Billy Graham - The Power of Forgiveness
Now, tonight I want you to turn with me to the fourth chapter of John's Gospel. A wonderful story in the life of Jesus Christ. And just one verse of scripture. It's a very brief verse. It says, "And he must needs go through Samaria". Jesus had been teaching. The scribes and the Pharisees had been listening. They had told him that John the Baptist had just been imprisoned. And he taught as one having authority. And the people came to listen. And he taught in great simplicity, so that the common people heard him gladly. And now he has to go back to Galilee. He's down south in Judea.
Now he's going to go to Galilee. He doesn't get on a plane. He doesn't get on a bus. He doesn't get in a car. He walks. And while it wasn't a very long distance by today's standards, in those days, that was a long distance to go from Judea up to Galilee. And he was going to Cana. But it says, he must needs go through Samaria, because you see, the Samaritans and the Jews didn't get along. They didn't like each other: they avoided each other. The Samaritans had inter-married. They were not pure blooded. And then, the Jewish people would always go on the Eastern side, or they'd go the western side, of the Jordan river, to avoid going through Samaria.
But Jesus, it says, must needs go through Samaria. Why? Because Jesus had an appointment there that he was going to keep. That appointment had been made centuries earlier, in the council halls of God. That he must needs go through Samaria. You know, much of the Bible lands is desert. Water is extremely important. Wells are important, and in Samaria, at the foot of two mountains, was Jacob's well, that Jacob had dug.
There's not only water that you drink for your physical needs, but there's spiritual water. Jesus said, "I am the water of life". Jeremiah said, "For my people have committed two evils, they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns. Broken cisterns, that can hold no water". In a number of places, the Bible refers to people who have no spiritual water. "Ye shall be as the garden, that hath no water", says Isaiah the first chapter. In Zechariah, it says, "Prisoners of the pit, wherein there's no water". 2 Peter 2:17, "These are wells with no water". Spiritual water. The scripture says in Isaiah, "Whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There's no peace, saith my God, to the wicked".
It says that the waters are like our own hearts. Our hearts are troubled, and they never rest. I've watched the waters: they never seem to rest. They are always moving, and disturbed. And God says, there is no peace to those who reject God. There's no peace to those who are not living for God. Now the scarcity of spiritual water throughout the world today is tremendous. People are hungry and thirsty. We read about it in our papers constantly. And people in this country are going to the wrong watering holes. Searching for satisfaction. Searching for something that only the water of life, and the bread of life could meet, and that person is Jesus Christ, who is the water of life, and the bread of life. You can go down our streets, in the major cities of America, and see our young people searching for something. They don't know what.
Like that girl at Harvard University. She cried for several days, and finally, the psychiatrist said, "I can do nothing with her". And so they called for the family to come, and the father and mother came. She finally blurted out to her father, "Father, I want something, but I don't know what it is". And many people are like that. They are searching for something, and they go to all kinds of things, whether it's drink, or sex, or whatever it is, to try to find that answer. Maybe it's money, or maybe it's power. Whatever it is. But it doesn't really satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. Searching for something that will bring satisfaction and quench this terrible spiritual thirst that only God can satisfy.
Water in the Middle East is very scarce, and is often hard to obtain. A man who owns a well of water is sometimes better off than if he owned a well of oil. Many wars have been fought over water. In our text today, Jesus has been teaching in Judea. He's going through Samaria. It's the shortest way, but it's not the way the Jewish people of that day went, because they had no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus knew about the woman, that he was going to see. He knew that he had an appointment with that woman. He wanted to teach his disciples a lesson in race relations, or a lesson in how to win people to Christ.
Jesus was weary. He sits down at Jacob's well. The disciples had gone to town to buy food. This woman came. It was almost noon. Women usually came in the evening, when it was cooler. But this woman came alone, in the middle of the day, when it was very hot. But because of her character, she was probably a social outcast. She came with her water pot to get water. And Jesus asked her for a drink. That absolutely shook her. Because Samaritans and Jews didn't even talk to each other. And certainly, no Jewish person would ask a Samaritan for a favor. In just that moment, Jesus was sweeping away many prejudices that people have: like race prejudice.
One of the greatest needs we have in America is for the Lord to come into our hearts and take away out prejudice against other people who don't look like we do. And who don't have the same color of skin that we have. It takes full-time prayer, saying, "oh God, take this from my heart". And then there was national prejudice, because of the Jews, and the Samaritans had nothing to do with each other. We have today a crisis in nationalism, in many parts of the world. It's rising. That's the reason many people are concerned about the situation in the world. Because there are many dangerous areas in the world. And I was always thankful, for the work that the people like James Baker did, to help bring peace to the world.
But Jesus saw this woman sitting there on Jacob's well, and he said, "Would you give me a drink"? And she said, "How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink, which am a woman of Samaria, for the Jews have no dealings with us Samaritans"? He didn't want to force religion on her. He begins on another subject entirely. He's tactful. He's diplomatic. He asks for a favor. He puts himself under obligation to the woman. Jesus said, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that saith to you, give me to drink, you would have asked of him and he would have given thee living water".
God offers all of us a gift tonight. It's something you can't work for. It's something you can't buy. It's something you can't earn. It's a gift: it's free. It's spiritual water. It's forgiveness of all your sins, because of the cross, and the resurrection. Isaiah, the prophet said, in the 55th chapter. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters. And you that have no money, come and buy, and eat. Yea, come and buy wine, and milk, without money, and without price. Why do you spend money for that which is not bread"? The prophet asked. "And you labor for that which satisfieth not". The thing that you work so hard for, and the thing that you desire so much, and the thing that you go out to enjoy, doesn't satisfy.
This woman replied, she said, "Sir, you don't have anything to draw with, and the well is deep. Where are you going to get that living water you're talking about"? You see, she mistook the kind of water he was talking about. He was talking about living, eternal water. She went back to the well. She was talking about that water. Now the Bible teaches that we are blind to the glories and the thrill of the love of God, and the Gospel. In II Corinthians 3:14, it says, "But their minds were blinded". 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, it says, "But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them".
There's a supernatural power that blinds you. Spiritually blind. Physically, you have perfect eyesight, but spiritually, you are blind. You were blinded by an outside spiritual force called the devil. I Corinthians 2 says, "But the natural man", that's you, "Receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him. Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned". Jesus said, "Whosoever drinketh of this water, shall thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give him, will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him shall be in him, a well of water springing up into everlasting life".
He offers you that water tonight. Is your soul, is your spirit, is your mind thirsty for something more in life that you haven't found? Oh yes, you may be baptized. You might've been confirmed, in the church. And you're a good person, and you go to church. A deep inside your heart, something is lacking. There isn't the fulfillment, and the satisfaction, and the peace that you would like to have and that you believe God could give you. What should you do? Drink of the living water. Jesus provides the living water at the cross.
He went to the cross, as Mrs. Baker so beautifully told us a moment ago. And there he was beaten and reviled. That wasn't his real suffering. His real suffering came, when he said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me"? In that terrible, awful, mysterious moment, God had laid on him, the sins of the world. Your sins, and my sins. Everything I've ever done wrong was put on Jesus. He took the judgment and the hell that I deserve on that cross.
Jesus was offering this woman water for her thirsty soul. Our souls are empty and lonely and guilty. She felt the emptiness of her own soul and she said, "Sir, give me this water that I thirst not". She was very sincere, but sincerity alone is not enough. A few years ago in the Rose Bowl, a man picked up the football. Everybody shouted, they were all to their feet because the score was tied, and he ran for a touchdown. But he'd gone the wrong way, and he scored for the other side. He was very sincere. You never saw a more sincere man, as you watched him, but he was wrong.
You can be sincere in your religion, but you can be wrong. "There is a way", the Bible says, "That seems right but the end thereof is the way of judgment and death". You may be on the wrong road. God is asking you tonight to turn around, toward the cross by faith. Repent of your sins and receive him as your Lord and master. And make sure of it.
There are hundreds of you here tonight that have religion, but you're not sure about your relationship with Christ. And you'd like to make sure before you leave here. You'd like to know that if you died tonight, you'd go to heaven. But you're not sure. You don't have that peace, and that joy, that you believe is there somewhere for you, and you haven't found it. Come and take of this living water, which is Christ tonight. Now the Kingdom of God is not entered easily. Jesus said you have to go through a narrow gate, and walk a narrow road, and you may be misunderstood, and even persecuted, and you may suffer for your faith.
So Jesus said to her, "Go call your husband". Now he was hitting on a sore nerve. What a spot he touched in her life. He knew her sins. He knows yours. What an overwhelming flood of guilt and remorse this brought to her. She shrank back. It was as if a thousand searchlights had been turned on in her heart, and every dirty secret in her life leaped into the glare. No person can come to Christ until there's conviction that you have sinned against God, and you have repented. And repentance means to change your mind, change your direction, change your way of living. It means that you're willing to change.
She partly covered it up, and said, "I have no husband". The scripture says, "He that covereth his sin shall not prosper". Jesus gently reminded her that technically she was right. She had no husband. She'd had five husbands, and the man she was now living with was not her husband. And she said two things: "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet, and please sir, would you give me this living water? I want it, I need it. I need it in my life". At that moment, she acted on the light that she had, which wasn't much.
You don't have to know much when you come to Christ. You don't have to know the whole Gospel. You don't have to know the Bible. You just come like you are. The thief on the cross didn't know very much, but he turned to Jesus while he was dying, and said, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom". Just "Remember me". He had no time to join a church. He had no time to be baptized. He had no time for anything. He just said, "Lord, remember me". And that's all that was needed, because Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise".
Jesus said, "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth". You and I are to worship God in spirit and in truth. Where you worship God is not the important thing. It's how you worship God. You worship him in prayer. In the reading of the Bible. In giving to the church. In going to church. We worship God, and we adore him. And everything we do is an act of worship, if you know Christ. In all these ways, we worship God.
Jesus made the greatest of all revelations to her when he said, "I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ. When he is come, he is going to explain all things to us". Jesus said to her, "I am he". "I am the Messiah". What a shock that was to her: that she was talking to the Messiah that the Samaritans and the Jews both were looking for. And we are looking for today. At that moment, she was converted. At that moment, her name was written in the book of life. At that moment, she guaranteed, she was guaranteed a place in the kingdom of heaven. And from that moment on, she became a witness.
She proved that she had met Christ. She left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men (she didn't say it to the ladies, because they probably had nothing to do with her), the men knew her. So she said it to the men, "Come see a man which told me all the things that I ever did. Is it not this the Christ, that we've been waiting for"? And many Samaritans in that city believed. Here was a woman evangelist, evangelizing among men, telling them about Jesus. She didn't have much theology to tell them. She didn't know what to say. All she said was, "Come and see Jesus, and Jesus will change your life, as he's changed mine".
Have you been to Jesus that way? Have you come? Are you sure your sins are forgiven? Have you been to the cross, and said, "Lord, I have sinned. I'm sorry for my sin. I'm willing to change my way of life, and I come by faith. I don't understand it all, but by faith I receive you as my Lord, and my master, and my Savior". We've seen hundreds of people, each of these two nights, that we've been here, come. And I ask people to come and stand in front of the platform, and as they come, you're coming and saying, "Lord, I'm coming to you. I want to make sure of my relationship with you. I want this living water. I want this living water in my own life and in my home. I want this living water in my work. I want this living water at all times. I'm thirsty. I need God. I need to make sure. I need to make certain".
We never know when our moment is going to come, when we have to face God. I'm going to ask you to get up and come tonight and make sure of your relationship with Christ. If you're with friends or relatives, they'll wait on you. And after you've all come, I am going to have a prayer with you: say a word to you, and give you some literature, that you can take back to your home, and study and read, and it'll help you to grow. All over the stadium. From that top stadium up there, we've timed it, it takes about five or six minutes for you to come. Don't let distance keep you from Christ, because you may never have a moment like this again.
When will you ever have a moment in Pittsburgh, like this again, when you can come and make a commitment like this? Jesus said, "If you're not willing to acknowledge me publicly before men, I'll not acknowledge you before my father which is in heaven". There's something about, coming forward publicly, and settling in, and sealing it in your life. Jesus died on the cross publicly for you. Now you can come, publicly, and say yes to him. You may be sitting down here, and you may be up there. You may be up here in that middle section, wherever you are, God is speaking to you. There's a little voice that says you ought to come to Christ. We're going to wait on you, as you come, right now, to this living water.
You've come tonight, not to hear Billy Graham, or come to Billy Graham - you've come to Christ. You that have been watching, can come and drink of this living water and eat of this living bread, that Jesus has promised. And it'll spring up into you, a well of everlasting life, and can change your life and change your home and change your relationship with your neighbors and your friends around about. Give your life to Christ tonight. Turn from your former way, and say, "Lord, I'm ready for a change. But you're going to have to help me because I'm too weak to change. I've tried. And it doesn't work. Lord, you help me". He'll help you. He loves you with an everlasting love, deeper than any love you've never known on this earth.