Temptation to Triumph #3 in the Series
“Another day, another jar, another judgment.” That’s what I heard one of my female colleagues say years ago about the church she was serving. She was the first female pastor that community had ever experienced. She said that serving that congregation gave her a better understanding of how the woman at well must have felt. “Another day, another jar, another judgment.”
Just like the woman at the well experienced Transformation through a conversation with Jesus, my friend went on to become one of that church’s favorite pastors. And it was because of all the conversations she had with and about Jesus. But mainly it was because the water she offered was from the same deep well Jesus used to Transform the woman at the well.
Transformation through Christ, the water of life, that’s what we’re looking at today because the water from His well does change lives.
SCRIPTURE Because the passage is so long, I’ve taken some liberties in compressing the passage so we can get at the heart of the story. John 4:1-42 (NRSV) abridged.
 As Jesus travelled from Judea to Galilee, He had to go through Samaria.
 He came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near Jacob’s well. The disciples went to the city to buy food. Jesus, tired out by his journey, sat by the well. It was about noon.
 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jewish Rabbi, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria? Jews don’t share things in common with Samaritans.
 Jesus answered her, “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. Everyone who drinks from Jacob’s well will be thirsty again,
 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”
 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, you ‘have no husband’;
 for you’ve had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”
 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. I know that Messiah is coming”
 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,
 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He can’t be the Messiah, can he?”
 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”
 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.
 And many more believed because of his word.
There’s the gist of the story, two people met at a well. Both came thirsty and both left quenched.
I. THE THIRST:
A. Let’s talk about what it means to thirst. A little small boy was sent to bed by his father. Five minutes later Dad heard … “Da-ad? … “
Dad hollered back, “Wh-at?”
“I’m thirsty, Dad, can you bring a drink of water?”
Dad said, “No. You had your chance. Lights out.”
Five minutes later he heard … “Da-aaaad?”
Dad was trying to read and wasn’t too pleased, and said, “WHAT?”
“Dad, I’m really thirsty. Can I have a drink of water?”
Dad was adamant, “I already told you NO! If you ask again, I’ll have to spank you!! No go to sleep.”
Five minutes later Dad heard, “Daaaaa-aaaad … ?”
“WHAT?” he hollered.
“When you come in to spank me, can you bring me a drink of water?”
We all thirst for something. We long to experience happiness and joy. We long for success. We desperately search for meaning and significance. We long to feel loved.
B. A few years ago the soft drink Sprite ran a marketing campaign with a rather intriguing slogan which could have come right out of the Garden of Eden. The slogan could have been the words the serpent spoke to Eve. Do you remember the one I’m talking about? They’ve used it off and on since about 1997.
“Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. OBEY YOUR THIRST!”
Obeying our thirsts is what gets us into deep trouble. Obeying our thirsts puts OUR thirsts before God’s will. Obeying our thirsts is what caused the great chasm between us and God that only Jesus can bridge. Obeying HER thirst is what led the woman at the well to be in the circumstances she was in.
So, what caused her thirst? What was she looking for? We really don’t know her background. We don’t know her motivation or her desires. All we know is that she was avoiding the other women of the village by coming to the well at noon when she did. Most women would walk to the well in the cool of the morning, not in the heat of midday.
Maybe she came then to avoid, “Another day, another jar, another judgment.” On that day, what she found was exactly what she was looking for even though she wasn’t really looking.
II. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE:
A. Recently I’ve read a couple of articles about how dogs help relieve human stress. One article talked about how therapy dogs are used in nursing homes. The other, titled “Exams Got You Stressed? Rover to the Rescue,” reported how these dogs are used on college campuses to help relieve stress before exams.
Apparently Monty, a border terrier mix, is actually part of Yale Law School’s Lillian Goldman Law Library catalog system. Julian Aiken, head of library access services and Monty’s owner said, Monty is available for checkout during times such as final exams and bar finals. When Monty is coming to campus, an e-mail goes out to students telling them the dates and times. Students can sign up either individually or in small groups for blocks of 20 to 30 minutes to interact with Monty in Aiken’s office.
There is a growing body of scientific literature pointing to the medicinal benefits of pets.
Karen Allen, a research scientist at The State University of New York at Buffalo, says, “When it comes to times of stress, the most reassuring companion you can have is your dog. A study has found that people who were under stress showed the least amount of tension when accompanied by their dog.”
She went on to say, “I think dogs are non-judgmental, and they love us and they do it without any conditions.”
There’s something very Biblical about that study. Non-judgmental love, not only reduces tension but it also gives life; it gives hope; it gives assurance to everyone who will accept it. This type of non-judgmental, all embracing love in Greek is called agape. And it was this agape, this unconditional love which Jesus offered and then poured out on the woman at the well. That water flooded her soul and she was transformed.
The Woman At The Well, a Modern Interpretation
I wasn’t always like this. Our house was the shell of a home. As soon as I figured that out, I was a ghost. When you’re young and on the street, you figure out how to take care of yourself, fast. You don’t have a choice. Before I knew it, I was a slave to my life. Trapped. Searching. Looking in all the wrong places.
I met this guy, I thought he would fill my emptiness, but I was wrong. Then I found another lover, and then another, and another, and still one more. And as of yesterday, still another hopeless grasp at love.
(Sitting beside a lake) I come here to escape the looks from others who think they have it all together. I come here to the water. Maybe it’s been symbolic all along and I never saw it, a thirsty soul coming to the waters edge. Either way, it led me to Him.
Yesterday was like all the others, a blur of bitterness; a downpour of disappointments. At first, I was sure I was the brunt of another joke. He knew everything about me. But how? He Pierced my soul. The way he spoke to me, I felt strange, dignified. He knew me; really knew me, my hopes, my hurts, he offered me something real.
Before I knew it I was running. I’m used to running. I’ve always run away from things; my past, my pain. But this time? I was running to something. I ran to a new hope; to real love. I ran back to the city that chased me away. They knew something happened. They went to see Him for themselves. He’s here now, in the city. And I feel alive. I wasn’t always like this.
“I feel alive. I wasn’t always like this.” She found exactly what she wanted, exactly what she needed; exactly WHO she needed. She was Transformed. She drank deep from the waters of that well.
III. THE SPIGOT:
A. Sometimes we can be the bucket that shares the water from that well, the water of life with others. The best way to explain is through a story. Dana Reinhardt, author of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life and Harmless, tells this story.
She writes: “His name is Robert Downey Jr. and his past is full of skeletons. You’ve probably heard of him. You may or may not be a fan, but I am, and I was in the early 90’s when this story takes place.”
It was a garden party for the ACLU of Southern California. Dana’s stepmother was the executive director, and Dana was escorting her grandmother, who was in her eighties, still very beautiful, vain as the day is long, and whip smart, though her particular sort of intelligence didn’t encompass recognizing young celebrities.
Dana pointed out Robert Downey Jr. to her when he arrived, in a gorgeous cream-colored linen suit, with Sarah Jessica Parker on his arm. Her grandmother shrugged, far more interested in piling her paper plate with various unidentifiable cheeses cut into cubes. He wasn’t Carey Grant or Gregory Peck, so what did she care?
The afternoon’s main honoree was Ron Kovic, whose story was immortalized in the Oliver Stone film Born on the Fourth of July. The wheelchair played an unwitting role in what happened next.
Dana and her grandmother made their way to the folding chairs in the garden with their paper plates piled with cheeses. They watched her stepmother give one of her eloquent speeches and a plea for donations. Ron Kovic took the podium, and when it was all over we stood up to leave, and her grandmother tripped.
They’d been sitting in the front row and when she tripped she fell smack into the wheelchair ramp that provided Ron Kovic access to the stage. The sharp edge sliced her shin right open. The volume of blood was staggering. She writes:
“I’d like to be able to tell you that I raced into action; that I quickly took control of the situation, tending to my grandmother and calling for the ambulance that was so obviously needed, but I didn’t. I sat down and put my head between my knees because I thought I was going to faint. Did I mention the blood?”
Luckily, somebody did take control of the situation, and that person was Robert Downey Jr. He ordered someone to call an ambulance. Another to bring a glass of water. Another to fetch a blanket. He took off his gorgeous linen jacket, rolled up his sleeves and grabbed hold of her grandmother’s leg. Then he took that jacket that and tied it around her wound. They watched the cream colored linen turn scarlet with her blood.
He told her grandmother not to worry. He told her it would be alright. He knew, instinctively, how to speak to her, how to distract her, how to play to her vanity. He held onto her calf and he whistled. He told her how stunning her legs were.
Her grandmother, to Ms. Reinhardt’s humiliation said: “My granddaughter tells me you’re a famous actor but I’ve never heard of you.”
He stayed with her until the ambulance came and then he walked alongside the stretcher holding her hand and telling her she was breaking his heart by leaving the party so early, just as they were getting to know each other. He waved to her as they closed the doors. “Don’t forget to call me, Silvia,” he said. “We’ll do lunch.” He’s a movie star, after all.
Believe it or not, Ms. Reinhardt hurried into the ambulance without saying a word. She was too embarrassed and too shy to thank Robert Downy Jr. for his aid.
We all have things we wish we’d said. Moments we’d like to return to and do differently. Rarely do we get that chance to make up for those times that words failed us. But she did. Robert Downey Jr. had been in prison for Obeying His Thirst, thru drugs. Fifteen years after that garden party, ten years after her grandmother had died and five years after he’d been released from prison, Ms Reinhardt saw Robert Downey Jr. in a restaurant.
She grew up in Los Angeles where celebrity sightings are commonplace and where she was raised to respect people’s privacy and never bother someone while they were out having a meal. But on that day she decided to abandon both the code her own shyness, and approached his table.
She said, “I don’t have any idea if you remember this…” and told him the story. He remembered.
“I just wanted to thank you,” she said. “And I wanted to tell you that it was simply the kindest act I’ve ever witnessed.”
Robert Downey Jr. stood up and took both of her hands in his, looked into her eyes and said, “You have absolutely no idea how much I needed to hear that today.”(1)
Sometimes all we have to do is offer a sip of the water of life which we’ve tasted and we can see the Transforming power of Jesus begin to take hold and Transform someone else’s life. You see, anything can happen at a well.
The world wants to beat us down by inviting us to Obey Our Thirsts. The problem is, the minute we give into our thirsts, the world’s work is done because then we start beating ourselves down for making the wrong choice. When we allow ourselves to be beat down; when we beat ourselves down, it erodes our sense of being and self-worth. We begin to see ourselves as trash whom nobody could love. But we’re wrong.
Let me show you what I mean. What I have here is $20 bill. Is there anyone here today who would refuse this $20 bill if I offered it to you? First let me do this. (Crumple the bill.)
Does anybody still want it?
What if I do this? (Drop the bill, stomp on it and grind it into the carpet with your shoe.)
Pick it up, all wrinkled and dirty. Now do you still want it?
What if I poured Kechup on it? Would you still take it?
No matter what I do to the money, you still want it. It might not be pretty but it’s still worth $20. Nothing I did devalued it. I can tear it in half. I can tear it into ten pieces and as long as I have all 10 pieces, I can go to the bank and trade it for one that’s not torn.
Here’s the point, there are so many times in our lives, when we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. There are times when we are torn not just in two but in so many pieces they’re uncountable. And there are times when we are so covered in the stuff of the world that we’re barely recognizable.
And because of that we begin to feel worthless. Maybe it’s not what we feel, maybe it’s just “one more day, one more jar, one more judgment,” that has caused us to feel this way.
But the Good news is that no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. Dirty or clean, crumpled, creased, cracked or crushed you’re priceless to God.
Wells are always more than what they seem; anything can happen at a well.
If all this talk about water and wells and thirst has made you thirsty, there is one this morning who offers to quench that thirst. There is one who will fill the emptiness and tear down the walls and re-awaken love in your heart. He meets us at the wells of our lives and asks us for a drink but in asking He offers so much more.
Are you thirsty? Come and drink deeply of the waters that will never run dry for you are priceless in God’s eye. “Another day, another jar, another judgment?” Not with Jesus. Come and experience the unconditional love of God in Christ. Drink deep and be transformed.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Brett and Penny Kays Brownstown, Michigan. (God’s love, Human worth) John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:32 Leadership Vol.21, #4