have no bucket, and the well is deep...
n this section of Johns gospel he seems to be placing before us examples of persons who encountered Christ in a life changing manner. Last week we focused on Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night and was reluctant, at first, to believe. Today we hear the story of The Woman at the Well, a story that puts before us one who believes Jesus right away and becomes an instant evangelist.
The mission statement of our United Methodist Church says that our main job is to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ. Today we have a glimpse into how Jesus himself went about making disciples in our text by offering living water to one particular woman.
Christian history records many examples of persons who have come to Christian faith much like our Samaritan Woman.
Augustine had lived a life of sin prior to his conversion as a young man. The story is told that soon after his conversion he was accosted by a woman of the street whom he had known intimately prior to his conversion. She called out in a familiar voice, It is I! He resisted temptation and responded, Yes, but it is no longer I. He was a changed man, and soon he was renamed St. Augustine.
John Wesley studied
at Christ College of Oxford University for five years, receiving a M.A.
degree. He was ordained in the Church of England and served as an Oxford
Don, or assistant professor of religion, for almost ten years.
He had no inward assurance of salvation and felt himself a failure in
his ministry although he was outwardly pious. He, and a small group
of friends, including his brother Charles, got up at 4:00 oclock
every morning and prayed for two hours. They would then read the Bible
for an hour before going to the jails and hospitals to minister. In
fact, the Methodist Church got its name from the methodical way in which
Wesley and his Holy Club lived.
Basic to our understanding of New Testament Christianity is that all persons are born separated from God, but can come to know his grace as the Spirit compels us toward Him. Much as the Samaritan woman encountered Jesus at the town well, so we run into Him along the way. Sometimes as a result of problems that naturally come our way we find that we do not have spiritual resources to handle them. In times like this many seek the Spirit. Sometimes they turn to books, sometimes the Bible. Others seek out a preacher. Television has become a familiar place where folks go for help. Sometimes they will give you a call, a friend in whom they have felt a resonating strength.
You may recall the story of Velma Barfield, a young woman from rural North Carolina who in 1978 was convicted of murdering four people, including her mother and fiancee. She never denied her guilt, but told a chilling story about her drug-crazed life. She had been the victim of incest and rape. One night, desperate and alone on death row, a guard tuned in an evangelist that she could hear down the long gray hall. For the first time in her life she understood that Jesus had died for her and she opened up her heart to forgiveness and acceptance. She began to tell her story to other inmates and soon she had a large following. The outside world got hold of her story and she developed a most unusual pulpit. Her conversion was genuine, but so was her conviction and she became the first woman executed in the United States in many years. In one of her last statements she said, Just as the Lord has given me saving grace, and living grace, he has given me dying grace too.
Is it any wonder that Velmas favorite biblical character was our nameless woman that met Jesus at the well so long ago? Just as she experienced a new life filled with living spiritual water, so can each of us.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor