to a well! It’s really deep, and He could see down it, and He can see the water. He can probably smell the water. But He doesn’t have a bucket.

Jesus, in His humanity, is needy. One day, when He’s hanging on the Cross, He will say, “I am thirsty” (John 19:2). Right now, it’s obvious.

Now, one more thing I want to point out is that often in the Bible people meet other people at wells. It’s a popular meeting place. A place for hospitality to occur. And even a place for a man to find himself a bride (for example: Isaac, Jacob, Moses).

And we’ve just been told in chapter 3 that Jesus is a bridegroom. And if you are reading your Bible carefully, you might guess that the hero may be meeting a potential wife at this next moment. 

And, in sense, He is. But not like that.

But I think it’s supposed to be in our heads. The Bridegroom is on the lookout for His bride. And as we saw last time, WE ARE HIS BRIDE! All His believers are together His Bride. All of His Church is together His Bride. And so, potentially, is this woman who comes walking up to Him. V.7

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)” (vv.7-8).

Now, you know, Jesus is full of surprises.

For one, that He’s all alone. His disciples have gone into town to pick up supplies.

And Jesus has stayed back all by Himself to rest.

And He doesn’t run away when He sees this woman approach. He isn’t scared to be in her presence. Or have her in His.

But He also doesn’t take advantage of her. I know it’s impossible for us to think of Jesus doing that, but it probably crossed her mind.

There she is at noonday trying to draw some water. A lot of people have pointed out that that’s not the normal time for a woman in that culture to go get water. Normally women went in groups early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s cooler outside. They didn’t go on their own at the hottest time of the day. We don’t know why she did that. Perhaps it was because she didn’t have any friends. (Though we will see next time that her neighbors did listen to her words when she had something to tell them.) Maybe they had just run out of water, and she had to go get it right then. We don’t know. Perhaps she wanted to be alone. 

But she wasn’t alone. Here she comes up to the well, and there’s this guy sitting right by it. And, from the way He’s dressed and His accent, it’s clear that He’s a Jew. Not a Samaritan like she is.

Is He a threat?

He is not. (And, men, let’s be like Jesus in this way, too. Even when we’re tired. Even when we’re thirsty. Even when we’re alone. Let’s be no threat to women.)

But He’s not just non-threatening. He does not retreat from her either. He talks to her like she’s a human being worthy of respect! That’s so surprising that it makes her talk to Him! Verse 9.

“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” And, John, that’s putting it mildly!

A Samaritan?! Some of the Jews taught that Samaritan women were ceremonially unclean perpetually, all of the time. That meant that a good Jewish man would not even touch something that a Samaritan woman had touched or he would have to consider himself unclean and go through a purification. We can’t wrap our minds around how culturally strange it was that Jesus would talk to her much less that He would ask her to give Him something that He would touch Himself. Like a cup of water from Jacob’s Well.

Now, I want you to see the progression in this woman’s perception of Who Jesus is, as this story unfolds. Both this week and next.

He starts out, in her eyes, as just a tired thirsty man who may be a potential threat. Then she sees that He is a Jewish man. But not just any Jewish man. A Jewish man Who is willing to talk to her and relate to her as a person. Even to make a request and cross the cultural boundary of touching something she had touched.

This is shocking to her. “How can you ask me for a drink?” What is going on here? 

But imagine her surprise when He comes back like this? Verse 10.

“Jesus answered her, ‘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.’” There’s our sermon title for today.

Jesus says that this woman (and we never learn her name which I think helps every woman to see herself in her shoes, that this woman) is really the needy one.

Yes, Jesus needs a drink. But she needs what that drink really stands for. She needs living water.

Now, on the face of it, that phrase can just mean running water. Spring water. Fresh water. Water that flows in such a way that it remains sweet. Water that has air added to it and hasn’t gotten stale, dead, or full of bacteria. 

But, obviously, Jesus means a lot more than that. He says that if she just knew Who He is, she’d be asking Him for living water. 

And it would be the “gift of God.” It would be FREE. That makes me think about our memory verse, right? John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that HE GAVE His One and Only Son...”

“If you only knew the gift of God...He would have given you living water.”

Now, this woman is really intrigued. Perhaps she’s reaching for her purse to make sure she has mace. This guy isn’t acting like anyone else. She’s so surprised at what He’s saying that she has to come back. V.11

“‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?’”

“I don’t get the logistics here. How is this going to work?”

She’s kind of like Nicodemus, right? How can I get back into my mommy’s tummy? How can you give me water without a bucket? What are you talking about?

"Are you greater than our father Jacob?" She assumes that the answer will be, “No.” Right? "We (Jews and Samaritans) are all descendants of Jacob, so he’s greater than we are, right?" 

But Jesus’ answer is, “Yes, I am greater than Jacob.” Look at what He says in verse 13.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

Jesus is talking about something much greater than well water. He’s talking about a thirst that is greater than just physical thirst. He’s talking about spiritual thirst, and the answer for spiritual thirst is living water.

The water that Jesus gives that is unendingly satisfying. “Will never thirst!”


Jesus is offering to this woman eternal life. He’s offering up Himself. 

Living water is a perfect way of describing how faith in Jesus leads to unendingly satisfying life.

How long can a human live without water? Google says about three days. And then you need it again. And then you need it again. 

But Jesus says that if you have Him, then you have inside of yourself what you need to live eternally.

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

I have two points of application I want to make today, and here’s the first one:


Which is another way of saying put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Believe in Him. Believe that Jesus is Who He says He is. And put all of your faith and trust in Him.

That’s the whole point of this book, right? And it’s the whole point of this series. If you “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of believing you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31 NIVO). Eternal life!

Jesus says that this life is not just like a little drink of water, but like a drink of water that becomes a spring inside of you. Like “Spring up, O well!” (Numbers 21:17). The “welling up” in verse 14 is the same word for the guy who couldn’t walk in Acts chapter 3 and then was healed and was walking and leaping and praising God.

That’s what happens inside of you when you become a follower of Jesus. You don’t necessarily feel it all of the time, but that’s your ultimate reality.

In chapter 7, Jesus is going to proclaim, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (Jn. 7:37-38 NIVO). Drink the living water. It’s free! It’s the “gift of God.” 

Have you come to drink the living water, so that you have a spiritual artesian well inside of you? That’s what Jesus was offering her, and what He is offering to you and me and our neighbors today.

Now, the woman is intrigued, but she still does not understand. Perhaps, like Nicodemus, that misunderstanding is somewhat intentional–feigning ignorance so that she doesn’t have to make up her mind right away.

There are a lot of similarities between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. They couldn’t have been more different culturally. Man and woman. Jew and Samaritan. High position and low position. And Nick was at night, and she was at noon.

But they both needed the same thing. They both needed Jesus. V.15

“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’ He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ 

[And now He gets personal. Jesus keeps pursuing her. He is undaunted. And she ashamed. V.17.] 

‘I have no husband,’ she replied. 

Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’” (vv.16-18).

Like I said, Jesus is full of surprises. He knows all about this woman’s life. He knows all about her choices. And He knows all about what has been done to her. He points out that she is telling the truth, but she leaves out the whole truth. Yes, she has no husband. But that does not mean that she is unattached. She has had five husbands. And it’s possible that they have all died, but that’s unlikely from the way that it’s talked about here. It’s much more likely that she’s had five divorces. And that right now she’s living with a man who is not her husband.

Notice that this is rightfully seen as sinful. Living together as if you were married if you are not married is wrong. It’s against God’s design, against God’s command, and against God’s holiness. “Living in sin” is sin.

It amazes me that even many professing Christians don’t recognize that these days. So many people who should know better! Living together as if you were married if you are not married is sinful.

And note also that being married means more than just living together as if you are married. To be truly married there must also be a covenant between the husband and the wife, and that life-long covenant should be entered into publicly so that it is recognized by the community. In our culture that also normally involves the government, marriage licenses and so forth.

But this woman does not have that with the man she is currently with. And Jesus knows it. But note, also, that Jesus knows it all...and keeps talking to her! He keeps loving her. 

Jesus knows that she is a woman, a Samaritan, and is living in sin following a string of broken marriages. But that doesn’t cause Him to love her any less. If anything, it causes Him to move towards her with even more compassion, even more love. Truth-telling love.

Jesus is full of surprises.

Now, I’ve always thought that Jesus knows all of this about her and thinks that she has been trying to fill her spiritual thirst with men. Perhaps for sexual pleasure, but more likely for security, significance, and satisfaction.

She’s got to have a man to be happy, and she is ready to ditch them if they don’t please her. She’s a loose woman, as shameful as a happy prostitute. And Jesus loves her anyway.

And that might be the way it was.

But as I’ve come to think more deeply about the culture that she was living in at that time, I have come to realize that it’s much more likely that this woman was used and abused (like so many sex workers are throughout the world). Women in that day and age did not have a lot of rights. They didn’t just get divorced whenever they felt like it. Some men did but few women were able to. Certainly, they couldn’t just do it 5 times!

It’s much more likely that this woman was basically being handed from man to man. She was abandoned. She was the one ditched. And then ditched. And then ditched.  And then ditched. And then ditched once more.

And then this guy doesn’t even feel the necessity of going through the motions to get truly married to get what he wants out of her.

She’s living in sin, yes, and has some responsibility for that, but she’s been sinned against again and again and again and again and again. If there’s a deep spiritual thirst this woman has, it’s not just forgiveness for her guilt but a removal, a washing away, of the shame that others have placed upon her.

Known, loved, and valued no mater what had been done to her.

Ladies, can you relate? By the way, if all of this brings up feelings of shame in you that you don’t know what to do with, come talk to me and Heather about it, or find someone else you trust to begin that healing process, or if you're like me and you need to start by processing it on your own, I can recommend a great book to read, “Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection” by my mentor Ed Welch. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Jesus knows all of that about her, and He still moves toward her. Of course He does! He loves her. He doesn’t want her to remain in her sin and shame, but He loves her just as she is right then and there. He knows all of that and He offers to her this living water.

Drink the living water. Jesus is what you are really thirsty for.

And He has come for you. He had to come this way. It was His mission. He was at this well for this woman that day. And He’s come for you.

Yes, you.

No matter what you’ve done or what has been done to you. Jesus has come for you.

Jesus HAD to go through to Samaria.
And then Jesus HAD to go to the Cross.
Because He was coming for His bride.

Not just one Samaritan woman, but for all of us who will put our faith and trust in Him and drink His living water.

I’m sure that this woman did not know what to do with Jesus now. He has gone from being just some thirsty guy who shouldn’t even be talking to her, to someone offering something that sounds too good to be true, to someone who knows all of her story and her baggage.
What would you say next? She tries to change the subject. Verse 19.

“‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. [So let’s talk theology, huh? Anything but what you just brought up.] Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’”

She’s talking about Mount Gerizim. Abraham, Jacob, and Moses all worshiped there at one point. That’s the fathers she’s talking about. They are all in the first five books that both the Jews and the Samaritans agreed upon. But the Jews knew that the LORD set up His capitol and wanted a temple built in Jerusalem.

So there’s a point of contention here. A few hundred years before this, the Samaritans had actually built a temple on Mount Gerizim, and then a few hundred years later the Jews had knocked it down. She wants to know which of them is right. And she wants to talk about anything but her spiritual thirst.

So Jesus stops and leaves her alone.

No, He doesn’t.

He lets her change the topic, but He keeps on driving towards her heart. He says, “You want to talk about worship? That’s what I want to talk about.” Because worship and spiritual thirst are basically the same thing. “You ask, ‘Do we have to worship on Gerizim or in Jerusalem?’ And the answer is neither.” Verse 21.

“Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

No anti-semitism here! [By the way, “woman” here is the same thing that He called His mom back at the wedding in Cana. He’s not being rude. It’s like “Ma’am.”]

A time is coming when it’s not here nor there. It’s actually going to be everywhere. You Samaritans are ignorant because you aren’t reading your whole Bible. And your whole Bible will tell you that the Messiah is coming, and He’s going to be Jew. So of the two, the Jews are more right than the Samaritans.

But the right answer for where to worship is not just Jerusalem. It’s wherever God’s true people gather to worship in spirit and in truth. Verse 23.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come[!] when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth’” (vv.23-24).

There is so much there! Jesus says that the key question to ask about worship is not WHERE. It’s HOW, and even more importantly, it’s WHO. Here’s point number two and last:


That’s the kind that God is seeking. Did you catch that in verse 24? “[True worshipers] are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. He’s hunting for them. He’s on the lookout for these kind of worshipers. The ones who worship in spirit and in truth.

“In spirit” because God is Spirit. He’s not bound by location. He’s not contained or confined to one city. He is in all of the cities and all of the country, and deserves to be worshiped in all of the places. Even in this place. As the true Church, the Bride of Christ, gathers right here together to call on His name.

And “in spirit” because it’s not good enough to just be here in the building, our hearts must be truly engaged. We can’t just go through the motions. We can’t just worship on the outside. We must worship from our hearts, from the inside, in our spirits, by our spirits. Our worship must be spiritual.

And it must be truthful. We have to worship God as He is, not just as we would like Him to be. I think we all want to make God in our image instead of living out His image in us.

But God is how He is, and we must worship Him how He is, in truth. So our worship must be real and must be about Reality.

We shouldn’t worship what is false and what is not God. Which could be a whole lot of things. All of those things we might chase to assuage our spiritual thirst. What are you tempted to drink instead of Jesus? Money? Sex? Security? Fame? Popularity?

Remember what God said in Jeremiah chapter 2? “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:13 NIVO).

What are your broken cisterns? Only Jesus is the the real thirst quencher. Only the true Messiah is worthy of that kind of true worship. And this woman knew that. Look at verse 25.

“The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ [He will sort all of this out.] Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am he.’”

He just comes out and says it, and invites her to believe in Him. And believe that Jesus is the Messiah (called Christ) and by believing to have life in His name. A spring of living water welling up to eternal life.

Do you know what happens next? Lord-willing, we will study it together next Sunday.

It may surprise you. Jesus is full of surprises.

And because of Him we can be full of living water.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15
08. "God So Loved The World" - John 3:16-21