Salvation of the Jews Part 1 of 2
Adapted from sermon preached in PCC Evening Worship Service on 5 Feb 2006
"Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews" (Jn 4:22; cf. 4:1-26).
Most of us, I believe, are familiar with our Lord’s encounter with Nicodemus, as well as His encounter with the Samaritan woman by the well. But many of us do not realize that the two accounts are related in some ways.
First, they are related in that the Lord’s encounter with the Samaritan woman happened shortly after the Lord’s encounter with Nicodemus.
Secondly, the two encounters are related in that there is a very remarkable contrast between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman.
Nicodemus was named; the Samaritan woman was unnamed.
He was respectable Jew; she was a despised Samaritan.
He was an esteemed ruler; she was an outcast of society.
He was orthodox; she was heterodox.
He was learned in religious matters; she was ignorant.
He was a decent gentleman; she was an immoral woman.
He was seeking; she was indifferent.
He was serious; she was flippant.
Yet, in spite of all the differences between this ‘churchman’ and this woman of the world, they were both sinners in need of salvation. They both needed something which only Christ our Lord could provide.
The Lord’s encounter with Nicodemus shows us how the Lord often deals with those who are found within the visible church. By His providence and the work of the Spirit He moves them out of their comfort zones to seek the Lord. And the Lord would often deal with them in a way that will wake them up out of their complacency. "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (Jn 3:10) the Lord asked Nicodemus.
But the way that the Lord deals with those outside the covenant is quite different. He seeks them out as the shepherd would seek his one lost sheep.
This evening, the Lord helping us, we want to look at how the Lord did that with the Samaritan woman. We want to do so with a two fold purpose.
Firstly, if you are a believer, especially if you are assured of your salvation, I hope you will look at the Lord’s example and seek to imitate how He reaches out to the lost.
Secondly, if you are in the position of the Samaritan woman before her conversion, then I hope that you will put yourself in the shoes of the Samaritan woman that you may listen to the Lord speak to you as He spoke to the Samaritan woman.
With that in mind, let me highlight 4 things that the Lord did.
First and foremost,…
1. He Went To The Woman (v. 4)
We are all very familiar with this account. The Lord was on His way from Judaea to Galilee. The Pharisees had heard that He had made and baptised more disciples than John. They were getting jealous. Therefore the Lord’s life was in danger. And since His time had not yet come, He made a decision to return to Galilee which is friendlier grounds. We are not called to suffer if we can avoid it.
We are told that "he must needs go through Samaria" (v. 4). Why was it necessary for Him to go through Samaria? Many of the Jews in the days of the Lord who were going from Judea to Galilee would rather cross the River Jordan, head up North in the country of Perea, and then cross back to Cis-Jordan only after they have by-passed Samaria.
You see, the Jews hated the Samaritans. John tells us that "the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans" (v. 9).
The Samaritans may be known as mongrel Jews by blood and by religion. They were the descendants of the colonies of mix-race comprising of Israelites and people of other lands planted there by the Assyrians in the 8th Century.
At that time, the Assyrians under king Sennecherib conquered the land of the Northern ten tribes. They killed many of the Israelites, and sent a great number into exile; and in their place, they bought in people from other lands they conquered. The idea was that when people are away from their homeland, they are unlikely to rise up to fight for independence.
Well, the remnant of the Israelites remaining in the land intermarried with the new occupants and had children. Soon a mixed race with Jewish blood emerged. They would worship the God of Israel; but because they were despised by the Jews, they erected another temple in mount Gerezim and worshipped there in competition with the temple at Jerusalem.
There was great enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans. When the Lord was passing by a Samaritan village earlier, the Samaritans would not welcome him because they knew that He was heading to Jerusalem (Mt 10:5). On the other hand, the Jews, in order to insult Him, called Him a Samaritan (Jn 8:48)!
But now we are told that the Lord "must needs go through Samaria" (v. 4). Does He need to go through Samaria because it was the only way? Surely not. He could have bypassed the city.
Why then are we told He must needs go through Samaria? I believe it is because He knew that God has His elect in the city.
It is true that the Lord had instructed His disciples not to enter into any of the cities of the Samaritans (Mt 10:5). They were not to preach there, nor to work miracles there. They must first go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
But God’s lost sheep were not only found in Israel. The Lord Himself says:
"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (Jn 10:16).
I believe the Lord would not bypass Samaria, not just for convenience sake, but also in order that He might have an opportunity to minister to the despised people of the region.
Beloved brethren and children, the church which is represented by the olive tree must grow in two ways: First by biological growth through olive shoots; and secondly by evangelical growth through ingrafting of new olive branches.
Biological growth is very important. We must pay a lot of attention on that. We must cultivate all our olive shoots well. They will form the strongest branches on the tree. But evangelical growth is also important, and we must not neglect it.
Like the Lord, we must make use of every opportunity that presents itself to look for the lost sheep of Israel. Indeed, like the Lord, we must go out to look for the lost sheep of Israel.
Now consider secondly, how the Lord, when He met the Samaritan woman, showed respect unto her.
2. He Showed Respect To The Samaritan Woman
When the Lord and His disciples arrived in Samaria at a village called Sychar, He sent His disciples away to buy food, while He Himself sat down by Jacob’s well. It was mid-day and the Lord was weary with His journey.
Along came the Samaritan woman to draw water. Now, from the fact that she came out in the heat of noon to draw water rather than in the morning or in the evening when most other woman would come out to draw water, suggests that she did not want to be seen by the other women. Perhaps she had become weary of the tongue-wagging and finger-pointing that she had to endure whenever she was seen by other women.
But the Lord did not despise her. When He saw her, He said to her: "Give me to drink" (v. 7). Now, this must have been quite surprising to her, for we are told, "the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans" (v. 9). The phrase could also be translated "the Jews had nothing in common with the Samaritan," which was a reference to the rabbinic law that forbade a Jew from eating or drinking with a Samaritan—especially when it is out of their utensils.
So she immediately responded: "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?"
The very action of our Lord speaks of His kindness and compassion towards the lowly and outcast. He didn’t care about the norms and laws of man. He has zero-status consciousness. He was prepared to stoop down and esteem the immoral woman as someone who could give Him help, by giving Him a drink. He did not have second thoughts about drinking from the pail of this immoral Samaritan woman. He did not think that it was too demeaning to drink from her pail. He did not think that it was unhygienic or unclean. He does not despise the lowly. He does not refuse to reach out to sinners. He shows them respect.
Here’s a lesson we must learn. When we seek to talk to the unconverted, we must never talk down to them, or talk to them as objects of evangelism. We must meet them with respect as fellow human beings.… even if they have fallen deeply into sin. As Christ did not despise the Samaritan woman, let us never ever look down on fellow sinners.
To be continued in part 2 of 2