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Awkward Evangelism

John 4:5-26 Pastor Nick Haasch

Lent 2 3/8/20

It was such an awkward encounter. So many things just shouldn't have been...

For one, their two cultures did not mix. Jesus was a Jew. And this unnamed woman was a Samaritan. (Little background: the Samaritans came from the Jews who were not taken into captivity. They were left in Israel. They mixed races and religions with other middle-eastern groups. So by Jesus’ time they were half Jews, ethnically and religiously. This is why the Jews did not like them.) Jewish culture it was highly unusual for a single guy to be talking to a lady. Like, is he trying to score a date if she's single? Is he cheating with her if she's not? Does he know her husband and just is talking to a friend – though seriously where’s the husband?

And finally, this woman was a sinner. Now sinners talk to each other all the time. It's kind of all we can do. We're not going to get into how sinful this woman was compared to all the other sinners because, frankly it doesn't matter. What makes this awkward is that the one person she is talking to happens to be the one person on Earth who was completely without sin. She's talking, rather snappishly, with God in the flesh.

But there they are, in the middle of the day, chatting. Jesus was there because his disciples were in town getting some lunch and he was pooped. She was there because the hot part of the day was when most people were not out getting water from a well. You get the sense that maybe she’s a bit of an outcast.

It starts simple enough. “Get me something to drink.” Jesus is parched, tired, thirsty. At first she’s a bit shocked. “Like, seriously? You’re a Jew and you’re asking me for some water. That just doesn’t happen.”

So Jesus turns the conversation around. “You thought that was shocking, how about this: If only you knew the gift of God (at first it sounds like typical Jewish arrogance) and who it was that was talking to you (what are you supposed to be some great prophet or whatever) then you’d be asking me for some living water.”

She doesn’t take the bait and ask him about the gift of God or who he is. But living water…water, that’s still the one very thin common bond they both share. But seriously, how is he going to give her water? He doesn’t even have a bucket. “What are you going to make water just pop up out of the ground. Doesn’t work that way. Our ancestor Jacob had to dig this well.”

Interesting that she links herself with Jacob, a Jew. But Jesus doesn’t take that bait. “Let’s stick with this water conversation. Living water. Everyone who drinks from Jacob’s well is going to have to come back here because it won’t ever truly quench your thirst. But the water I can give…it hits the spot and gives you just what you need – eternal life.”

Judging by the way she’s been talking to him so far, I don’t think her next response means she’s quite bought in to what he’s trying to give her. It’s almost an eyeroll response. “Yeah that’d be great. Eternal life. You just do that, crazy Jew. You go and get me some of this water so I can stop coming back here.”

“If you want this living water, go get your husband. Bet he’d like some too.”

Well shoot. Awkward. You can almost picture her dropping her bucket. His request seems to have come out of nowhere, they’ve been going back and forth, developing an awkward kind of camaraderie and now…well, she becomes quite frank. “I don’t have a husband. None of your business.”

Jesus calls her out on it. “Oh I know. That’s why I said it. Good to see you’re up for talking straight for once.”

And just like that this conversation has left all talk of water and thirst behind and now they are dealing with her life and the reason she does not deserve eternal life. Way too real. Obviously he knows about her, somehow, so it must be that God gave him this information, so if this Jew is going to be so high and mighty about all this, let’s really stick it to him.

“Alright, if you’re going to judge me, Mister Religion-man, then I’ve got a bone to pick with you. Let’s talk religion. You Jews insist we have to worship in Jerusalem. I thought God was everywhere.”

Jesus doesn’t get ruffled but gives her an answer meant to drive her to a better relationship with God. “There’s a time that is coming and it’s already here by the way, when the old rules of where and how to worship won’t be needed anymore in preparation for the coming Messiah because he will have come. And then, no matter where a person is, all who believe in him as their savior will worship wherever they might be and that is what the Father has really desired all along for his people. A relationship with God that brings about eternal life.

There’s a lot to chew on and this conversation got very deep, very fast – and now they’re talking about a special time is going to come and has already…that’s lingo for the Messiah. And the woman admits as much. “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us because this is starting to go over my head.”

Finally, the moment Jesus was driving at. Jesus said to her, “The Messiah? Well, guess what? That’s me. Let’s talk.”

And just like that she was face to face with Jesus. He had exposed her sin. They talked about religion. And she still had much to learn, but now she was waiting for the Messiah to show up and explain things to her. She’s much less snarky than at the beginning of the conversation. And finally, Jesus reveals himself to her. She now would know her savior.

The snark could certainly drive some people away. The lifestyle might cause some to think that she really wasn’t worth it because, seriously, someone that enmeshed in that lifestyle just isn’t going to change- it would be a waste of time to share the Gospel with that person. Just the fact that she was different in all sorts of ways could be enough to make a believer take one look and say, “nope”.

And I get it. There’s a lot of awkwardness in this story. These two people couldn’t be more different. She certainly didn’t look like a worthy candidate for the Gospel. She certainly didn’t act like someone interested at the beginning. But she was a soul lost in sin- which meant she needed Jesus. And the Gospel, Jesus’ reveal that he’s her savior, created faith in her heart.

There may very well be opportunities like this in your life. In fact, I’m sure there are – whether it’s getting back in touch with a straying child, reaching out to an unbelieving friend, talking to that random co-worker who does notlook like they would be at all interested in Christianity.

It might very well be awkward to strike up this kind of conversation. And there might be plenty of excuses to come up with not to have this conversation.

But that’s just not how God works. Every soul is important to him. Every person needs to be saved. Everyone is thirsting for eternal life- whether they realize it or not -and God can provide.

He’s started with you. You are here because God saw your need for eternal life, and he quenched that need through the Gospel. The good news of the Messiah – the one who earned eternal life and freely gives it out to all who trust in him for it – that good news was shared with you. You have eternal life.

For some of us here – we’ve always had this. We were born into a Christian family. For others here, the Gospel was brought to you. In either case, whether you grew up in a Christian home or not, we can admit it : sometimes God’s Word is awkward because it touches on touchy subjects- like this woman’s adultery in our Gospel reading.

Sometimes it hurts to hear God’s Word, but the goal is to reveal our need, show how we are still thirsting for that refreshing drink from God’s peace, to take that in and know that our sins truly are forgiven- yes, even that really awful thing. Forgiveness.

There are people whose souls are thirsting. They are desperately trying to quench that need with anything – and some are convinced they really aren’t all that bad off without God. But everyone needs the Savior, because everyone has sinned.

You know that savior. So, it really doesn’t matter how awkward things might be. You can go and sit by that visitor in church, that new member, that random person and introduce yourself. You can invite the cashier at Crossroads to come to our midweek services if she’s busy on Sundays. You can pick up the phone and call that kid who hasn’t been to church in ages…

It might very well be awkward. But maybe those are the cases were the love of God is best seen because it doesn’t get bothered by the awkward details. It patiently, politely, pursues the goal of bringing that conversation to Christ, so that this other person might have their soul’s thirst quenched with the peace of forgiveness that only Jesus can give, the peace yourselves have received and can share. Amen.

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