Overheard any fascinating conversations lately?! I don’t know whether you’ve picked up a copy of the free commuter paper MX, but it’s got a section inside called “Overheard”. Commuters text in conversations they’ve overheard on trains. Nearly always funny of course. Here’s some examples.
Girl 1: “Do you reckon trains are driven with a steering wheel?”
Girl 2: “Nah I think it’s a lever, like a big toboggan!”
A Guy to his friend after eating a Whopper meal:“ Man I’m so full. My eyes are bigger than my head.”
I can’t work out whether this is dumb, insightful, or just plain bigoted. A to her friend after discussing various romantic pairs: “Ugly ? Eew, that’s not love, that’s company.”
2 Women talking about one having an .
I braked hard because the car in front braked hard and the car behind hit me up the back. He got out and he said “You had only one Brake light” and I replied “Well you saw THAT one!”
And finally, Two s discussing the merits of being vegetarian.
“EATING animals is okay. But TAKING THEIR FOOD, nah that’s just cruel.”
Fascinating overheard conversations. Some of them make you laugh out loud. Some of them you spend the whole time trying to put all the pieces together. Other conversations you lean closer because you want to catch every word. And others you wish you COULDN’T hear.
Today we’re looking at a fascinating conversation of Jesus. It’s actually the longest recorded conversation in the Bible. Which probably means it’s got something important to TEACH us.
In particular, we’re going to think about how Jesus turns the conversation from ORDINARY things to things that MATTER MOST. How he moves the topic around from PHYSICAL things to SPIRITUAL things.
And that’s the sort of approach that’s really at the heart of the Jesus All About Life campaign. Ordinary Christians making the most of their opportunities as they talk to their friends and workmates. Turning conversations about their weekends, or movies, or TV ads to things that MATTER.
Four good excuses Jesus DIDN’T use
The first thing I want to think about is four good excuses Jesus DIDN’T use.
I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but I’m quick to come up with excuses why keeping my mouth CLOSED is better than OPENING it.
“It’s not the right time. They wouldn’t be interested. They’ll think I’m weird. I won’t know what to say next. It might end the friendship.”
All sorts of excuses. But that’s all they are. Nothing more than excuses.
Listen to four excuses Jesus COULD have used in this conversation, but DIDN’T
1. He was tired, hot, hungry and thirsty. V6. It’s midday. Jesus has probably been walking since 6 or 7 am. He’s tired and thirsty, so he stops at Jacob’s well, and sits down for a rest. He’s hungry, so he sends the disciples into town to buy lunch.
Every excuse to clock off. To keep to himself. And, when he sees the woman approaching, to pretend he’s asleep, or doesn’t see her.
There’s even the temptation to justify doing it for the good of his ministry. “I need time out. If I’m RESTED, I’ll be better able to minister to OTHERS / LATER.”
But, for Jesus, it’s all about THE WOMAN’S timetable. Not his. She was ready to talk THEN, not later. She was alone, and willing to open up about some personal details THEN, not later. So Jesus grabbed the teachable moment, and used it.
2. The second excuse Jesus COULD have used for not talking. Was that it wasn’t socially acceptable for men and women to talk in public.
The social convention was for men to talk to men. And women to women. Jesus was risking causing offense, or being accused of improper behaviour.
And yet he still initiated the conversation.
What’s the equivalent today? What social conventions could YOU risk breaking? Talking to people on the train. Or in the lift. Or in a supermarket queue. Nobody seems to feel comfortable doing THAT.
Are you willing to break THOSE conventions?
The funny thing is people are often MORE than willing to talk. As long as you make the first move. And if you do it in a friendly, non-threatening way.
Third excuse Jesus didn’t use was that he was a Jew and she was a Samaritan. There’d been a long history between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Jews looked down on the Samaritans as INFERIOR.
Grant’s family is Maltese, and he reckons it’s like that with Italians and Maltese. The poorer cousins.
The Samaritans were a MIXED race. Part Jewish, and part everything else. The result of forced inter-marriage – the foreign policy their Assyrian conquerors had brought in about 700 years before. And the Jews saw them as second-class.
And there were RELIGIOUS differences TOO. A different size Bible, and a different place to worship. As we’ll see in a moment.
Jesus COULD have used it all as an excuse. But he didn’t. Even the WOMAN was surprised he’d spoken to her. V9.
“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 yet, it doesn’t seem to stop HER from talking as the conversation continues. I wonder whether YOU’RE willing to break cultural norms to open conversations with people. What about the African people all over Blacktown. They LOOK so different.
Or Muslim women. They’re more noticeable that the men. But do you use their headgear as an excuse to keep quiet?
A few months ago, the news was full of stories of attacks on Indian students by Lebanese. And then the Indians rioted at the lack of protection they were receiving. So, there was some general hostility between the two races. But Charlie, who you might know is Lebanese, told me he’s walked up to some Indian people, and said, “Hello, I’m Lebanese, and I don’t you.”
I’m not sure what sort of reception he got, and whether it will do a great deal for race relations. But it’s an example of not using cultural conventions as an excuse.
Woodcroft Festival is coming up. It’s the perfect opportunity to cross those cultural conventions. To talk to ALL SORTS of PEOPLE. And make the effort to build a bridge.
4. Fourth excuse Jesus could have used, but didn’t. The woman had a bad reputation that could harm his. Five husbands she’d been through. And she was living with ANOTHER one who wasn’t even her husband.
It’s probably the reason she was collecting water in the middle of the day. And at this out of town well. She’d been rejected by the other women in the town. Everyone else would collect water in the cool of the morning, or in the evening. Hang around and talk perhaps – like mums dropping their kids off at school. But not THIS woman. The only time left was the hottest part of the day.
For good Jews, reputation was everything. Not only were you to DO the right thing, but be SEEN to do the right thing. Don’t give people any excuse to start rumours, or sully your reputation. Jesus would have been better off at least waiting until the disciples returned. And there’d be some eyewitnesses to stand up for him, just in case any rumours started.
But that would probably have put an end to the conversation as soon as it had started. No way the woman would open up with an audience like THAT. So Jesus made the most of the opportunity. And didn’t let the woman’s reputation be an excuse.
So why talk?
So why DID he speak up? We’ve thought about lots of reasons why he could have KEPT QUIET. But why did he initiate the conversation?
The phrase I want to concentrate on is there in v10. The woman’s asked Jesus why he’s talking to her. And Jesus replies, “If you knew” – If ONLY YOU KNEW. If you just had enough knowledge. You DON’T, but if you DID…
When I was in London recently I visited the National Gallery. It’s HUGE. Room after room of priceless paintings. But I pretty much just wandered through each room, hardly stopping to look at the paintings. After a while they all looked pretty similar. There were some artists I recognised the names of, and even some famous PAINTINGS I’d seen before. But, to be HONEST, before long I was BORED.
What I needed was someone who KNEW about art saying to me, “You look like you’re not enjoying yourself. If you only knew what I know… If you only knew what you were looking at, you’d get so much more enjoyment out of your visit. Let me TELL you.
And it’s the same with Jesus. “You look like you’re not enjoying things. You’re looking for love in all the wrong places. If you only knew what I know. You’d get so much more enjoyment out of your journey. Let me TELL you.”
So why does Jesus talk? Because HE knows something she DOESN’T. HE knows LIFE. A rich, full, complete life. Life THAT LASTS. Life she’s SEARCHING for, but NOT FINDING.
And it’s the same reason WE have to have for speaking. We shouldn’t speak out of GUILT. Or because we want to chalk up another conversion. Or we want to win an argument. Or prove we’re BETTER than someone. But because we know something someone else NEEDS TO KNOW. That’s it.
The Sri Lankan author D. T. Niles said that evangelism was nothing more than “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread”. Fairly simple really. You’ve got life-giving information that needs to be passed on.
So what is it Jesus knew/ that the woman NEEDED to know? Have a look there in v10.
“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.”
The unknowns for this woman were the gift of God (which we’ll think about in a moment), and JESUS HIMSELF. Which is really the FIRST thing she needs to know. To know WHO Jesus IS, and WHAT he’s come to speak about.
A bit further down in v25 they talk about God’s promise to send the Christ or Messiah – God’s appointed king. She knew he was COMING. Just not what he’d be like, or when he’d come. But Jesus says, ‘It’s ME!” If only you KNEW!
Why does she need to know Jesus? Because he’s the one who can give her the GIFT of God. But what’s the gift of God? “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.”
The gift of God is LIVING WATER. Which doesn’t make things a WHOLE lot clearer. So, what’s LIVING water? They’re at a WELL. So the idea of WATER is fairly obviously in their minds.
And that’s Jesus way of teaching. He uses physical things that are around to point to SPIRITUAL things.
He does it a bit further down, in v34, when the disciples bring back some FOOD, and Jesus talks about his FOOD is doing his Father’s will.
And he does it again in v35 when he’s looking at fields of GRAIN, and he talks about the fields of PEOPLE being ripe for the harvest of becoming his followers.
But here, they’re sitting around a WELL, so Jesus talks about LIVING WATER. And there’s a bit of a double meaning. A bit like when we say RUNNING water. It’s not actually RUNNING, but we mean FLOWING. Same with LIVING water. It means FLOWING water.
And when Jesus says LIVING water, he means water that GIVES LIFE. But the woman thinks he’s talking about FLOWING water. Water that’s not STAGNANT. V11
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
That’s the only water around here. Jesus makes it clearer. He’s got her interest.
“Everyone who drinks THIS water will be thirsty again, 14 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.”
Eternal life. Life of the AGES. Life of the kingdom of God. That never ends… Sounds pretty good to the woman!
“Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Show me where to find the water that will give me THAT kind of life.
At which point Jesus says something that seems a bit funny. “Go, call your husband and come back.” She lets on she’s had five husbands, and she’s not even married to number six. Which Jesus knew all along.
So what’s he doing. Is he just changing the subject? Trying a different approach? I don’t think so.
It’s all about SEARCHING FOR WHAT SATISFIES YOUR THIRST. What I think he’s saying is, “You want to know where to find water that gives life. That satisfies your thirst… How have you been going at satisfying your thirst for life SO FAR? Where have you already LOOKED for fulfilment in life? In physical, uncommitted relationships. And how’s THAT going? It’s a DRY WELL. There’s no life there. I’ll show you a type of water that really WILL satisfy you.
So what’s the water? When we read about WATER in John’s gospel, it stands for God’s gift of THE HOLY SPIRIT. God’s Spirit who gives SPIRITUAL life the way water gives PHYSICAL life. God’s Spirit who washes you clean, by forgiving your sin.
In Jn 3, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, and he says, (v5)
“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of WATER AND THE SPIRIT.
Which is really Jesus quoting a promise God makes back in Eze 36:25.
I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will SPRINKLE CLEAN WATER on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and PUT A NEW SPIRIT in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put MY SPIRIT in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
And over in Ch 7, Jesus makes this invitation to the people listening (v37)
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
And then John explains it for us
39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.
That’s the gift of God he wants the woman to know about. The Spirit of God who satisfies all her desires for life. And gives her refreshment and abundance.
Third thing he wants her to know about/ FLOWS OUT of that gift. It’s the EXPERIENCE. When God fills people everywhere with his Spirit. When he makes them NEW. When they’re born again. Then there’s a brand new experience of worshipping God. Of relating to him, and honouring him the way he intends.
If God is IN you, there’s no need to meet him AT A CERTAIN PLACE. The Jews would all travel to the temple in JERUSALEM to worship God. The Samaritans had their OWN special place to meet God – Mt Gerazim.
But Jesus says when you have the gift of God, the living water of his Spirit living in you, then place no longer matters. Down in v21.
“Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
And then in v23.
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. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
PLACE no longer matters, when God’s Spirit lives in you. You can worship God ANYWHERE. That’s worship that’s TRUE. And that just transforms your WHOLE LIFE/ when you know that God’s with you ANYWHERE. In ANY CIRCUMSTANCE.
I reckon it’s one of the best things about being a Christian. It’s something worth telling people about.
So what can we learn?
That’s what Jesus wants this woman to KNOW. And it seems like that HAPPENS. She goes back to town, and announces to everyone. V29. “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!”
I can just imagine the village women’s response to THAT. Yeah, WE all know what you did TOO!
She adds, Could this be the Christ? Her KNOWLEDGE is growing. And they follow her back out to the well. The first evangelist in the Christian church. Hardly the one you’d PICK. But she’s pretty effective as far as we can tell. V39. Many Samaritans believe. Jesus stays two more days. And even MORE believe.
And v42. The episode concludes, We don’t just believe because you’ve told us. Now we’ve heard for ourselves. We KNOW this man really is the Saviour of the World.
Jesus begins. If only you KNEW. And by the end many people KNOW FOR SURE.
And her approach isn’t a bad model for US to copy. A lesson to learn. “Come and see. Don’t just follow me. But come and let me show you what Jesus is like!”
The final lesson we can learn is to view the world the way Jesus does. The villagers are on their way out to the well. Jesus is busy telling this woman about living water. And the disciples are worried about who’s fed Jesus lunch. V35
35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.
And that’s OUR world TOO. Not simply people too busy, or too satisfied, or too knowledgeable, or too good, or too bad for Jesus.
But friends and workmates and family members and neighbours who are THIRSTY. Longing for something that REALLY satisfies. And only the gift of God in Jesus will DO it.
The field is ripe for the harvest. Let’s be PART of that harvest, as we make the most of opportunities in our everyday conversations / to introduce people to Jesus.