Come, See This Man!
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“Come, see a Man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29).
Oh, perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me first tell you what happened; then you’ll see why you have to meet this Man. It seemed like an ordinary day. Not much was going on in the dusty town of Sychar. Yet something strange happened that noon when I trudged the familiar trail to draw water from the well just outside of town. I didn’t know it yet, but that something (actually, Someone) was about to change my life.
There was a traveler sitting there alone by the well. He looked tired and worn out. At a glance I could tell that He was a Jew. I tried to ignore Him, just wishing He’d move away from the well so I could get my work done. Sweaty Jew. Why couldn’t He pick a different spot to rest? I came here specifically at this time to avoid people. The other women came out as a group to draw water when it was cooler, but they treated me like an outcast, not letting me go along. That was all right by me. If they thought they were too good for me, I sure didn’t want to be around them either.
But then the most amazing thing happened. The traveler asked me for a drink. I was incredulous. A Jewish teacher shouldn’t be speaking with a woman in the first place. And a Jew asking a Samaritan to share the same water jar—why, that was unthinkable! I knew those rules. They’d been engrained in me since I was a small girl. He should surely know them, too. So I asked Him, “How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”
But clearly this Man wasn’t concerned about manmade rules or social customs. He said to me, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
What a puzzling statement! Though I found out later that “the gift of God” is the one and only Son of God, the Savior, I didn’t know what to make of it at the time. So I stuck with the obvious reference to water. “Sir,” I said, “You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock” (John 4:11-12).
He responded quickly, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Well, that certainly got my attention. It sounded too good to be true. You, probably already know that He was talking about the water that gives life, the spiritual life that comes with new birth, the eternal life for everyone who believes. This Man was talking about Himself and His Spirit who are poured out and received by faith. I know that now. At the time, I didn’t really understand what He was saying, but I wanted to know more. “Sir, give me this water so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water,” I begged.
That’s when He blindsided me. “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
Of course, at the present time that was a problem for me. I tried to wiggle out of it by saying, “I have no husband.” But He caught my evasion of the truth. “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
Busted! I hadn’t lied, but I had conveniently omitted a few pertinent facts, including my history of adultery, divorce, and fornication. How could He know about it, though? I suddenly understood I was in the presence of someone who knew a lot more about me than I knew about Him. He even knew my most shameful secret sins! I sensed that He must be a prophet.
And you can about imagine how uncomfortable I felt having a prophet of God discussing my sins with me. It would be like having your pastor coming into your home and asking you to explain an area of your life that you’re the most ashamed of—only worse, because this Man didn’t have to ask. He already knew.
So, I did what most people do in such circumstances—I changed the subject! And what better way to get a Man of God sidetracked than to talk about worship. “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
But this Man wasn’t going to let me off the hook so easily. “Woman, believe Me,” He said, “the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24).
The place does not determine the value or validity of the worship. You can worship the heavenly Father anywhere. However, what or whom you worship means everything. Over the years, we Samaritans had mingled our worship with idols and disregarded most of the Old Testament except for the book of Moses. We didn’t know the real object of true worship.
In contrast, the Jews understood the promised salvation was to come through them—the tribe of Judah. The Savior was to be the Seed of Abraham, the Son of David. The Jews who remained faithful to Scriptures worshiped in truth because they looked forward to the Messiah. The time would come, however, when things would change. God’s promised salvation for the world was being worked out in Jesus Christ. The temple in Jerusalem with its sacrifices foreshadowed the Messiah, but those things would lose their significance in His coming.
True worship is done “in spirit and truth.” It revolves around and is anchored in the truth of God’s revelation. It praises the true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It sorrows over sin and rejoices in the undeserved love that brought about salvation. It trusts in Jesus for forgiveness and life eternal. It proclaims the Scriptures and rejoices in the message. True worship can use forms as we do today, or not, but it doesn’t need specific forms. It needs only “spirit and truth.”
You’re very fortunate to have access to this true worship. Each Sunday you begin your worship in the name into whom you were baptized: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. You confess your sins and by Christ’s command the pastor stands in His place and forgives you of all of your sins in that same name. God’s Word—His Law and Gospel—are preached and taught here in all of their sin condemning and soul saving power. You eat and drink the very body and blood Christ gave up on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. These means of grace equip and enable you “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1) throughout the rest of the week.
That part about worshiping in spirit and truth really got to me. I couldn’t help but think about my earlier unsuccessful attempt to conceal my sinful relationship from this prophet, and I became even more uncomfortable. Although Jesus was kind enough to not call me a liar in so many words that was what I had become, resorting to half-truths and evasions in order to cover up the details of my scandalous life.
I wasn’t exactly wanting to have all my dirty laundry hanging out in public. Certainly this Man treated me with more dignity and less condemnation than my sin deserved, but for the first time in a long time I felt real shame. I tried to change the subject one more time. “I know that Messiah is coming (He is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
Looking back, I guess it goes to show just how much power God’s Word has. Even though we Samaritans only had the five books of Moses for Scriptures, it was enough to teach us something about the Messiah promised by God. There was the Seed of the woman who would crush Satan’s head from Genesis 3. The promise to Abraham of the descendant through whom the world would be blessed in Genesis 18. The prophet to come who would be like Moses, only greater in Deuteronomy 18. It was a rather incomplete picture, but I hoped one day to see the Messiah who would explain everything.
I’m not certain whether this was just a last-ditch effort to gracefully end the conversation with this Man and not have to deal with the whole confusing business, or if I saw some of those messianic qualities in Him and was beginning to believe in or at least wonder about Him. Whichever it was, the reference to the Messiah allowed Him to reveal Himself to me, “I who speak to you am He,” He declared. His witness was simple and direct. I couldn’t miss His meaning. The very Messiah, God Himself who came in the flesh to save the world—to save me—from sin, was talking with me!
Just then, His disciples returned. I could tell they were surprised to find Him talking with me—a Samaritan woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” I got the distinct impression that although such a conversation wasn’t socially acceptable; it wasn’t all that unusual for Him to go the extra mile to reach out to a stranger, or to speak of sin, eternal life, and forgiveness to everyone with whom He came in contact. They called Him “Rabbi,” but I found out His name is Jesus—“the Lord saves,” for He is the Savior of the world.
Such a Man shouldn’t remain unknown! Everyone must have an opportunity to meet Jesus and to hear of His offer of living water and eternal life. So I left immediately, in such a hurry, I even left my water jar behind. And I hollered out, “Come, see a Man who told me all that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
Having experienced Jesus’ forgiving love, I was not about to let my shameful history keep me from sharing this Good News! Let the people talk! I wasn’t the same woman that I had been just a short while earlier as I walked out to the well at noon. Even though it might take a while for everyone in Sychar to treat me differently, I knew that in Jesus’ eyes, I was no longer an outcast! He’d offered me living water that brings forgiveness and spiritual cleansing and wells up into eternal life. And I couldn’t hold that Good News in… even if I had wanted to!
I claim no personal responsibility. It was simply because of God’s grace. But as a result of my testimony many others from town believed in Jesus or at least they were curious enough to check Him out for themselves. Many more came to believe when they met Jesus for themselves. What prompted and reinforced their faith was His Word. Jesus, the Word who was with God from the beginning, gave them the Word of salvation in Him. Their faith advanced beyond the spark kindled by my words. It fanned into a glowing flame, and they could confess, “We have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
That’s my story. Now, what about you? Where do you fit in? Maybe you’ve pictured yourself as one of the disciples, closely connected to Jesus, out running errands for Him. Perhaps a neutral bystander. I would guess most of you haven’t envisioned yourself as me—the despised Samaritan woman. But I would suggest that’s exactly what God is calling you to do today through His Word.
It’s very likely that in the past you’ve made yourself to be one of the companions of Jesus. Maybe in your own mind, you’ve even made many of those who are outside the church to be the “social outcasts” of your day. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Why shouldn’t we? After all, we are God’s chosen people. Insiders. We know the words recorded in 1 Peter apply to us: ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light’” (2:9).
Yet in doing so, an insidious cancer creeps into the body, where you recite the Great Commission, yet seldom reach out to people groups other than your own. You may talk about “love for your neighbor,” but then whisper about the alcoholic or the unemployed during coffee hour. You may cringe to think that those who are homeless, addicted, or homosexual might decide to come to worship here.
The aim of this section from 1 Peter, however, is not to congratulate pious Christians. In the next verse the apostle reminds us each from where God has lifted us up: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (2:10).
It is, indeed, far too easy to see the people out there as the outcasts. Yet because of sin, you were also outcasts. You’ve each listened to Jesus’ words as your tarnished past has been revealed. You’ve all tried to fool Jesus with the bluster of sure words and confident smile, thinking perhaps to receive His nod of approval. But you don’t need to hide your sins. You can’t! Jesus has seen through it all. He meets you where you’re at and invites you in. He loves you, forgives you, and then asks you to share His life-giving water with others.
That’s what I did the day I met Jesus at the well in Sychar. God is able to use you in a similar way. You, too, can tell others what Jesus has done in your life. Tell them of the mercy that God has shown to you, the sinner who walks in a saint’s shoes every day. Tell them your story. But then point them past yourself to the Man who welcomes all people, just as He welcomed you. Invite them to “come, see this Man” Jesus for themselves.
Invite them to come and worship the Father in spirit and truth with you. There is no longer any temple in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerazim for you to go, nor must you. Remember, spiritual worship is faith trusting in the truth, trusting in the promises of God. And among those promises is Christ’s promise that He is with you always, even to the end of the age.
Worship is not you demonstrating your love for God by your sacrifices of work or fervor; worship is the coming of Christ to you, to give you forgiveness, life, and salvation. So by faith, you rejoice: because just as Jesus detoured through Samaria for me at the well in Sychar, He comes here to you in little St. John’s Lutheran Church in Trosky, Minnesota.
I could look at the Man at the well and say, “There is the Christ, and He has come here to forgive my sins and save even me.” You look at your baptism, the Word, and the Supper and say: “There is the Christ, and He has come to forgive my sins and save even me.” The worship of God in spirit and truth is to say, “I know that I am a sinner, and I trust the true promise that Christ has come here to forgive me, a poor, miserable sinner.”
Christ is here, present in His means of grace, just as He promised. When you hear His Word—proclaimed or joined to water or bread and wine, you know that it is Christ saying, “I who speak to you am He.” No less than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is here to speak His saving Word to you. To repentant sinners, He speaks not words of condemnation, but the Word of His Gospel: You are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.