The Samaritan: Seeking Satisfaction Through PeopleRev. Philip Miller | March 12, 2023
Selected highlights from this sermon
The Samaritan woman encounters Jesus at a well in John 4. Pastor Miller shows us a pivotal moment in their conversation, revealing the clues to her identity trap. She’s desperate, looking in all the wrong places for love. And we’ll learn that the Man with whom she is talking is the only One who can satisfy her thirst, because Jesus Himself is the deeply satisfying Living Water.
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Well, we’re in this series called Identity Traps. We’re looking at nine ways we lose ourselves and how Jesus makes us whole. And we’ve been working our way through these nine identity traps, nine ways that our orphan-hearted souls sort of cope their way through life apart from God. Because underneath all of our identity strategies, the ones that we live into in life, there are three deep identity needs that undergird all of it, needs for significance, security, and satisfaction. And even though God made us to find those needs met in relationship with Him as our Father, and we as His beloved children, we wake up in the universe estranged from God because of our sin, and our orphan hearts tend to look everywhere else for those deep identity needs to be met.
And we’ve seen how our search for significance can lead us into the trap of looking for significance in people and power and possessions instead of the ultimate significance that comes from knowing that we are children of God, the sons and daughters of the King. We’ve seen how our longing for security often leads us into the trap of looking to people, power, or possessions for that security, instead of the ultimate security that is found in knowing that we are secure in the love of our Father forever.
And today we turn the corner to our desire for satisfaction, and how that so often can lead us to look to people, power, or possessions instead of the unending joy, soul-satisfying delight and goodness that can be found in the presence of our God. So today we’re going to look at the pivotal conversation that Jesus had with a Samaritan woman at the well that’s recorded for us in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John. This is a conversation that I find extraordinarily helpful in helping to sort of parse through the identity trap of looking for satisfaction through people. Satisfaction through people! That’s the Samaritan woman’s identity trap.
Now we looked at this passage just about two-and-a-half years ago during our series, “Loved by Jesus” in a message called “The Satisfier.” We were working our way through the Gospel of John. Some of you were there with us for that, and at that time we went through the whole passage, looking at all the historical background and all of the context, and there’s a whole lot going on here that we don’t have time to really dig into this morning. We’re going to narrow our focus this morning and really laser in on this woman’s identity trap and how Jesus frees her to find true satisfaction in God. So that’s our focus for this morning.
Would you grab your Bibles? We’re going to be in John, chapter 4. We’re going to hop around a little bit. We’re going to look at verses 5 through 19, and 25 down to 42. You’ll find today’s reading on pages 888 and 889. And before we jump in, would you bow your head? Let’s pray together and ask the Lord to be our teacher this morning.
Let’s bow our heads.
Father, as we turn to this very real human interaction that shows us the heart of Jesus and the heart that we have as well deep down, Father, I pray that you would teach us where true satisfaction lies. Help us to look to you above all else for the delight and satisfaction of our souls. Nourish us we pray this morning, the Fountain of Living Water, we come to you in Jesus’ name, Amen. Amen.
So John, chapter 4, verse 5. Let’s just start here: “So He (This is Jesus) came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.” (It was about noon.)
Verse 7: “A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink (for His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food).’
“The Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me a woman of Samaria (for Jews have no dealings with the 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.’
“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, 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 this well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’
“Jesus said to her, ‘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.’
“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘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.’
“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.’”
Now just pause for a moment. The conversation goes off on a bit of a theological sidebar, which is valuable, but nonessential for our purposes this morning.
Let’s pick it back up in verse 25. “The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When He comes he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I, who speak to you, am he.’
“Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or, ‘Why are you talking with her?’ So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ They went out of the town and were coming to him.”
And again Jesus has a little conversation on the side with his disciples we’re going to skip. Go down to verse 39.
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony. ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ 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. Then they 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 Savior of the world.’”
Thanks be to the Lord for the reading of His Word.
Now, when it comes to this Samaritan woman I’d like to show you this morning her trap, her thirst, and her transformation. Okay?
That’s our road map for this morning: her trap, her thirst, and her transformation.
First of all, her trap! We have to ask the question, what is this Samaritan woman’s identity trap? What is it? And there are little clues scattered throughout this passage that we can identify. The first one, the first clue is that she’s drawing the water at the wrong time of day. Verse 6 tells us that she’s drawing water at the sixth hour, which is high noon. It’s broad daylight. This is a desert country, so she’s in the hottest part of the day as she makes this journey to draw water. This is the wrong time. The women would typically come in a group out of the village out to the well, and in the cool of the morning do their drawing of water, help each other out, converse about the day, share the news of what’s going on and go back together. But this woman is all alone and she’s here in the heat of the day when no one else would dare go out to get water. Something odd is going on here. So we just put a pin in that. That’s clue number one.
The second clue is that Jesus’ conversation with this woman centers around satisfaction, doesn’t it? It centers around satisfaction. Jesus is offering her “living water.” Living water! And the conversation shifts from drinking water from the well to spiritual nourishment of her soul. It kind of shifts halfway along (Doesn’t it?) because Jesus is offering this woman access to the living waters of God’s presence, the deep satisfaction of her longings, her spiritual thirst deep down.
The Old Testament writers would often depict the presence of God with the imagery of water, abundant waters. For example, in Psalm 63:1 this is what we read, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
So for people who lived in the desert (Right?) water is life. If you don’t have water, you’re dead. Okay? No water, no life! And so this imagery was rich for the people of God who lived in these desert lands. For the soul, God’s presence is life, like water. No God, no life, no spiritual life. Just as our bodies thirst for water, our souls thirst for the living God. And it is this living water, this imagery of this water, the presence of God, that Jesus is offering to this woman. So that’s the second clue.
Now the third clue comes near the end. When Jesus makes what looks like a really abrupt shift in the conversation, and He says, “I need you to,...” she asks for the water and He says, “Go call your husband.” Right? It’s an odd move. It’s an odd moment. Right? But He’s not actually changing the subject.It comes out that she’s not married. She’s had five husbands, and the man she’s with is not her husband. So here she is. She has a string of broken hearts and broken vows. Right? She can’t seem to hold a relationship down, and we can feel for her. This must be a very sad existence, but all of a sudden you start to see where all these dots are connecting.
So here this woman has been looking for love in all the wrong places. Everyone has let her down, and she’s been labeled by the community. All the women have, in a sense, disdained her. That’s why she can’t go with them to the well. She’s been labeled a homewrecker, or something like this, and so she has to go draw water at noon by herself. And now Jesus comes along and He is offering her the soul-satisfying living waters that only God can provide, and it starts to connect. You see this.
The words of the Prophet Jeremiah ring true for this woman. This is what Jeremiah writes in Jeremiah 2:13: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that hold no water.”
God is saying in this passage, “Look, instead of relying on me as the fountain of living waters, you’ve gone off and you’ve tried to get your own water supply. You’ve hewn out your own broken cisterns.” These were like rain water catch-basins that that they would try to hold their own water in, and they would leak and they would fissure, and they would drain out, and they would be muddy and dry. And God is saying, “Look, here I am. I’m the God your souls were made for, and I am inviting you to come to me to drink deeply, to be nourished and satisfied and live! I’m the one your souls are made for and yet you’re out there trying to get your own water, trying to collect your own measly scraps of water, drops of water, anywhere else but myself. You’re trying to satisfy your thirsty souls with these broken cisterns that can never satisfy.” And this is a picture, of course, of where this woman is at, isn’t it?
The Samaritan woman is seeking satisfaction through people. This is her identity trap. She’s looking for satisfaction through people, all these matches, all these men, all these marriages. None of it has been enough. She still hasn’t found what she’s looking for. And so, you see, she’s living like an orphan, isn’t she? She’s trying to get her own water. She’s trying to live off these broken cisterns, and she’s neglecting the one she was made for. The fountain of living water is God Himself. But she’s still hopeful, isn’t she? She’s on “guy number six.” Maybe he’s the one, you know? In our romance-saturated world we get that, don’t we? Don’t we? So that’s her trap, looking for satisfaction through people.
Secondly, let’s look at her thirst, her thirst. I love how Jesus is always pursuing the people that everyone else has written off. Don’t you love that about Jesus? Even though she’s been shunned by the town’s women, and has to fetch the water alone; even though she’s a Samaritan the Jews had nothing to do with; even though she’s a woman that most men would never strike up a conversation with, Jesus breaks through all these social barriers because He sees her, and He knows her, and He loves her. He sees to the very heart of her. He sees the child deep inside that all the hardship of this cruel world could never erase, and in love He asks her for a drink. Don’t you love this? He comes for her. And she is startled and says, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” Flabbergasted!
Verse 10: “Jesus answers 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.’”
(Laughs) “You think it’s odd that I’m asking you for a drink? (laughs) What’s odd is that you’re not asking me for a drink. That’s what’s odd here because I’ve got a gift, a gift of God, and I can give you living water.”
Verse 11: “The woman said to him, ‘Sir, 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 this well and drank from it himself, him and his sons and his livestock.’”
“How can you offer me water like this? You don’t even have a bucket, Jesus. How are you going to get water?”
Verse 13: “Jesus said to her, ‘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.’”
Jesus says, “Look, I’m not talking about the water at the bottom of this well. You drink that water, you’re going to be thirsty again. I’m talking about an endless supply of living, bubbling water, an Artesian well on the inside of your soul that will satisfy you forever, that will well up to eternal life, and it will never stop.”
It's the kind of water that Isaiah prophesied about in Isaiah 55, verses one and three, when he wrote: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters...Incline your ear, and come to me, hear, that your soul may live.”
This is the kind of water that David sang about when he wrote, “As the deer pants for the flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42, verses 1 and 2).
And so the woman says to Jesus (verse 15), “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water again.”
So even though she’s not fully tracking with Jesus yet, something has awakened, some longing, some yearning. Jesus is offering her something and she wants it, “Sir, give me this water.” And then Jesus makes this famous move: “‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband” for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.’”
See, at this moment, Jesus shows His hand, doesn’t He? This is no ordinary traveler. This is no haphazard conversation. And in this moment this woman realizes this man knows her. She’s known a lot of men, but no man has known her like this. He knows her all the way down to the very depths of her soul, to the place of her deepest longings. He says, “If you want this living water, this gift of God, this satisfaction your soul is longing for, then I need you to do something. I need you to turn aside from the broken cisterns you’ve hewn out for yourself. Go call your husband.” Do you see the connection?
Remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah? “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Jeremiah says the same thing down in chapter 17, verse 13: “They have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.”
When Jesus tells her to call her husband, He’s identifying her broken cistern, isn’t He? She’s been looking for satisfaction in all these matches, in all these men, and all these marriages. This is the broken cistern that her thirsty soul keeps going back to, but it’s leaking and dry, and it keeps letting her down. None of these relationships have been enough.
The Samaritan woman we find here is dissatisfied and dismissed, isn’t she? Dissatisfied and dismissed! This string of broken relationships has, no doubt, left her feeling profoundly dissatisfied, her aching heart, longing to wonder if there is even a hope of real love out there anywhere. And she’s been dismissed time and time again, discarded, devalued, and desperately left behind. Everyone has let her down. That’s all she knows, and yet she thirsts.
Her trap, her thirst, and now her transformation.
Her transformation, verse 19: The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”
(Laughs) This last comment about her husband is so personal. It’s so perceptive, it must be prophetic. That’s her conclusion. “I perceive you are a prophet.” Right? And then she goes off on this theological tangent. She asks Him the hardest theological question she knows about the fundamental disputes about worship between the Jewish people and the Samaritan people, and Jesus is so brilliant. He answers it real quickly and He brings it right back around to her. So efficient!
Verse 25: “The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called the Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’”
“Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’”
So in this moment Jesus gets super real with her. He’s like, “Look, I know the real you, all the way down, good, bad, and ugly, and now I’m going to show you the real me. I’m going to show you who I am, the one you’ve been longing for, the one the prophets have written about, the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one of God, the one who will tell you everything you ever needed to know. I who speak to you am He. I’m right here. The Satisfier your soul is longing for is standing right here in front of you.”
And just then (verse 27) the disciples come back. Oh man, they interrupt in the worst parts, don’t they? They marveled that He was talking with this woman, but no one said to Him, “What do you seek?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
Verse 28: “So the woman left her water jar (This is not an incidental detail. John wants you to perceive in this abandoned water jar that she has found a better living water. Do you see that? She came looking for one kind of water. She left with another kind of water. “She went away into the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man.’” How many times have they heard her say that. “Come see a man...Come see...” She’s always saying, “Come see a man,” but this time it’s different. “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”
So they went out of the town and were coming to Him.
Skip down to verse 39: “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did,’ 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. They 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 Savior of the world.’”
And so a revival breaks out in Samaria, and these people that everyone had abandoned, but not Jesus, discover that Jesus is Messiah. He is the Christ, and He is the Savior, not just of Israel but the Savior of the world, all on the testimony of this woman that Jesus met at a well, who left her water jar behind because she had found a better living water for her soul. And the Samaritan woman, you see, is learning to look to Jesus for the lasting satisfaction her soul longs for. The Samaritan woman was learning to look to Jesus for the lasting satisfaction her soul longs for.
I think this is so beautiful, that Jesus so loved this woman that He met her at the well in the heat of the day when she was shunned by everybody else. And He so gently unearths her soul’s broken cisterns in order to offer to her Himself as the deeply satisfying living waters that her soul is so desperate for. What she could never find in all the matches, and all the men, and all the marriages, she would now find in Messiah, her Christ, her Jesus. Because friends, God alone can truly satisfy. Amen? God alone can truly satisfy.
As the psalmist writes in Psalm 16:11, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Psalm 107:9: “He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”
Psalm 22:26: “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied. Those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever.”
Which is why Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, when He walks on Planet Earth, declares in John 6:35: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
Or John 7:37: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures have said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
Friends, the satisfaction our souls long for is found in the presence of God alone. That’s why Jesus is calling us, calling this woman, calling every single one of us to turn aside from the broken cisterns we build for ourselves. Our orphan hearts build cisterns to try to collect our own rain, to satisfy our own thirst. They’re broken and they leak, and they’re dry, and they never work. And Jesus is inviting us instead to come to Him like little children, drinking deeply of the soul-nourishing, life-giving fountain of our Father’s presence, which is available to us in Him.
How did this happen? Friends, do you realize that on the cross Jesus cried out, “I thirst” in order that we might never thirst again. He came for us in all of our shame, in all of our estrangement when no one would give us the time of day, when we were desperate and looking in all the wrong place for love and satisfaction. While we were yet enemies Christ died for us. He took our place. He died in our place and for our sake and offered His life for us. He hung thirsty on the cross so that you and I might never thirst again.
As St. Augustine writes in his famous book, The Confessions, “Thou has made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
This is a profound insight. Our restless desires, friends, are like homing beacons pointing us to the One we were made for.
Pascal, Blaise Pascal in his Pensées writes, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him…though none can help, since this infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object. In other words, by God himself.”
What Augustine and Pascal are telling us is that our souls were made for God. There is a God-shaped void in the heart of every human being. Our souls were made for Him, and apart from God there is no lasting satisfaction. He is the desire and longing of our heart. The problem is not with our deep desire for satisfaction. That is God-ordained. We are just trying to satisfy it in all the wrong ways.
As C.S. Lewis writes in a famous talk called, “The Weight of Glory.” This is what he says, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward held out in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
And so Jesus cries out, not just to this woman, not just in Jerusalem in the first century, but all the way down through the corridors of time. He cries out today,
- “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”
- “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.”
Friends, are you thirsty this morning? Come and drink. Come and drink.
Father, you have made us for yourself, and our orphan-hearted wanderings only leave us dissatisfied and aching. Father, forgive us for looking for love in all the wrong places, for looking for happiness in what can never satisfy. All the things of Earth, all the relationships we cultivate, all the people around us can never give us the deep satisfaction that we were made for. We ache to know you. We ache to come home. We ache to be filled.
Father, we thank you that Jesus came to bring us home to you so that our thirsty souls might taste and see that the Lord is good, so that your Holy Spirit might abide in us, welling up with eternal life from the inside so that we might taste and know your presence all the days of our life.
And Father, we wait for the day of glory when we will be swept up, and we will have unremitted access to the Waters of Life, that we might drink and drink and drink and drink again. And until that day we keep coming back to You.
Fill us, satisfy, nurture us, we pray, with the waters of your presence. We seek you.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
And all God’s people said, “Amen.” Amen.