John 4:5-30, 39-42
March 27, 2011
“Come and See!”
Some people are very easy to see, we notice them easily. We notice those whose appearances are appealing or appalling to us. Have you ever done any people watching? The absolute best place to do this I think is in the airport. I love to watch people coming and going, or reuniting with loved ones just getting off the plane. I admit that I tend to notice people more whose dress more fashionably as I wish I did. I will notice the girl with the interesting hat on, the man with tattoos all the way up his arms. I also notice emotion in people- my eye will be drawn to the man waiting expectantly with flowers in his hand for his love to pass through the security so they can embrace for the first time in months. I will be drawn to notice the child who is on her first plane ride- who is excited as her mom patiently explains which plane she’ll be riding and when they will get to board.
I’m guessing for every person I notice, there are another 50 that I don’t see or notice. Our minds simply cannot pay attention to everything that is going on around us- when our attention is divided we get confused and we have trouble concentrating. An important part of being human and being fully accepted by others is being noticed by them. We will go to great lengths to get others to notice us, sometimes by doing something positive like volunteering or making the honor roll. If that doesn’t work we might even try throwing a temper tantrum or showing off by driving our car too fast. We all want to be seen. Some of us are more shy than others but we all have a basic need to be noticed by others. If you don’t believe me- go to a swimming pool in the summer and watch the child whose mother has brought him to the pool. She is ready to relax- she is spread out on the side- soaking in the sun maybe she even has a book to read. She won’t get 5 pages in before she hears, “Mom- look what I can do!, Mom- watch me dive. Mom- I can do a backflip!” We need to be noticed and affirmed.
Jesus sits at a well at midday. The disciples have gone to buy food- Jesus sits alone resting from his travels. He has chosen to take a route that leads him through Samaria. The Jews and Samaritan people have been feuding for a long time. This is like a Hatfield resting midday in the middle of McCoy territory. While he is there a woman comes to draw water at the well. If he paid any attention to social convention, Jesus would have every reason in the world not to talk to her. It would be appropriate for him even perhaps to pretend that he did not see her. First of all, he is a Jewish man and she an unknown woman- he shouldn’t be talking to her. Second, he is a Jewish teacher and if wants to strictly to adhere to the purity laws, he would not talk to a woman who is unaccompanied by a man. Third, he is a Jew and she is a Samaritan. These groups of people have been arguing for a long while about where God should be worshipped. There is bad blood between the two side. Jesus isn’t concerned with social convention and so he breaks the rules right away and asks her for a drink. He notices her and engages her in conversation.
Like the Samaritan woman, we are noticed by Jesus. I wonder if the woman went to the well in the middle of the day when no one else is around because she didn’t want to be noticed? I imagine she got the surprise of her life when Jesus not only notices her and engages her in conversation but then proceeds to tell her just exactly home much he knows about her.
In Psalm 139, the psalmist reminds about just how well God knows us. 1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.”
Jesus demonstrates this deep level of knowing the Samaritan woman when he tells her about her life. While talking with the woman about living water Jesus invites the woman to go and get her husband. When she responds that she has no husband Jesus tells her that she is right, she has indeed had five husbands and the man she lives with now is not her husband. Jesus knows this woman fully. She has nothing to hide from him. She recognizes him immediately as a prophet- she senses that she is known deeply by him.
When we hear five husbands we rush to judgment. Our eyebrows would raise even today if we heard that someone had had five husbands. Jesus doesn’t tell her of her past in a condescending way. The fact is we don’t know the circumstances that led to her multiple marriages. She may have been widowed, abandoned, or being taken care of by a relative of a dead husband in a tradition called Leverite marriage. We don’t know her. Jesus knows her fully- and yet he is not judging her, we don’t hear him tell her to repent from sin. Instead, he is offering her the same gift that he came to bring to everyone, regardless of circumstance, and that gift is eternal life.
Because Jesus sees the woman fully, she also sees him for who he is. Jesus offers the woman living water, and just like Nicodemus when he is told he must be born again, the woman takes Jesus too literally. She thinks only of her immediate need for water. She envisions never having to make these noon day trips to the well again. However, as she talks with Jesus she begins to understand more deeply. As they move from literal talk of water to the metaphorical talk of living water- something shifts in the woman. And all of a sudden not only does Jesus know her, but she knows Jesus. She claims it- “you must be a prophet.”
It is interesting to note that in most of the teaching Jesus does he uses metaphor. People often walk away confused after coming to Jesus with a question. Jesus doesn’t give easy answers, he challenges us to use our minds to think deeply about God-issues, and he challenges us to use our hearts to fully connect with God and others. As we develop in our Christian journey I think that we will stop looking for easy answers to tough questions and instead seek to fully know God through being in relationship with Christ. As we come to see and know God more fully we will also take the time to truly see others. Certainly in our hectic-paced world it is a challenge to form relationships that allow us to truly see one another. Seeing means knowing a person’s story- what they are passionate about, what they love most. Seeing someone fully is about looking them in the eye and making a connection (remember when Dee made us look at each other for 10 seconds- awkward!).
As the woman seeks to know Jesus more fully they get involved in some incredibly important conversations. They talk about worship and Jesus tells her that eventually people will stop fighting about where and how to worship and they will worship in spirit and in truth. Gradually, it dawns on her who this person might be. She tells Jesus that she knows that the Messiah is coming and finally she knows Jesus at the deepest level when he tells her, “I- the one speaking to you, I am he.” Now the woman can fully know Jesus, she has met the Messiah.
This conversation with Jesus changes the woman profoundly. She thought she was simply coming to draw water from the well, but instead she came to know and to be known fully. She is at the beginning of a wonderful relationship with a Savior.
I love what happens next- the woman leaves her water jar behind and goes to share this experience with others. She leaves behind the task at hand to present an invitation. She leaves behind the temporary for the eternal. Do you know what the Samaritan woman teaches me? She teaches me a new way of sharing faith.
I want you to think about which evangelism approach is more attractive to you. Option one is statements you have heard others say, “Have you heard the Good News? If you died today where would you spend eternity?” Option two is Samaritan-Woman evangelism. She invites you to “come and see” this man who has told me everything I have ever done. Come and meet a savior who knows me fully and offers me a life beyond what I have ever imagined. I don’t know about you- but I’m going to get busy practicing “come and see” evangelism. Come and see this relationship I have with Christ. In this relationship I am seeking to know Jesus fully- and to be fully known by him. Being fully known can be life-changing. I may never be thirsty again- come and see!
My challenge to you this morning is to go and seek to more fully know others. Pay attention to them, find out what makes them tick. You might find out the cab driver getting you from here to there has 9-year old twins he is really proud of. Seek to more fully know that cashier at the grocery store- you might find out she is facing a health crisis. Seek to know people on a deeper level than you currently know them. And maybe, just maybe you could even go out on a limb and ask them to “come and see” about this Jesus who makes such a difference in your life.
A female mentor of mine says that, “everyone has an invisible sign around their neck that says, ‘Make me feel important!” This is exactly what Jesus did in his encounter with the woman at the well. He took the time to see her. May we seek to know others more deeply. May we allow ourselves to be fully known by Christ- flaws and all. And most of all may we have the courage to offer others a drink of the living water that flows from God in abundance so that they too may have eternal life. May we truly see others and allow ourselves to be seen and fully known. Amen.