Jesus Welcomes Outcasts to His House
Series: The Gospel of John
This week, Pastor Tim walks us through the BIG IDEA: Jesus welcomes outcasts to His house by illuminating how 1. He offers satisfaction to the weary and 2. He offers dignity to the shamed.
– ESV Study Bible – Study notes on the Gospel According to John
– Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John – -Andreas Kostenburger
– Pillar New Testament Commentary Series – The Gospel According to John – DA Carson
Good morning! My name is Tim. I’m one of the pastors of Citylight, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to discuss this memorable and meaningful story from John’s gospel with you. There are some stories in the Bible that you can go a long time and never hear a sermon about. Not this one. The woman at the well is widely told, widely taught – and for good reason.
The story answers a very important question: who belongs in God’s house?
I remember some feelings I had, especially as a kid, what it felt like to not belong somewhere. As a kid I developed a habit I still have of biting my nails. I don’t know how that starts or how to stop it, but I still remember one of my friend’s moms had a real issue with it. I think of her as “the mom with the white walls”. I would visit my friend and we’d spend time in his basement playing video games, which pretty much sums up my childhood, but sometimes I’d hear him fighting with his mom upstairs about the fact that he invited me over. She wouldn’t refer to me as “Tim” though, no – my name to her was “sticky fingers”. She forbade me from coming upstairs in her house for fear that I would touch the white walls in her house and stain them I guess – from the nail biting.
I can remember thinking “I don’t belong in this house.”
Our passage focuses in on the identity of this person Jesus interacts with – a woman who is a Samaritan, a class of people who were outcast from the Jews, and a sinner, likely outcast among her own community. Through a series of conversations, Jesus offers this outcast eternal life, and welcomes her as a sinner to join the household of his father. She doesn’t belong, but Jesus welcomes her. As we’ll see today, Jesus extends this same welcome to you and me.
He’s still inviting outcasts to come to his house and receive eternal life. We’ll focus on this big idea today: Jesus welcomes outcasts to his house. We’ll examine the two sections in our passage and find two ways he does this.
1. He offers satisfaction to the weary
2. He offers dignity to the shamed
HE OFFERS SATISFACTION TO THE WEARY
We’ll pick up the story in verse 6 after Jesus arrives in Samaria.
Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
(John 4:6–9 ESV)
I want to begin with a few observations that encouraged me here. First, Jesus was wearied from his journey. We can gloss right over details like this, what it meant for Jesus to lay down the rights and privileges of being God and taking on flesh. One of the things that meant is that he gets tired. This is clear example of God himself stooping to identify with human beings in our weaknesses. Experiencing fatigue and thirst. I imagine you identify with that. You get worn out. I imagine you get thirsty for something to drink. It encourages me to know that Jesus identifies with me in my weariness.
Second, Jesus initiates the conversation and asks if this woman would attend to his needs. So let this observation encourage you as well. Today may just be an ordinary day for you like it was for her. Except we’re looking at the word of Jesus. When Jesus initiates the conversation with us through his word – there’s life there.
So let’s take a closer look at the conversation between them. This woman has no idea who is asking her for a drink. She says in this interaction “are you greater than Jacob?” She doesn’t know like the reader does (if they’ve read the previous chapters) – that Jesus is the logos – the eternal Word of God, the creator of all things, the Son of God, the true temple, the giver of eternal life. But she is surprised that a Jewish man would address her. Samaritans and Jews couldn’t stand one another. In fact, a God-fearing Jew might have typically walked around Samaria on their way from Judea to Galilee. Samaritans were hated outcasts. John says it nicely “Jews did not have dealings with Samaritans.”
This woman did not belong in the company of this man. Now she finds herself conversing with not only a Jew, but the savior of the world, the very God of the Jewish people – in flesh, condescending, weary, stooping, and shockingly engaging her in conversation, paying no attention to the customs and mores or prejudices of the culture. He asks her if she can attend to his needs, and winds up offering her something that would change her life forever.
Living water. Let’s keep reading:
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 nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:10–14 ESV)
So what is living water exactly?
You ever witness a conversation and there’s like a subtext? This happens in marriage ALL the time. Two things going on, but one person doesn’t quite get it yet… like your friend says, “I don’t know why she’s so upset about the dishes.” she’s not just talking about the dishes
We have this kind of thing going on here. He’s not just talking about water. He’s talking about living water. Spiritual water.
Thankfully a few chapters ahead, Jesus brings up living water again, and then John explains what it is:
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
(John 7:38–39 ESV)
Living water is the Holy Spirit of God who Christ offers to all believers. But let’s dig a little deeper.
Jesus said “the scripture has said” this living water would flow – where do we find this image of living water in scripture? Turns out… the answer is: everywhere. You have to know your bible to follow along here, but even if these aren’t familiar passages to you – let me just point them out, and jot them down so you can check them out later.
In Exodus 17, the people of Israel are in the desert without water, in danger of dying of thirst. God has Moses strike a rock – and when he does, water comes out and Israel drinks and is satisfied.
So, just as the rock provided physical water for the people of Israel, much later, the prophets began predicting that spiritual water would flow out of the temple of God.
“And in that day
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and the hills shall flow with milk,
and all the streambeds of Judah
shall flow with water;
and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD
and water the Valley of Shittim.
(Joel 3:18 ESV)
On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.
(Zechariah 14:8 ESV)
In Ezekiel 47, the prophet describes this water, coming from the temple and flowing like a river throughout the land and everything the water touches springs to life. The spiritual water is a picture of the Holy Spirit that dwells in the house God. Ezekiel imagines a day the Spirit flows from the temple, and through the church, undoing the effects of sin and of death in all the world, bringing life wherever it flows.
Without water, the land dries up. Things just stagnate and die. There is no life, just the stench of death and disease. When these prophetic words landed on Israel, that described their spiritual and physical condition.
So what an abundant hope these words became – one day in the not so distant future – God will once again let the river of life spring from the temple and flow through his people, bringing life throughout the land.
God’s people won’t be dry and spiritually thirsty anymore. There will finally be joy and salvation and love and mercy.
It’s even deeper than this! Now this is mysterious – but the apostle Paul tells us that in a spiritual sense, the rock of Moses points to Jesus Christ
For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
(1 Corinthians 10:4b ESV)
And like the rock of Moses, Jesus would be struck for his people, and water would flow from his side. On the cross, he would again say “I thirst”.
He died on the cross thirsty and alone so that God’s people could one day place their hope in him and be filled with the Holy Spirit, and never thirst again.
Jesus offers no less than everlasting satisfaction and joy to this weary outcast. Without fully understanding yet, she responds in faith, “give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty.”
He still makes this offer to you and to me. He offers satisfaction to the weary. How can we be satisfied like this?
In Jeremiah 2, the Lord says this:
… my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
(Jeremiah 2:13 ESV)
What are you looking to for satisfaction? Sin causes us to turn away from living water, and we try desperately to fill ourselves. Sometimes we tell ourselves we’re satisfied. We close ourselves off from the stench of brokenness and death around us. We can make a well out of anything can’t we?
There are respectable wells. I make a well out of my career when I look to it for ultimate satisfaction. I can make a well out of my family, my marriage, my income, my appearance, even my religious progress. Sometimes though we are so desperately thirsty that we make private wells for ourselves, secret more shameful places we look to for satisfaction. There’s a full catalog of broken wells at our fingertips 24/7. We’re privately addicted to these wells that only leave us dryer and dryer.
Do you recognize the one standing in front of you, offering you living water? Do you see him for who he is? If you knew who he truly is, you know that he alone can satisfy your soul. Only the one who made you, who died for you, can make a way for you even though you were outcast and alone. He made you to spiritually long for him. He sees your thirst, he sees the brokenness, even those cracks you do not see yet — and he offers you a drink.
The first step is to recognize you are spiritually thirsty, and look to him.
I started my ministry career as a youth pastor in rural Pennsylvania. It’s everything you’ve heard of and more, believe me! I loved my time there though. I want to tell you about one of the more dramatic conversions we experienced in the ministry there.
We had started an outreach in this dilapidated old roller rink building and several students came who did not know the Lord including one 15 year old boy who was one of the most broken kids I’ve ever known. His father used to beat him. We spent some time with him and intervened in all the ways we needed to so he was safe. But even after his father was long removed from the situation, he was just consumed with bitterness and miserable. He was just angry all the time.
I remember we’re at a retreat just having a moment where we’re singing and worshiping, and I see him kneel down and just start to weep. A few of our adults came around him and prayed with him, and then he stands up with his hands in the air and just starts pumping his fists in the air, and the entire youth group just came around him and began to rejoice with him.
See living water broke through. He grasped for the first time, what it meant that Jesus was offering him a drink to satisfy his weariness. I remember him just weeping and saying “I can forgive him. I can forgive him.” And he really was never the same again.
The point I want to make from this is not that it should always look like this. I’ve had moments like that in my life, but you don’t have to have a dramatic conversion story. Many of us do not. What I do take from this story though is this – what a blessing it is to know you are weary. To know you are spiritually dry. To feel your spiritual thirst. Those of us who are suffering today, in some ways it’s an easier concept to grasp. You know you’re thirsty. It’s those of us who have some more respectable cisterns that have to work a bit harder.
Do you know how spiritually thirsty you really are? Come to him for a drink. He offers you nothing less than eternal joy.
He offers satisfaction to the weary and second…
HE OFFERS DIGNITY TO THE SHAMED
Just when it seems like Jesus is about to give her this living water, the conversation takes a hard left turn. He says, “go get your husband” and she quickly deflects “I have no husband.”
This quick response, like the kind designed to shut down a conversation she’d rather not have. Jesus does something that would become a turning point in her life story. He says “you’re right, you don’t have a husband, you’ve actually had five of them and the man you have right now is one you’re not married to.”
The woman does not want to reveal her inner life and her shame. If he really knew me, he’d never give me this living water. But Jesus just has a way of just gently but firmly cornering us in our sin, until we cannot wiggle out. The woman still doesn’t know who he is, but he knows exactly who she is.
She’s a woman living in adultery. She is likely shamed from her own community. Here she is, alone at a well when women typically came in groups. Here she is in the hot hours at the middle of the day when women typically came early in the morning or later in the evening when the sun wasn’t so hot. A gift like living water could not possibly be reserved for a sinner like her. If Jesus sees her shame, he would surely turn away. An outcast from the Jews, an outcast from her own people, but welcomed and dignified by Jesus. Rather than condemn her, Jesus gives her another enormous gift. He listens to her. He engages her questions. And he teaches her how to approach God.
The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 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 is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:19–24 ESV).
The woman refers to Mount Gerizim where the Samaritans had this rival, renegade temple along with a separate system of worship. The Jews of course worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem. She’s says since you’re a prophet… (maybe changing the subject..) Gerizim or Jerusalem? Jesus says “spirit and truth.” “pretty soon neither of these temples is going to matter.” What’s going to matter is whether or not people come to God the way he desires.
Pretty soon, Jesus says, it’s not going to matter where you worship, it’s going to matter how you worship. The implications of this are staggering. Everything is changing.
What does it mean to worship God in spirit? I cannot help but see reflections of a few passages ago in this one – back in chapter 2, Jesus clears out the temple in Jerusalem. The court of the Gentiles was full of money changers and Jesus was horrified that they were unable to worship, distracted and exploited by all the commerce. He said “my father’s house is to be a house of prayer.” Similarly in our passage Jesus explains that worship is a spiritual matter. It isn’t a matter of buildings and rituals. God is a spiritual being, and drawing near to him is a spiritual activity. This was something Jesus did not find when he visited the temple in Jerusalem. They worshiped with the right rituals, in the right place, but their spirits were far from God. Friends, do not forget that what we’re doing here is something profoundly spiritual. God isn’t seeking worshipers who simply ‘go through the motions.’
What does it mean to worship God in truth? I think Jesus is critiquing the worship of the Samaritans here. Their worship at Mount Gerizim was based on ignorance regarding Israel’s role in God’s plan of salvation. The Jews had it right – he says. They know the one they’re worshiping. The Samaritans you see had cut enormous portions of the Old Testament out of their scriptures – leaving only the parts that were favorable to them – and devising their own religious code and system.
Friends, never forget that proper worship depends on an accurate knowledge of who God is. No matter how intense, or powerful the worship experience is, worship that does not properly understand God falls woefully short.
The Father is seeking a new kind of worshiper who will be unlike those in the temple in Jerusalem, and unlike those in the temple at Gerizim. Those who will worship in spirit and in truth.
Jesus offers this shamed sinner the dignity of becoming a true worshiper.
How can you be a true worshiper? We come to God with the knowledge of who he is, and a hunger to know everything about him. We come to him corporately – with the saints on the Lord’s day. We come to him together with brothers and sisters throughout the week. We witness of him publicly. We come to him privately. We turn quickly from our sin and offer ourselves to him.
Those who are new in their faith generally have little trouble. They’re hungry for truth and have the passion of someone who just had all their sins forgiven. They don’t mind sharing their faith – people notice and ask them what’s different about them.
It’s after we’ve been following Jesus for a while that we can grow dysfunctional in our worship.
Maybe I prefer spirit without truth. In this case worship is more about my experience it’s less about truly knowing and being with God. In fact there may be aspects of God’s character I’d rather not focus on or praise him for. Perhaps like the Samaritans there are whole sections of the scriptures I’d prefer not to read. I love the worship experience and singing, but not so much the sermon or studying the scriptures.
Maybe though I prefer truth without spirit. Maybe for me following Jesus is more about being ‘right’ than pouring my heart out in love and gratitude. I forget the mystery of the gospel is that Jesus could love someone like me. I become somewhat self-impressed and my theological growth while my heart grows cold. I love the sermon, and I could take or leave the singing. My mind wanders during prayer. I find myself yawning at news that makes the angels tremble.
Spirit without truth is emotionalism. Truth without spirit is legalism. In either case, it isn’t God I desire to worship ultimately. In either case, I come to the worship experience as a consumer. The church is the purveyor of spiritual goods and service to me, tailored just the way I like it, or else disappointing. If I find myself disappointed, I can always listen to Hillsong or Elevation at home or put a podcast on and find a sermon that fits my current mood.
But when I’m filled with living water. When I’m invited to the house of God to worship. When I remember that I was an outcast, separated from God, sinful and shamed, and Christ found me, initiated a conversation with me, filled me and loved me. I come to him with rejoicing and an inexpressible gratitude.
God is seeking worshipers like this.
But how can we know God? And what has come of the temple if it was never in Gerizim and it’s no longer in Jerusalem? And what do these two images have to do with each other – living water, and the temple?
The answer is right in our passage in the very next interaction.
God works a miracle and this woman makes an unimaginably important connection. Still struggling to understand, she comments that one day the Messiah will come and explain it all to her.
The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”
(John 4:25 ESV)
Jesus, who was reluctant to reveal his identity to the Jewish religious elites, looks at this woman – an outcast from the Jews, shamed in her own community and says:
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
(John 4:26 ESV)
The very first person in the gospels to receive the news that Jesus is the promised Messiah was an adulterous Samaritan woman. There is no one here who could possibly be an outcast to this Messiah.
I picture this moment like one of those moments at the end of a mystery where it all starts coming together.
Remember – the day is coming when living water will flow from God’s house the temple. Remember, Jesus revealed that he is the one with this living water. The reader has already put this together – we know from John chapter 2 – Jesus is the true temple of God.
The reason Jerusalem and Gerizim aren’t needed anymore is because Jesus is on the scene. The temple was the place that mankind met God. Jesus is fully God, fully man – Immanuel – God with us. God has made his Son Jesus the centerpiece of worship. Anyone who wants to know God must know this about Jesus “he is the Messiah” he is the promised savior of the world. He’s the only one who satisfies. He’s the rock who was struck for us. He became thirsty so we could drink deeply. He died on the cross so God’s people could one day place their hope in him. He rose again and poured out his Holy Spirit like a river so it could flow into God’s people – extending the great Temple of God to including you and me.
He hasn’t just invited us to his house. He’s building us INTO his house.
Friends – there are no outcasts in the church. No prejudice can divide us. No sin can separate us. No suffering can defeat us. Death itself cannot defeat us because death could not defeat him and he is the cornerstone of this house we have been built into. The new temple will never crumble. The well will never run dry. He’ll never stop answering our questions. He’ll never turn away from us in shame. He’ll never be too busy for us. He’ll never consider us unworthy of his time.
There is nothing but good news upon good news for the worshipers God has sought out and filled with his Spirit. See Jesus really walked that road from Judea to Galilee. He really spoke with that woman. He really hung on that cross. He really walked around for 40 days after he rose again, and 500 witnesses attested to it. The disciples did all willingly die as martyrs for the claim that he rose again. The church really DID happen. It really did all come true – if you turn from your broken well to the one who offers living water this will be true of you as well.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
(Isaiah 12:3 ESV)
This is what happened to the woman at the well. In the last few verses of our passage, the disciples return and there is this small statement I want you to see.
So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
(John 4:28–30 ESV)
The woman left her water jar. She didn’t need that old thing any more. She had some news for the people in her town. Into the town comes this outcast and she’s going on and on about this man. She can hardly believe it – could this be the Messiah? Now we’ll spend all of next week discussing the results of her testimony, but God used her simple witness to bring the entire town to Jesus.
I pray you will experience the living water Christ offers you today, and will come to him the true temple, worship in spirit and truth, and then leave here witnesses that he really is the savior of the world.