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Third Sunday in Lent:

Third Sunday in Lent: March 12, 2023

Exodus 17: 1-17

Psalm 95

Romans 5: 1-8

John 4: 5-14

Fr. Gary W. Thurman

The gospel is a well-known story of the woman of the well. We will start with a geography lesson. I would like to read a little bit further into the story also. Traditionally, the gospel reading for the third Sunday in Lent goes as far as verse 39. I would like to read some verses for us to have a better understanding of what was going on in this gospel reading.

In the west, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is a part of the land of Israel. This is what God gave the children of Jacob, the Israelites. In the upper part is the Sea of Galilee and the area called Galilee in Jesus’ time. The lower part is where Jerusalem, tribe of Judah, the tribe of Benjamin were at the time of the gospel reading. Jerusalem is towards the south; and further down is Hebron. Jerusalem is in the middle of Judea. Samaria is about 30 miles above Judea. From Samaria, it is about 50 to 70 miles north to Galilee.

Several times in the Bible, Jesus traveled from Jerusalem to Galilee and from Galilee to Jerusalem. As in the case of the gospel today, to do this, one has to pass through Samaria. As Samaria is on the coast, one has to pass way around Samaria without passing in its territory.

In the gospel, from verse 15 – 26, it says, “The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.’ He said to her, ‘Go, call your husband and come here.’ The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesu said to her, ‘You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly’ The woman said to Him, ‘I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshiper will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us. Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’”

What is the big deal being a Samaritan? What does it mean to be a Samaritan? Who was this Samaritan woman? There was tremendous animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans.

After Israel had entered the Promised Land, for almost 500 years, they were being led by judges, then by kings. There was King Saul. Then King David and King Solomon who were from the tribe of Judah. King Solomon made a lot of mistakes. He sinned and in his old age turned his back on God. His people did not follow God and were serving idols. Because if this, God took away the kingdom out of his hands. Some tribes were left for the sake of God’s promise to King David. There became a split between the northern part and the southern part of Israel. The southern part was Judah and Benjamin, and the capital was Jerusalem. The northern part was all the other tribes, and their capital was Samaria

Israel, with a capital of Samaria, never really had a good king. All their kings led them to more idolatry; some of the priests became corrupt. They led the people further and further away from God. 2 Kings 17 says that those from Israel, from Samaria, copied other nations who practiced child sacrifice and other horrible things. Finally, after around 200 hundred years of a divided kingdom, God sent the northern part, Israel, them into exile as they rejected every instruction from Him and every prophet he sent them.

The Lord sent the Assyrians to conquer them. The Assyrians were a very cruel and evil people. Unfortunately, they were also a powerful people that once they had conquered a land, they would take the most important inhabitants – anybody with talent, influence, with social prestige – to deport them somewhere else. The Assyrians deported the Jews, the Israelites far, far away up to the northeast, way beyond the Euphrates River to the north, away from the Mediterranean Sea towards the east. It was basically toward the land of Babylon and further. They were 500 to 700 miles away from their own homeland.

The Assyrians did not want Samaria empty, so they imported people from other lands into the land of Samaria. They didn’t want to call it Israel anymore; they called the entire land Samaria. Once those other people got into Samaria, things didn’t get any better. Lions began to take the land and to kill the citizens. This is because these imports did not know the God of the land. The Assyrian king sent a Levitical priest who had been exiled back to Bethel to teach the people how it is to worship Jehovah, as people from the land of Israel, but he was ineffective.

There were those who claimed that they were Israelites, those who were left behind by the Assyrians, and they began to intermingle with those newly imported people from other lands and other religions. They became a strange cross-breed of failed Jews who did not follow God and being cut-off from God and imported pagans who never really understood Jehovah in the first place. By the time Jesus came this had been going on for about 700 years.

A cult developed from this cross-breed. The Samaritans felt they were better than the Jews. The time came when the Jews returned from Babylon and started to rebuild the temple, but the Samaritans strongly opposed the return of the Jewish exiles. They approached the king of the Medes and told him to not let them rebuild the temple. This was one of the reason the Jews hated them.

What exactly did the Samaritans believe? They were in the land between Judea and Galilee, the original land allotted to the tribe of Ephraim, one of the sons of Joseph. They considered Jacob as their father and called him, “our father, Jacob”. In this territory, there was a mountain called Mount Gerizim. In Deuteronomy 11 and in Deuteronomy 27, Moses said, “On the day when you go into the land of Canaan, when you cross over the Jordan and occupy the land, after you have destroyed of all the inhabitants and driven them out, I want you to have a ceremony and six of the twelve tribes of Israel will stand on Mount Gerizim, and here, I want you to proclaim all the blessings that are in My covenant. The other six stand on Mount Ebal and you proclaim the curses.

One of the things that the Samaritans thought was that Moses intended Mount Gerizim to be the center of Israel and build the temple on this mountain. This is why the Samaritan woman said, “We, Samaritans, worship on this mountain.” The Samaritans also only believed in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They didn’t believe any prophet or any historical book. They looked to the Ephraimites as pretty good people, an example being Joshua. As they only believed in the Pentateuch, they did not like David at all. For one thing, David was from Judah, not Ephraim, and he built the temple on Mt. Zion. The Samaritans saw that this was very wrong. From their standpoint, they looked at what Judah had done as being a big mistake saying, “We are purer than the Jews; we are better than the Jews. We are more righteous than the Jews, and we have it all figured out. These five books have told us what we need to know like we should worship at Mount Gerizim and even told us that there is a Messiah,” which Moses predicted in Deuteronomy 18. They considered themselves as the true religion and as religious. To put it in modern language, the Samaritans were probably the original cult. To be a Samaritan is considered a part of a cult. There was such antagonism between the Jews and the Samaritans.

When the disciples returned from their errand seeing Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman, they were shocked to see Him talking to a cultish woman. It is a lot like in Luke 7:37-39 where Jesus went to a house of a Pharisee named Simon. There was a woman, Mary Magdalene, who went to this house and was wetting Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping His feet with the hair of her head, and kissing and anointing His feet with perfume. The Pharisee said, “This man is not much of a prophet if He does not know what kind of a woman this is.” Jesus had cast seven spirits out of Mary Magdalene. No wonder she was grateful. All that the Pharisee saw was that she was a sinner.

This might have been the same thought going through the mind of the disciples when they saw Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman, “Does Jesus not know that she was from Samaria? She is a Samaritan! She is from a cult! Everyone knows that God doesn’t love cults and God doesn’t like people in cults! How impossible!”

In 1 Timothy 5:24, “The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.” We have known people in our lives, in our experiences, in history at the time of their death thought, “This person is so great. This person is wonderful. One of the best!” A few days, weeks, or years after they passed away, all sort of things were being revealed about them. There are some people whose sins are quite evident. This woman of Samaria was of this form. One can’t hide when one has five husbands, and it is obvious why. So not only did the disciples see a Samaritan but also a sinner. Did Jesus know? Yes! The woman thought she could hide it from Jesus. There is nothing that Jesus doesn’t know. John 2:24, 35, “Jesus…knew all men, and he did not need anyone to testify concerning man. For He knew what was in man.” Jesus knew exactly the sin of the woman and the depth of it. There was nothing hidden from Him. He knew she was a Samaritan, a sinner. But in Romans 5:6, it says, “God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus knew the woman was a sinner and while she was still a sinner, Christ died for her. Jesus knows we are sinners, and yet, Jesus died for us. This is how God strongly demonstrated His love.

Jesus knew all about what the Samaritan did and who she was, and yet, He still shared the good news with her. Jesus said, “If you knew who it was you were talking to, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” It was a backward way of asking, “Would you like living water?” Jesus was giving her an invitation. He invited her to partake of the living water in the midst of her sin, in the midst of her weird belief. Jesus still loved her and invited her to come to the Lord.

Jesus also knew what is shown to us in Hebrews 2:11, “For both He Who sanctifies (Jesus) and those who are sanctified (all of us) are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Jesus wasn’t ashamed to call the woman at the well “brethren”. Jesus isn’t ashamed to call anybody “brethren” because we go back not just from to Joseph, our father, not just from Jacob, our father, not just from Abraham, our father, but Jesus says all the way back to our Father who art in heaven. We all have that Father, and because we are of the same Father, we are brethren!

One can’t say, “You baptize in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but we baptize in the Name of Christ Jesus, so we are not brethren. You are so mixed up! You are a cult!” We say say, “You are from Marimar 1 and I am from Marimar 2, so we are not brethren!” God’s heart grieves because we are all from one Father.

Whatever doctrine we have, nobody has got it figured one hundred percent. Everybody is off some way or another because God is way above us. His thinking is way above us; His mind is way above us. No one is going to comprehend God perfectly so quit blaming other people who are not one hundred percent right. Anyone wherever they are on the scale, anyone wherever they are in life, forget the scale. There is one standard: our Father! We all go back to the Lord.

In Psalm 95:9, God was speaking to the people and said, “Remember back in Massah, when your fathers tested Me?” Do we realize that those Israelites under Moses were Jesus’ fathers too, in the flesh? Those who sinned, those who tested God, those who disbelieved God, those were Jesus’ fathers, too, in the flesh. And yet, He died for them. Jesus says, “Go back to the one Father in heaven!”

Hebrews 2:11 says, “He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” How dare we be ashamed to call anyone else brethren if Jesus isn’t! This is what is confrontational. There isn’t anybody in this House, in this community, in Paranaque, in the Philippines, in the world, that we should be ashamed of. We are all from one Father.

This is what we need to understand. Do we agree with everything? Probably never will, but still we need not be ashamed of them. If Jesus isn’t ashamed of them, what right do we have to be ashamed? Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior looked at this cult member, whose love-life was a mess, whose morality was an issue, and even though she was a highly religious, she was still an immoral person. Jesus looked at her right in the eye and looked right in her heart and said, “I’ve got living water for you.” Was Jesus ashamed of her? No, Jesus invited her to join Him in the Kingdom.

There was a revival that went on after this incident. The woman told everyone in the town what happened to her. This is why the theme is “Faithfully Sharing”. Even if the person we are talking to has questionable morals, questionable morality, beyond this, Jesus is not ashamed of any one of them. This takes away all our excuses not to faithfully share the love of God, the power of God. Ezekiel’s vision is, “The living water flows from the altar of God and floods the sanctuary and goes out in floods to communities.” God definitely wants to flood the world with the living water.

Jesus is not ashamed of us, of anyone, and neither should we be!

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