Dr. Ed Young - Breaking Down Barriers
Right at the beginning of the earthly ministry of Jesus, we read in John chapter number 3 and John chapter number 4, about two individuals who came to know Christ. These two individuals could not be more different. The first was Nicodemus, came to Jesus by night on a rooftop. He asked, he made that request. The second is in John chapter 4. There's a woman whom Jesus sought out in the middle of the day by a well. And Nicodemus and the woman at the well could not be too different. Nicodemus had everything, economically, politically, socially, religiously. You couldn't find any area of life in which Nicodemus was not at the very pinnacle in human terms of success.
Now, the woman at the well, yeah, different story. Look on the Internet to see about her, you'd probably find a blank. Married five times, living with someone who wasn't her husband, had no standing, no position, her biographical sketch would be about one sentence. Nicodemus would have pages and pages of his accomplishments. Totally two different people. Nicodemus, a somebody, right? Nicodemus was a somebody. The woman at the well, by any measure, she was a nobody. Nobody. But notice something. They both had exactly the same need. Both of them did. And what was that? It involves two words. It involves spirit, and truth.
Now we come to the fourth chapter of the Gospel, John, fourth chapter, we read there in an amazing little verse right up front, verse 3. First he, Jesus, left Judea and went again into Galilee. And he, Jesus, had to pass through Samaria. Now, it sounds like, as he was making that journey, he had no choice, if he were going from Judea, Jerusalem to Galilee, he had to go through Samaria. But the Orthodox Jews, they would not go through the land of Samaria. You say, why was that? You see, Samaria was roughly the location of the northern kingdom of Israel. And when the Assyrians came, they conquered that area, it became a part of Assyria, and now we have Samaria is there owned by another country.
And what the Assyrians did, they would take people from all over the world in their battles, and they would ship them and put them into Samaria with the remnant of Jews that were there. And therefore, they inter-married. So we have people from all over the world who were brought to Samaria, and they intermarried with the remnant of Jews that were there, and, therefore, they had a religion that was not completely Jewish. The Samaritans believed in the first five books of the Bible. They did not believe in Joshua to Malachi. And they lived on that basis. And the other religion, they took in from all the different cults and pagan worship situations, and they incorporated that into Judaism.
And, therefore, the Samaritans had a half-Jewish, half-pick-a-number. And, therefore, when the southern kingdom of Judah was taken away into captivity, into Babylonian, when the Jews went back to reinhabit the southern kingdom, they were rebuilding the temple. Remember, we've read about it. There we have Jeremiah rebuilding the temple, Ezra rebuilding the temple, and those Samaritans came down and said, we want to help you. You need help. We're willing to help and work with you. And Nehemiah said, we won't have nothing to do with you, you're no longer Jews! You sold out to other religions, you're not Jewish, get outta here! And, therefore, it began a racial divide, it began a religious divide, they began a prejudice and hatred that grew and grew through the years. Therefore, you know the story Jesus told about the good Samaritan.
When the Jews heard that story, they said, good Samaritan, they said, that's an oxymoron, no Samaritan's good. They were evil. They built their own temple on Mount Garrison. whereas a temple was meant on Mount Zion, and they were in competition. And the Samaritans were the first I know of to engage in revisionist history. What is that? They took everything that happened in the temple, and they transported it and said, no, it didn't happen on Zion, it happened on Garrison, it happened in our Samaritan temple. So there was hatred, competition, they had nothing to do with one another, and no Jew would travel through Samaria, they just didn't do it. Here we read in the Gospel of John, Jesus says, I must go through Samaria.
Now, when I first looked at this fourth chapter of John, I built in a little outline that demonstrated how Jesus was always breaking down barriers that divided people. He broke down racial barriers, religious barriers, cultural barriers, language barriers, intellectual barriers. You can look at that whole chapter, you see Jesus was always going against the grain. All the people were moving this way and he was swimming upstream in the name of God. And now we see he must needs go to Samaria. And then he went to Samaria, and he goes into Sychar, and there is a well, and look at verse 6 of chapter 4 John, it says, and Jacob's well was there.
By the way, just as an aside, I've been to Jacob's well. I've had 'em drop a bucket down and draw water from the bottom of the well, it's 105 feet deep. It is clear water, clean water, but I confess I took only a sip out of a cup. I didn't know about what kind of water that really was, but I discovered it's very clean, very clear, it was cool water. Another thing I remembered about being there is on one occasion I went across the street and had a vegetarian meal right there in a little cafe. But that doesn't have anything to do with the sermon. So I know Jacob's well very, very well from personal experience. So, and he says, Jesus was weary.
Notice that in the sixth verse. Jesus being wearied from his journey. Is it any wonder? Jesus got tired, ladies and gentlemen. That was the humanity in him. I'm sure he was thirsty. And the apostles had went to get some food, and Jesus sat down by the well there, tired and weary. And then there was this Samaritan woman. If that had been me, I don't think I would have paid any attention to her. You see, we use fatigue as an excuse for not doing a lot of things, don't we? The best teaching comes from tired teachers. Football games are always won usually by tired players in the fourth quarter, have you noticed that? And many times, we use fatigue, and we turn our eyes, we close our eyes, we close our ears, and we shut down our hearts, because if we see that there is need out there, there's someone who's hurting, we say, I, I, I just, I just don't want to get involved there.
Oh, we hear a cry for help. Oh, I just can't, I'm tired, I've got all I can do. You know, and we close our hearts. Jesus was fatigued, but he had his eyes open, he had his heart open. And that's just what we are to do. I know people in this body of faith, and they seek out the least, the last, the lost, the broken, the dying, the hurting, the abused, those who are struggling, and they go there with everything they have. You see, we're reticent to do that because it's gonna take some of my time from this or that or the other, and family, and beside that, I'm already tired. Jesus was weary, but look what happened. And then we see an interesting dialogue here, a give and take. Verse 7. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, give me a drink.
In other words, he requested from her what? Kindness. A request of kindness. And look at her response. How is it that you, being a Jew, ask of me a drink since I am a Samaritan woman? For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Look at everything he was breaking down. He was talking not only to a Samaritan, but to a Samaritan woman in public. Listen, the Jews were taught never to look at another woman when you are in public. They were taught that. In fact, if you were walking down the streets of Jerusalem in Jesus' day, and you saw a woman pass, you should close your eyes and look away. It would not matter if that woman were your wife, or your mother, or your sister, or your aunt, didn't make any difference, you were not to look at that woman on the streets.
You are to close your eyes and that's the reason, that's how the Pharisees operated. They call them the bruised and battered Pharisees, because they'd close their eyes, they were always falling down, stumbling over things, and they were all beat up. I know some men who stumble and fall when they come in contact with a woman, but it's not because they have their eyes closed. And this is what happened there. Jesus said, give me a drink. Act of kindness. She responded, man, you are a Jew and I'm a Samaritan, I'm a woman and you're a man, what in the world. I mean, look at that. But you know, I woulda just stopped there had I been Jesus, wouldn't you? But he didn't. Look at the next request he makes. Jesus answered and said to her, if you knew the gift of God, who it is that says to you give me a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.
And then look at how she responds. And this is he appealed to her curiosity. He said, you know, I would give you living water. By the way, you know difference between still water and living water? Still water is just water you have in a well, a water where there's no spring. If there's a spring, it's living water. When you drive around and you look at lakes or ponds in the distance, you know how you can tell whether it's a spring-fed lake or not? You can tell by whether or not there are lilipads. If there are lilipads, it's spring-fed, if there's no lilipads, in all probability it's catchbasin. How many of you knew that? That's what I thought, very few.
Jesus said, I would have given you living water. He perked her curiosity. And she said, sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then, do you get living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? Are you? Who gave us the well and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle? In other words, now she reprimands him again. Said, are you bigger than Jacob the prophet? By the way, remember they had only five books in the Bible, all the Samaritans recognized. The only prophet they knew was Moses. Only prophet they knew was Moses. She said, who do you think you are? And then Jesus, and he keeps on, then he appeals to her desire.
Verse 13. Jesus answered and said to her, everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst. But the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. See, he moved to spiritual things, a well within her that would flow through her, it was the Holy Spirit, the water of the Spirit flowing through her. Said, that's what I am offering, but she interpreted what Jesus was saying, literally, just like Nicodemus had. Remember Nicodemus? You must be born again, he said, well, it's a geriatric thing, you go by and...
You see, he interpreted that literally. She did the same thing. This water, I'll have to go back to the well and get thirsty again. Literal. And Jesus was showing them he was talking about living water, the Holy Spirit, which keeps on cleansing and welling up and filling us up inside, and look at the response of that. The woman said to him, sir, give me this water so I will not be thirsty nor come all this way to draw water. See, she responded literally. And then Jesus changed the whole thing with his next request. Look at this. He said to her, go to your husband and come here. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said to her, you have correctly said. In other words, you told the truth, I have no husband, for you have had five husbands, and the one with him you now have is not your husband. For this you have said truly. And the woman said to him, sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
What is that all about? This was a sorry woman. She'd been through five marriages, she was living with someone who she wasn't even married to. To have that understanding of it is not to understand the culture of that day. Listen, in that day, a woman was nothing. She was property. She had no voice at all as to who she would marry. There was no grounds for a woman to leave a man. She'd been through five marriages. Maybe her first husband had died, by law it would be some next of kin, maybe they died. We don't know the circumstances, but this woman had nothing to do with her marital life at all, zero, nitch, by the culture of that day. And she was living with a man who was not her husband. I can tell you, she had no choice in that as well. So we made her some kind of street-walker. Man, she was a prostitute, we've heard that all of our lives when this has been taught, and that understanding, in my opinion, Biblically is totally invalid.
Now, Jesus when he asked about her husband, she said, I have no husband, Jesus said, you've had five, and the man you're living with is not your husband, she felt guilty about that. But I can tell you, I do not believe for one minute that was what she desired to the lifestyle that she wanted. You know that by all the rest of the context of what this woman said. She was uneducated, women were not allowed to be educated, she had no theological understanding from the temple or the religious structure, the Samaritans, but I'm telling you, she was quite a wonderful woman in so many areas, as we'll soon discover.
Now, when Jesus asked her about her husband, and said she was living with a man that wasn't her husband, she felt guilty of that, because she knew the Commandments. And then she said, I see you are a prophet, a man of God. And then she goes and she asked him about what she now must do. I think about that sin in her life. We see it clearly there in the verse. She said, our fathers worshiped in this mountain, Garrison, and you people say in Jerusalem, Zion is the place where men ought to worship. People say, well, she was distracting Jesus from the issue. No, she wasn't. She realized that this was a man of God, a messenger of God, divinity in her presence, and she said, look, I want to take care of this sin. I know where I must go to take care of this sin, you're a Jew, you say I go and offer sacrifice for sin in Zion, but she said, I say I offer a sacrifice of sin in the mountain here in Samaria.
How can I go and get right with God? Look at Jesus' answer to this, it is so magnificent. Jesus said to her, woman, believe me, an hour is coming when, whether in this mountain or in Jerusalem, you will worship the Father. Verse 22. You worship what you do not know, in other words, she had only part of the truth in the Old Testament, we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews, Genesis to Malachi in that day. But the hour is coming, and look at this, and now is. The hour is coming, but it's already here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for such people the Father seeks to be his worshiper. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. And the woman said to him, I know the Messiah is coming, he who is called the Christ, when the one comes, he will declare all things to us.
You see what happened? Now, she, remember the words we start off with, have you got them? Spirit and truth! Nicodemus, born again of spirit, lived a life of truth, that was his thing. The woman needs to be born again, and the water is a symbol of cleansing in her life of the Holy Spirit, and then she should worship him in spirit and in truth. Isn't that something? Her heart was right, her motive right, and then she truly worships him. And then this further gives me proof of she was a kind of quality woman that I know that she was. And Jesus said to her, I who speak to you am he, I am Messiah. Whew! At this point his disciples came, and they were amazed that he had been speaking with a woman, and no one said to him, what you see? Why do you speak with her?
Verse 28. So the woman left her waterpot, went into the city and said to the men, come see a man who told me all the things I've ever done, this is not the Christ, is it? And they went out of the city, and were coming to Jesus. Verse 39. From the city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the word of the woman who testified. He told me all the things that I have done. So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking him to stay with them, and Jesus stayed with them two days. Many more believed because of his word, and they were saying to the woman, it is no longer because of what you said that we believe. For we heard for ourselves and know that this one is indeed the savior of the world.
Let me tell ya, she started off calling him a Jew, then she called him sir, then she called him Lord, then she called him prophet, then she talked about the Messiah, and they came up saying, he's the savior of the world. What a story of God's power and God's grace! So what's the bottom line here? All of us who think some of us we're more like Nicodemus than we are the woman at the well, it doesn't matter, they both needed Jesus, and they both needed to have a new life inside of them born of the spirit and born into a worshiper who worships in truth. That's the whole thing. Let me tell you something. We have to worship narrowly before we can effectively worship broadly.
Somebody said, what did you do Sunday morning? Well, I went to worship. Did you? Or did you just go to church? Ladies and gentlemen, when you and I worship every day narrowly, I, thou, Bible, prayer time, quiet time with him, have our prayer at our meals and worship narrowly every day, if all of us had worshipped narrowly every day, when we come to worship on Sunday morning, man, it's broad worship, what would be the difference? We'd come with expectation, we'd come with joy, we'd come with celebration, and church would have new meaning, new value, new power that we never dreamed of when we worship broadly, because we've been worshiping all during the week narrowly. Worship narrowly, and then broad worship begins to have more supernatural significance. And we have to worship all of God, that's worshiping him in truth. All of God.
What do you mean? Oh, I like to worship God who blesses and heals. Don't you like that part of God, He? Blesses us and he heals us. But also there are commandments of God, and there's a judgment of God. I want to worship blessing and healing, I don't wanna hear about commandments and judgment. But we see we have to worship all of God. All of God. Some people want to worship God, he is transcendent. We want him way up there, holy, reverent, awesome. And we worship him and assemble and in reading and in a formalized type of worship, and that's fine.
Some want to keep God way up there, others want to bring God right down here. Palsey walsey God, oh, we talk every day, he's my buddy, oh, we, you know, I'm a part of it, we want him right here, meeting your needs and my needs. But hey, God is awesome. Yes, that's a part of worship. And God is imminent, he's right here, that's a part of worship. We can't compartmentalize, and we have to worship him in spirit narrowly day by day, and broadly in church and in truth. All of God. All the characteristics of God. When we do that, guess what? We can be confident we are born again, inside out, and the water, which is the Holy spirit, keeps flowing through you and flowing through me day by day by day, because we worship him in spirit and in truth.