Deflection, Grace, and Truth
A Sermon Preached by Rev. Jeremy Hall on John 4:1-42
Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking.
The Voice was and is God.
This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator;
His speech shaped the entire cosmos.
Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him.
His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light—
A light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched.
The Voice took on flesh and became human and chose to live alongside us. We have seen Him, enveloped in undeniable splendor—the one true Son of the Father— full of grace and truth.
(John 1:1-5, 14 The Voice)
The gospel of John opens with this famous prologue - these words about “the Voice,” “the Word,” The Logos of God… Jesus.
The prologue sets up who this Jesus is (God), his origins (from before time), and his nature (full of grace and truth).
So what does it mean for Jesus, as a person, to be full of grace and truth.
We get an example of how this plays out in his life from the fourth chapter of John.
At the beginning of the chapter, things start heating up for the Jesus crew in Judah, so he took his disciples and headed north to his home region of Galilee - but to get there, they would be faced with a choice.
Either to take the long Jericho road around the central territory of Samaria, or to take the shorter road through it.
In those days the Jews, of Judah in the south, and Galilee in the north, hated the people who lived in the central territory.
The Samaritans were a detested half-breed group that had sprung up after Assyria had defeated the northern kingdom of Israel; sending foreigners, as an act of racial and cultural terrorism, to colonize and repopulate the area by intermarrying the jews were still attempting to live in their ancestral homeland.
Over time the Samaritans became their own people group, having some Jewish traditions, some foreign, and some of their own.
They still worshiped the YHVH God of the Jews but the did it wrong and in the wrong place... kept the law wrong, talked wrong, ate wrong, and looked wrong.
The true Jews did not associate with the Samaritans. In fact, most who would need to travel from Judah to Galilee and back would take the previously mentioned rout that would go far out of the way to avoid even setting foot in the territory of Samaria in fear of becoming unclean.
Samaria was the bad neighborhood that the good Jews of the Galilean countryside, and Jerusalem’s suburbs were warned about.
Those people were uncontrollable, they were dangerous, and even potentially contagious.
And that is exactly where Jesus leads his Disciples, this group of young Jewish men, right across the tracks into Samaria.
“Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.” (John 4:6)
Jesus, has sat down to rest and sent his disciples away to find something to eat (there is a whole other sermon in there).
“A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (John 4:7,9)
This is a reasonable question for her to ask… Jesus is clearly Jewish, and likely dressed in Rabbinical garb, and yet here he is engaging with her
- not only a Samaritan but also a woman. She is confused, and potentially nervous about what this Jewish man’s intention for her could be.
“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.’ (John 4:10-15)
So Jesus has said something weird and the woman bites… if you can keep me from having to come to this well to get water - go for it.
But Jesus tells her to go fetch her husband before he does so, and that is when things get a little too real for our unnamed woman at the well.
“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.”
“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.” (John 4:19-20)
To get the pressure off of her, she goes theological. She asks the Rabbi a question about theology and proper worship.
Jesus is patient with her, and answers her question about proper worship with a beautiful description of God and how God seeks to be worshiped that has been memorized by Christians throughout the history of the Church…
“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.”
Perhaps she wasn't really expecting an answer, or maybe she doesn't understand what Jesus is saying… perhaps this woman just wants to end this conversation that she has stumbled into with a strange man outside in the hottest part of the day.
Either way, she deflects again…
“I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” (John 4:25)
It is here, that Jesus speaks the truth of his identity for the first time in the Gospel of John
“I am he.” (John 4:26)
This is the first time that Jesus owns up to the title of Messiah in this gospel. And it's here, to this woman, this adulterer, this Samaritan.
Jesus extends the fullness of his grace and truth to this woman; subverting religious, cultural, and racial expectations of how these two should interact.
He is not afraid of her past, or her present situation, but names them honestly, and interacts with her patiently. Ultimately he reveals the fullness of the truth, grace, and beauty of his true identity to her.
And in doing so sets of a chain reaction that leads to her community being transformed.
May we have the courage to be people of grace and truth, who have are willing to meet people where they are, be honest, gracious, patient, and loving to them - just as Jesus has been to us.
Give grace and truth a chance, and see if the world does not change around you.