Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms in the house and to all of the ladies, whether you are a mom or not, please know how much we love and value you and appreciate the ways you contribute as spiritual moms and mentors in the Body of Christ. As I continue this series called, “It’s Time for a Comeback,” I thought it would be fitting to look at a woman who was in need of a COMEBACK, and today I have chosen to focus on John chapter 4 and the story of the Woman at the Well. So, grab a Bible as we will investigate some verses in John 4.
I want to share the three ways I think the Woman at the Well needed and experienced a Comeback.
I believe she needed:
A Spiritual Comeback
A Comeback of Her Credibility
A Comeback of Her Purpose
Let’s look at the her need for a SPIRITUAL COMEBACK first. In this encounter with the Woman at the Well, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a place for which she has come to be known. He meets her at a well. If you remember our first message on Moses’ COMEBACK, you will remember that when he fled Egypt and landed in Midian, he landed at a well. I noted then that a well is a symbol of a place of refreshing. It is a symbol and sign of a COMEBACK! Pretty cool, also, that a turnaround would happen in this woman’s life as she went to a well to draw some water. Something that was routine and common and every day for her became the place of a supernatural COMEBACK!
5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground JACOB had given to his son Joseph.6 JACOB’S well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?12 Are you greater than our father JACOB, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”
So this spiritual conversation started with a discussion about Jacob. Who was that? He was Abraham’s grandson and was Isaac’s son. The Samaritans more generally claimed Jacob as their forefather, whereas the Jews claimed Abraham, the one with whom God made the Covenant. It is interesting because Jacob wasn’t always portrayed in the best of light in the book of Genesis.
Jacob had 12 sons and one of those, Joseph, had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. When Jacob was dying, he gave Joseph a blessing in which he called him a fruitful vine by a well. (Genesis 49:22). That territory was passed down to Ephraim and Manasseh and became the fertile land that eventually was called Samaria. Later, in Jewish history, Israel divided into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom was called Israel and ultimately had its capital in Samaria.
Well, Assyrians came in and conquered Israel, taking most of its people into captivity. Other non-Godfearing peoples were mixed into the population with the Israelites while they were displaced. The Jews started worshiping foreign gods and intermarrying with the pagan people.
The southern kingdom also had problems as Babylon conquered it and carried the Jews there into captivity. 70 years later, 43,000 Jews were permitted to go back and rebuild Jerusalem. By this time, the people who lived in the north, the Samaritans, were not happy about the return of folks to the southern kingdom and they tried to undermine the attempt to reestablish the nation. They wanted to be the spiritually elite. The people coming back to the southern kingdom detested the idol worship and intermarrying practices of their northern cousins and the war was on between the Jews and the Samaritans for the next 550 years.
The Jews would claim Abraham as their spiritual father and the Samaritans would claim his grandson, Jacob. Here, the Samaritan Woman was doing just that when she asked Jesus if He was greater than Jacob. This woman, and her community, had elevated a place, the place of Jacob’s well to give them a spiritual identity. We see this further in verse 20 when she says to Jesus, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Her identity as a worshiper had been tied to a place, but Jesus wanted her to know that true worship was not based on being in a right location, but it was based on being in a right relationship.21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
Both the Jews and the Samaritans had elevated the place of worship instead of the God to be worshiped! In that sense, both were wrong in their understanding of what was most important. Jesus sort of leveled the playing field between the two competing groups when he said it wasn’t about a mountain in Jerusalem or a mountain in Samaria. He continued by saying,22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The woman said she knew that the Messiah was coming and that when He arrived, He would explain everything. Jesus told her that He was the Messiah, and He did explain everything. It wasn’t about Jacob’s well. It wasn’t about something from the outside going into your body that could satisfy your spiritual thirst. It wasn’t about something physical going on or some physical place that you had to get to in order to experience God. No! It was about something internal that would give you access to God and eternal life.
He told her that He could give her something that would offer permanent and ongoing satisfaction in her life. He called it Living Water.
Living Water. That is what this woman needed. She didn’t need a dead religion. She didn’t need religious hoops to jump through. She didn’t need something that was tied only to the past. She needed something that would give her life in her everyday experience. It was right in front of her. It was Jesus. That encounter with Jesus changed her whole life, and it made every other facet of COMEBACK available to her. When we get life with Jesus, we get everything else we need. Her spiritual thirst was quenched, and you will see as we go on that it energized every other part of her life.
The second COMEBACK I see is a COMEBACK of her credibility. There was a reason she was at the well by herself in the hottest part of the day. She had a bad reputation. Her lifestyle didn’t lend itself to being well-liked. She was known to be in multiple relationships with men, whether one at a time or all at once. When this conversation took place with Jesus, she was living with someone she wasn’t married to. How many men had she been with? How many other marriages gone wrong could have been attributed to her involvement? How many hearts were broken by her whether it was a result of her inability to make a commitment or her inability to genuinely feel loved? Was true intimacy a threat to her? What had happened to her as she was growing up to lead her to question her value and worth that would then lead her into such a reckless lifestyle? Had all of the previous men actually married her, but then divorced her? Was she simply used and discarded? Why was she “searching for love in all the wrong places?” and opening her mind and body to all kinds of confusion and abuse?
The women in the town definitely didn’t like her. She knew what they thought of her and how they felt about her. That is why she went alone to the well. She wouldn’t have to see them stare. She wouldn’t have to hear their whispers. She wouldn’t have to hold back the tears that would easily stream from her face. Not only did they not like her, but they couldn’t trust her. She had lived a life of questionable judgment and had ruined her credibility.
Jesus didn’t shy away from having a conversation with her about how she was living. In verse 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
I want you to notice something with me. Jesus told her about the Living Water before He ever brought up her lifestyle and credibility issues. He wanted her to know that the offer for Living Water was for her regardless of how she was living. I think the order in the conversation is important. Living Water wasn’t going to be predicated upon her having it all together. Living Water was going to be a standing offer regardless of how she had been living and how she was currently living. Jesus wasn’t fazed by her sin. He was motivated in love to help her overcome it.
Maybe that is why she opened up and was actually honest with Him. Maybe that is why she was willing to talk about her sinful life and her lack of credibility. Maybe it was the offer of Living Water that made her feel safe enough to be real. Maybe it was the Living Water offer that helped her know she could truly trust this Man. Though other men had used her or broken her heart, this Man wanted to help her, to restore her, to give her something she had been searching for her whole life.
And after her conversation with Jesus, she left her water jar at the well and went back into the town to the people she had tried to avoid and told them about Jesus and her encounter with Him. Check it out for yourself in verse 29. What is stunning is that the townspeople heard what she said and instead of saying, “We can’t believe a thing you say” or “You’re just trying to get back into our good graces” or “You’re crazy, why would we take your recommendation on anything?” they actually came out of the town, verse 30, and made their way toward Jesus. And John is careful to tell us this in verse 39, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”
They believed because of her testimony. Pre-Jesus she wasn’t believable. She wasn’t credible. No one would have listened to anything she had said, but post-Jesus, she was leading people to Him because of her testimony. She had just experienced a CREDIBILITY COMEBACK. Something had happened to her in the exchange with Jesus that actually made her believable. Jesus was repairing her credibility and restoring her reputation. He truly is the God who makes all things new. Someone who couldn’t even live everyday life around others was now being used of God to bring them to Him.
This leads me to my third and final point. I believe the Woman at the Well experienced a COMEBACK OF PURPOSE. This woman had a new purpose for living. I am confident that day wasn’t the only day that she talked to people about her meeting with Jesus. It had changed everything. She had a new purpose now which was to share the Living Water.
I wonder how the rest of her days were spent. Perhaps she recalled her childhood dreams about how she saw herself as an adult and got to work learning a skill. Maybe she re-invested in relationships with the other women in the town and became a mentor to the younger people. Maybe she committed to the man she was with and they got married. Perhaps she became a mother or if she had already given birth, maybe she assumed the role with a new, nurturing perspective.
It is easy to be defined by our failures, and when we get off track in life, it is easy to think that we are no longer good for anything or that we have messed up to the point where we no longer can make a positive impact on the world. I think it is easy for some people to think that if they are known for a certain bad or reckless behavior that now they have to sort of keep pursuing that direction and live up to that expectation even though it is a bad lifestyle. I guess some people think, “Well, if that is what people expect from me, that is what I will deliver,” and they just stay bound to a purposeless existence.
Maybe her life went adrift in the first place because she hadn’t discovered her purpose for living. Ralph Barton, one of the top cartoonists of the nations, left this note pinned to his pillow before taking his own life: “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up twenty-four hours of the day.”
Isn’t that sad? Life is not meant to be mundane, simply ordinary and routine, without satisfaction or adventure. It is meant to be rewarding and energizing as we live out our God-given purpose. I should say that our God-given purpose is not in any way tied to the things of the world. Oh, a profession may be a tool God uses, a hobby may be a tool God uses, but our purpose is to glorify God and lead others to Him. After the Woman at the Well met Jesus, she encountered her true purpose for living.
What kind of COMEBACK are you in need of this morning? Have you had a spiritual history that has maybe just become sentimental? Maybe it has become tied to a memory of the past, a place in the past or how things used to be? Maybe it is tied to the faith of your parents or grandparents like her identity had been wrapped up in identifying with Jacob and his well and the worship of God on that particular mountain. Maybe you have some spiritual knowledge, but you don’t have that relationship with Jesus that offers you Living Water every day. Today, you can have a SPIRITUAL COMEBACK.
Maybe you have blown it. You have really messed up. People no longer trust you because you have used lies, manipulation and deceit to get what you want. Maybe you have pursued the wrong things and people have gotten hurt in the process and they want nothing to do with you and have cut you off. That is a harsh reality to face. I have good news for you. Today, you can start a CREDIBILITY COMEBACK. By having a legitimate and ongoing encounter with Jesus your reputation can be restored and you can be known for your COMEBACK instead of your failures.
Maybe you wake up each day and think, “Why am I even here? What am I meant to accomplish? What is my purpose for living?” I will tell you first and foremost that if you are a follower of Christ, your purpose is to glorify God. How that plays out and becomes known is discovered through a daily walk with Jesus, through a daily drink of Living Water. As you allow the Holy Spirit, the Living Water, to refresh and lead you, you will begin to walk in your God-given purpose. It may be that you glorify God as a nurse or engineer. It may be that your life brings Him glory as a father or mother. Perhaps your life will glorify Him as you set an example for those around you in your workplace. If you are open to the conversation your purpose will be discovered. The Woman at the Well was able to have a COMEBACK of Purpose because she was open to having a hard conversation with Jesus. He helped her evaluate where she had been and where she was. When she saw the state of her brokenness in light of Jesus’ offer, she wanted to take advantage of it. Are you desiring something different than the mundane, sad, and lonely existence you are living? Today, you can start a COMEBACK OF PURPOSE.