Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Living Water (Jn 4:1-14)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 17 January 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 4:1-14

In Jn 3, Jesus spoke to an educated, cultured and well-respected religious leader. In Jn 4, Jesus spoke to an immoral prostitute who is rejected by the society. Jesus debated with Nicodemus at night time instead of in the day time, and talked to the woman in broad day light rather than at night. In the Lord’s life, we see the greatest wisdom displayed in every detail of life.

In Jn 3, the religious leader approached Jesus and initiated a conversation. In Jn 4, Jesus approached the woman and initiated a conversation. In Jn 3, Nicodemus went home confused and did not understand. In Jn 4, the Samaritan woman not only understood but also brought the town to believe in Him. In Jn 3, Jesus was passive in that He was visited by Nicodemus. In Jn 4, Jesus was proactive, He went out to seek the lost.

The contrast of both situation shows that Christ met the need of all kinds of people. He not was able to meet the need of the intellectual and the well-respected but He could also reach out to the uneducated and the despised. He preached to the masses as well as ministered to individuals. He did not call His disciples from the masses, but called them individually one by one.

In Jn 4, Jesus went through Samaria although there was another way because He had a divine purpose. The disciples did not ask and just followed Him. Later on He just asked His disciples to go and buy food while He rested beside the well. At noon time, a woman came to the well. She would have been upset that there was a man sitting there. She did not come in the morning because there would be many other women. She tried to avoid the crowd because of her lifestyle and social status. She was a person everyone gossipped about.

This time she saw a Jewish man. A Jew would not talk to a Samaritan. So there was a tension. When the she came, she did not say a word. It was Jesus who first spoke. When we served in ministry, sometimes we cannot wait for others to come to us. Sometimes we have to go and reach out proactively. Jesus knew everything about this woman. Yet Jesus started the conversation in the wisest way, “Please give me some water to drink.” There is no better sentence than this. Jesus expressed that He honored her dignity and demonstrated that she still had something she could help others with. She had the rope and the bucket to lift the water to clench the thirsty.

If you despise the person you are preaching to, it would never work. The first strategy is to respect the person we are preaching to. All of us are worthless and full of sin before God. We are not worthy of His grace. But the gracious God sent us Jesus Christ, not born in a palace but humbly in a manger, full of empathy to our sufferings. Jesus laid His hands on the lepers and on the coffin of the dead. He got close to them, honoured them and recognised what they could contribute.
Chinese are quite stingy when it comes to honouring others. But Jesus respected the woman. There are many possible responses the woman could give, such as, “Are you really thirsty?” or “Get lost” or “Wait till I get back again.” But the response of this woman immediately brought to surface the conflicts of race and religion. She was very intelligent. She asked how could a man ask help from a woman, how could a Jew talk to a Samaritan.

Jesus is the Son of God. His answer is the best, “If you knew the gift of God and who is it that is asking you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you the living water.” It is a very gentle, firm and polite response. His words meant that He was the greatest gift from God. It is different from the water she could give. Even then whatever she could give is from God.

Although surprised by the answer, she had not changed her arrogant attitude by this time. She turned towards a psychological response. She demonstrated that she doubted His words, for He just asked for water earlier and now He claimed to be able to give the living water. She said He had nothing to draw from and the well was so deep. She also took pride in the fact that the well had historical value for it was the well their great ancestor Jacob himself drew from and relied on for living 1900 years back. She challenged if He was greater than Jacob and openly showed her scepticism of His credibility in saying He could give the livingi water.

Jesus’ answer was most excellent. Jesus’ response indicated that she might honour the 2000-year old well, but those that drink water from the well would be thirsty again, however those who drink the water He gives would never be thirsty again, for the water He gives will spring into eternal life. He did not indulge in foolish debate, but bring back to the root issue. Nothing Jesus said was wrong. But the woman had said nothing right so far.

At this point the woman was reminded of her problem because every day she needed to come to the well. Now she began to realise that it was not Jesus who needed her but she was the one who needed Jesus. So great was His message that it surpassed all human debate and wisdom. The woman recognised a need in her heart at this point.

This passage allows us to appreciate how the situation turned around. The woman now responded, “Give me the living water so that I don’t have to keep coming here to draw water.” Once she recognised her need, Jesus said the most important sentence, “Call your husband and come back here.” When she heard that she was shocked, she said, “I have no husband.”

To be continued…


At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much.

I am translating this to Chinese and post it on my blog as my note for the next four sermons are very bad.

Thank you and may God bless you with your work.

In Him



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