“A Woman’s Witness”

John 4:1-42

March 12, 2023

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 4:1-42

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee.

But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

| Centering Prayer |

There are times the Gospel lesson

Just shocks me

With a new awareness,

With a new revelation,

With a new way of being presented;

Like sticking a wet finger in a light socket.

What new have we learned from this familiar story from John?

I’ve read and heard many sermons based on the Woman at Jacob’s Well

Where the preacher expounded at length

About this woman

Who came from a morally corrupt background,

Met Jesus at the well,

And had her sins forgiven.

I may have even preached a few of those sermons, myself.

Did anyone here today,

Who just experienced the proclamation of the Word,

Hear a statement proclaiming this woman was a sinner?

Did anyone hear Jesus forgiving her

Her sins?


I challenge the modern assumption that this woman was morally corrupt!

She had been widowed or abandoned

By no fault of her own

By five …

…. Count them …

By five different men.

This woman wasn’t a sinner seeking forgiveness.

This un-named woman was a victim of men who treated her like property.

She was abandoned, isolated, marginalized, dehumanized.

There are times the Gospel

Is electrifying.

So, if this isn’t a narrative about sin and forgiveness,

What is this previously-assumed-to-be-familiar Gospel passage about?

In the preceding chapter of John

We heard last Sunday about Jesus in Jerusalem

Being visited under cover of night by Nicodemus,

A leader of the Jews.

(John 3:1)

Jesus is in the seat of power,

Being visited by the personification of power.

That narrative ends with one of Jesus’ most memorable statements:

“God so loved the world …”

(John 3:16)

Today, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what the rest of the world looks like.

He’s traveled north, into rural Samaria,

Meeting a woman

Who Jewish society treated as property,

As mixed race,

As abandoned, widowed, and marginalized.

She was the personification of one who has no power.

The contrast couldn’t be more profound.

Nicodemus and the power of the Sanhedrin and the power of Rome,

Vs. an unnamed Samaritan woman at a well.

Jacob’s well is significant.

Jacob met Rachael here.

In the days before

Tinder, Match Dot Com, and online dating,

This is where people came together to socialize, network, and, yes, to flirt.

The local water source was where people congregated.

This woman

Who has no name

Was at the well

To not only draw water,

But to find relationship.

She is seeking opportunities to belong.

She is searching for someone or a group of people

That will add value to her lonely, isolated, tragic life.

And it is here,

At Jacob’s well,

That she meets Jesus.

There are times the Gospel

Just shocks us.

In the Gospel of Matthew we have heard Jesus identified

On multiple occasions

As the Son of God.

At his baptism,

At his transfiguration,

We’ve heard the voice of God pronounce,

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

There are no such pronouncements in the Gospel of John.

There are, however, famous “I am” statements,

The first of which occurs here:

“The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.””

(John 4:25-26)

“I am” harkens back to Hebrew scriptures,

To our Jewish heritage,

To the mountain where God encountered Moses.

I am who I am” the Lord proclaims.

Since then, “I am” is shorthand for Yahweh,

For the Creator and Lord of all.

John takes “I am” and runs with it:

I am the Good Shepherd”

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”

I am the Vine, you are the branches”

Today’s Gospel from John is the first pronouncement of Jesus’ identity.

We not only learn who Jesus is,

Yahweh, the Creator, and Lord of all,

John reveals why Jesus has become God in the flesh.

The one and only time the Gospel of John uses the word “Savior”

Is found right here in verse 42:

The Samaritans … “said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.””

(John 4:42)

This narrative from the Gospel of John

Is a Rosetta Stone for his theology,

For the belief of the Early Church community

That sprung up around the Apostle John.

John identifies Jesus as God

And reveals his foundational theme

Of why he has come:

Jesus has come to be

The Savior of the world.

Jesus is calling us to a new understanding of “Savior” and “Salvation.”

Salvation is more than salvation from death.

Salvation is more than being saved into than eternal life.

The Savior of the world also brings salvation from isolation and marginalization.

Salvation is also being welcomed into friendships, relationships;

Into community.

God’s power doesn’t come from force or violence,

It comes from love.

God’s love might be academically explained

To people of power,

In positions of power,

In places of power.

But God’s love is experienced,

God’s love is poured out as life-giving living water

To people who have no power

Who exist on the fringes

Who, through no fault of their own,

Are marginalized by the world we live in.

This woman is searching for relationship

And Jesus gives her what she is seeking.

The major criticism of younger adults,

Millennials and GenX-ers,

Is that the Church has lost its relevance;

That we love God,

But that we’ve forgotten to love our neighbors.

“Go to church on Sunday

But forget about Jesus the rest of the week”

Is a biting, but astute, observation of our children and grandchildren.

Why isn’t the Church feeding the hungry,

Instead of writing a check?

Why isn’t the Church building a wheelchair ramp

For a neighbor newly immobilized,

Instead of hosting a Bible Study or gathered for a meeting?

Why isn’t the Church standing up and speaking out

Against racism, homophobia, and antisemitism?

Instead, many see the Church as judgmental, uncaring, and unconcerned.

Jesus goes to this woman and saves her.

Just as Jesus goes,

So too should you,

For you are the Church.

You are given the permission, the authority, the power of the Holy Spirit to go and save the world.

This essential, foundational passage from the Gospel of John

Prods us to go with love,

With God’s love,

And to make healthy relationships,

Founded upon Christ,

the solid rock upon which we stand.

Love others.

Serve others.

Bring the powerless back from the margins

And give them relationship.

Include the last, least, lost, and left behind into the Body of Christ, too.

The concluding point that is important to make

Is to recognize the result of this woman being saved by the Savior:

She runs back to town and tells everyone

“everything I have ever done.”

The Samaritan towns people were so convinced of her witness

They came to Jesus.

They sought Jesus out.

They invited Christ into their lives

And asked him to stay in their homes for two days!

And Jesus did!

“We know this is true!” They in turn witnessed.

Jesus “is truly the Savior of the world.”

This is what the salvation of Jesus Christ does to people’s lives.

Snatching people from loneliness, isolation, powerlessness, and the margins,

Giving and receiving life-giving relationships,

Nurtured by Christ’s living water,

Results in conversion, discipleship, and witness.

Our local church (little c)

And our catholic Church (big C)

Is alive and well today,

In part, because of the salvation of this woman by Jacob’s well,

Her encounter with Jesus,

Her testimony to her fellow Samaritans,

And for her continued testimony

That has trickled down

Generation upon generation thereafter.

Jesus saves.

Because of a woman’s witness,

So, too, dearly beloved, salvation has come to you and me.

Continue the legacy of Christ’s salvation.

Reach out with his love.

Reach out with Christ’s love to the margins.

That’s where the marginalized are found.

Reach out to save another …

And another …

And another …

That, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess

That Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.


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