3Lent proper A3                             
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
John 4:5-42 Sermon                                                    
March 27, 2011

Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
16 "Blessed Jesus At Thy Word"
433 "Jesus, My Truth, My Way"
374 "Grace!  'Tis A Charming Sound"
50 "Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing"


 TEXT (vs. 39-41):  “39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, 'He told me all that I ever did.' 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world. '"  

            Back in 1997, a movie came out starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. entitled "I Know What You Did Last Summer."  It's a thriller/suspense/action movie that revolves around four friends.  These friends were driving home down a dark lonely road from a party one night, when they hit a man.  Thinking they had killed him, they dumped his body into the ocean.  They vowed that they would never tell anybody about this; after all, they couldn't bring the man back to life.  Besides, if the truth came out, they would all be in a lot of trouble.

            Well, a full year passes.  The Jennifer Love Hewitt character comes home from college.  And when she arrives, there's a note in the mail addressed to her.  Inside the envelope is a piece of paper, on which is written:  "I know what you did last summer."  And that's all it said.  There was no signature or return address.  Somebody knew about the accident, and they wanted her and her friends to know as well.

            When it was finally established that none of the four friends were involved, they try to figure out who had seen what they did.  The mayhem and murders that follow are all linked with this person who knew what these friends did.  In one horrible scene after the other, the murderer who knew what these friends had done, began to take lives.

            So how did all this start?  Four friends were involved in the commission of a crime.  It was a hit-and-run accident that had supposedly caused a fatality.  The friends thought they had gotten off, scott-free; that is, until that note came in the mail.  Just five simple words struck a note of terror in their lives; five words that let them know their wrongful actions were seen by somebody else.  Those five words "I know what you did last summer" suddenly brought something to light that they had tried to hide.

            In our Gospel lesson for today, we see Jesus meeting up with a Samaritan woman.  It's a well-known fact that the Jews had an open hatred of the Samaritans. 

            A lot of this had to do with theological differences.  The Samaritan religion claimed Abraham as their patriarch, so it was closely related to Judaism.  However, the Samaritans claimed that their religion was the true religion of Judah, from before the time of the Babylonian Exile, and the time of the prophet Daniel.  They believed that the Jewish faith brought back from exile by the Israelites had become polluted.  In fact, the name "Samaritan" is Hebrew, and means "keepers of the law."  According to them, the faith as practiced by those who had miraculously escaped from being exiled into Babylon was the true faith. 

            This is the thought behind Jesus' words in verses 19-22 of our Gospel lesson:  "19The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." 21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. "  Even though the background is similar, she is very well aware of the big differences between the Jewish and Samaritan religions.

            Jesus continues to work with her so she could get her theology straight.  In verse 22 he says, " 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews."  The Samaritans had many gaps in their religious practice; however Jesus minces no words when he points out that the Jewish faith was the only true faith that glorified the one true God.  It would be through Jewish lineage and the kingdom of Judah that the promised Messiah would come, a true earthly descendent of David's family bloodline.

            The Samaritan woman, whose head was probably swimming at this point, says to Jesus in verse 25:  "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things." 

            This Samaritan woman doesn't want to get into a type of theological discussion of who was right and who was wrong.  After all, she was no theologian.  She only knew what she had been taught.  Even so, she knew of the promised Messiah, the true Son of God who would be coming.  As far as she was concerned, the Messiah would be the one to unravel the theological differences and tell her who or what was right.

            Jesus responds to her very simply and directly in verse 26: "I who speak to you am he."  Fair enough.  He identifies himself as the Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour whom she was expecting and wanting to straighten things out for her.  Jesus now needs to validate his true identity.

            This isn't as much of a problem as what we think it might have been.  Jesus does something that no other human being could possibly have done.  He tells her about herself.  He didn't say:  "Okay woman, I'm here with a listening ear and a shoulder you can cry on.  Why don't you pour out what's troubling your soul, and let me help?"  Granted, that's a good approach to take, but it wasn't what was needed in this case.

            Jesus does it quite differently.  In effect, he's saying:  "Why don't you sit here and not say anything, while I tell you what I know about you."

            The one instance that John records is where Jesus informs her that he knows about her marital situation.  She has had a total of five husbands.  And furthermore, she is now living with a man to whom she is not married. 

            Just as a side note here, this is proof that God does not regard two people cohabiting together in a de-facto type relationship in the same way as he regards marriage.  In other words, there is a difference between getting married and just living together.  Marriage is more than just getting a piece of paper at the courthouse and going through a ceremony.

            This woman is astounded at what Jesus was able to tell her.  From what John records about this incident, we can deduct that the conversation between Jesus and this woman was very lengthy.  Most likely, he told her a lot of things about herself besides her marital situation, things that nobody else on this earth would have known about, which probably included a lot of her more embarrassing moments.

            Maybe Jesus didn't hand her a note that said "I know what you did last summer," but that was the effect.  It was more than just last summer too; it was everything she did throughout her entire life.

            Jesus didn't tell her this as a threat or to create any fear or uneasiness in her.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  Jesus wants to comfort her in her distress, and put her completely at ease.  He wanted to effectively communicate the love of God as it applied to her, even being the hated Samaritan she was.

            Jesus' initial encounter with her was when she first arrived at the well.  Since it doesn't appear that Jesus had a way to get the water, asks her to give him a drink.  Right away, this woman knew Jesus wasn't just any ordinary Jew.  A good Jew would have gone thirsty rather than to ask a Samaritan for help.  So this action in itself surprised her.

            The metaphor that follows this, is where Jesus describes himself as being the "water of life."  The message he conveys to her, is that if you drink of him through faith, then you will never be thirsty again.  You will have the righteousness and assurance of God's love that you are seeking.  You will be accepted just as you are.  Your sins will be forgiven through faith alone.  That's what Jesus came to bring not only to her, but to the entire world, you and me included.

            I know what you did.  Those words can send chills throughout a person's body.  The plot in the movie, "I know what you did last summer" was intended to scare people.  But even in more everyday situations, these words are use to threaten and scare, and play mind games with people. 

            For example, big sister says to little brother, "I know what you did, and I'm telling!"  Now big sister has no idea what little brother might have done, but little brother is shaking in his shoes and trying to figure out what big sister is going to say about him.

            I've even seen parents use this on their children.  Mother and dad are standing in the kitchen with their arms folded when junior comes into the room.  Then it comes:  "We know what you did, and we are not pleased; so you might as well come clean now and it won't be as bad for you."    What's really happening is that mother and dad are trying to get junior to confess to something that they are clueless about.  These are all mind games, and there's no apparent benefit to be gained by them.

            When Jesus is with the Samaritan woman, there were no mind games or threats.  The Samaritan found unconditional love and forgiveness, as Jesus laid out her sinful life right before her eyes.

            And the result of all this?  Listen to the conclusion in verses 39-42:  " 39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, 'He told me all that I ever did.' 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.'"

            This Samaritan woman had experienced something in her life like she never had before.  Jesus the Saviour ministered directly to her; and as a result, she had something within her that she couldn't keep to herself.  So she went into the town and spread the word amongst the rest of the Samaritans.  And as a result of God working through her, many people came to faith.  The Holy Spirit worked through her witness so many came to Jesus in faith, so that they would also have what Jesus had given to her.

            "I know what you did last summer."  Jesus knows our lives:  every thought, word, and deed.  He knows us just like he knew the Samaritan woman.  He can tell us everything that we have ever done, without exception.  What would you think if you physically met Jesus, and he began to enumerate all of your past sins, even from infancy?  Would this be a sure sign that you were in God's presence, and that you could trust him?

            The important thing here, is that Jesus' knowledge of our sinful past isn't as important as what he does with that knowledge.  He lovingly meets our sinful selves with understanding, forgiveness, restoration, and hope.  He wants us to be rid of the burden of sin, and that's exactly what he took from us and carried with him all the way to the cross.  Through faith alone, we have come to know our Saviour Jesus Christ, and all that he has done for us.

            "I know what you did last summer" is a scary movie that even has another two sequels.  To have somebody know about those sins we try to keep secret generates a whole lot of fear and trepidation within our souls.  We are disturbed by our past, and we need the forgiving message of he Gospel now more than ever.

            But Jesus offers us the water of life through faith in him.  We can drink of this metaphoric water and never have want for any more.  What Jesus gives to us in the Gospel through faith alone is exactly what we need to heal our sin-sick souls.

            The Samaritan woman's reaction should also be ours.  We can say right along with her that he knows everything we've ever done.  We can attest to the fact that he loves and accepts us.  And this is the message we bring to those around us.

            By her simple testimony, this woman accomplished much.  Because of her witness, many more people came to Jesus to get what this woman had.  And joy upon joy, that's exactly what they found.  This woman accomplished more by her testimony than Jesus himself would have if he had gone to her town unannounced and alone.  That's why the most effective form of evangelism comes from the members of a congregation themselves. 

            We have a Saviour who knows all about us, who cares about us, and who loves us in spite of everything.  This is something we too must share with others.  It worked for Jesus, and it can work for us too.  Jesus indeed knows all about us, and everybody else in this world.  Therefore, we pray that the Lord will continue to use us in building up his kingdom, as we bring his Word to those lost in sin.

            And so as we walk together with our Saviour, we pray that many will come to know him and what he gives to us.  And we also pray that those seeking relief of some description will find it in Jesus Christ himself.