Sunday 4th March – 9am Worship
Sermon Series: Walking the Way of Jesus
Theme: Jesus – LifeGiver
Bible Readings: John 4:5-30,39-42
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
During this church season of Lent in the lead up to Easter we have been learning what it means to walk in the Way of Jesus. We have been looking at the person and example of Jesus and seeing how that can speak into our lives and how we might follow that example. This series is based around 2 key verses:
John 10:10 – Jesus said that he has come to bring us life – abundant life.
Matthew 7:13-14 – Jesus said that there is a way that leads to death and his way that leads to life … the John 10:10 sort of life. And Jesus encourages to walk in this way.
Today I want to zoom in on this idea of the LIFE that Jesus brings. As you would probably already know, the New Testament was originally written in (Greek) – and in the Greek language there is actually two different words for the word life.
Psyche Life – Everything between your birth and your death. The living, breathing, physicality of your being. It also includes the things that make you you—your personality, your job, your successes and achievements and your hopes & dreams. All of this is your Psyche Life.
Zoe Life – A deeper, richer sense of life. Some people describe it as profound, fulfilling, spiritual, something both deep within us and beyond us. Zoe life is indestructible, a kind of life which has no end—eternal. It is a life which is not effected by the ups and downs but instead makes us feel full and fulfilled. It is the life that Jesus came to bring us.
So for example, Jesus in the bible reading we had two weeks ago from Matthew 20:28 said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his LIFE as a ransom for many.” Which Greek word for LIFE do you think is used here? Jesus is talking about giving his Psyche LIFE.
But if we go back to the two verses from before.
John 10:10 – Jesus said that he has come to bring us LIFE – abundant LIFE.
Matthew 7:13-14 – Jesus said that there is a way that leads to death and his way that leads to LIFE
What type of life is Jesus talking about here? Zoe Life.
The Bible and Jesus talks a lot about Zoe Life – especially in the gospel of John. At the beginning of the gospel of John in John 1:4 we read that in Jesus, “was Zoe LIFE, and that Zoe LIFE was the light for all people”. And right at the end of John’s gospel in John 20:31 John explains that he wrote these things down so that you might “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life – ZOE LIFE – in his name.”
So let’s explore this idea of Jesus being a life-giver by going to the story that we heard in our bible reading – Jesus conversation with the woman at the well. Let’s just explain some context here.
Here is a map of Israel. Jesus had been down in Jerusalem and was heading back up to Nazareth. There were two main routes … either through the desert near the Jordan River or cutting across Samaria.
So who are these Samaritans? Were they are different nation? No the Samaritan were Jewish. (The word Samaritan means Guardians of the Torah). They were part of Israel – descendants of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, they followed the Jewish laws, they worshipped the same God … but they were treated differently for historical reasons.
In really abbreviated form … in about 600 BCE, when the Northern Kingdom was defeated by the Assyrians, they took on some of the traditions and gods of their captors and also intermarried with their people. In contrast, when the Southern Kingdom was defeated a little later by the Babylonians they made sure that that they kept their culture and marriages “pure”. So after they both returned to the land, the Israelites thought that the Samaritans were now not pure and wanted nothing to do with them … even banning them from the temple. The Samaritans then decided to have their own sacred worship space on Mount Gerizim. This explains why the woman knew so much about the Messiah and also explains the question about where is the correct place to worship.
But the underlying point in all of this is that due to these historical issues and being called “half caste Jewish” … these two groups hated each other. A bit like the Catholics and Protestants in mid last century … they might have been worshipping the same God and believe mainly the same things, but they would have nothing to do with each other.
So this is why the woman was so surprised in John 4:9
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” She is right, on so many different levels, Jesus is pushing the cultural boundaries by talking to her.
But Jesus just brushes past that point and answers in verse 10,
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” And again in verse 14, “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Living water. Life Giving water. (Have a guess at what sort of life Jesus is referring to? Zoe Life). Water has always had a special place in the life of the Christian Church – particularly in baptism. The Baptism water symbolises the new life we find in Jesus. In baptism we celebrate that God can wash away the things of the past that might have soiled our lives and we can receive this Zoe life that Jesus brings.
The prophet Zechariah (who was prophesying about Jesus 400 years before Jesus was born) summed it up like this… “On that day a fountain will be opened … to cleanse people from sin and impurity”. (Zec 13:1)
But the baptismal water symbolises more than just cleansing and new life … it also symbolises a sense of renewing that Jesus brings. That somehow the spiritual dryness in our lives can be met by the living waters that flow from Jesus.
• Psalm 42:1 – As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
• Isaiah 55:1 – Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…
So when Jesus says to the woman at the well that he is the water of life, that he is offering her living water to drink, he is not only offering her a chance to find cleansing and release from her past … but he is saying that her spiritual thirst can be satisfied in him.
Jesus repeats this claim again in the gospel of John … three chapters later in John 7:37-38, Jesus spoke to the gathered crowd… “If anyone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink” but then he adds, “Whoever believes in me, as the scriptures says, “steam of living waters will flow from within them”.
I really like this imagery … and for those who have been doing the Bible study materials attached to these sermons, I have included this imagery in there. This idea of Jesus pouring his living water into us so that streams of living waters may flow out from within us to others.
Let me see if I can use a prop up here to illustrate this point.
Let’s say this water jug is like the spiritual part of our lives. Are you feeling a little spiritually dry at the moment? Well, it is probably because your inner well is empty.
This world can be life-draining. The way that we live life can be life-draining. Do you know what I mean? There will always be things that are life-draining and if we are not careful we find ourselves completely drained and spiritually dry. And that is not the life that Jesus came to bring.
How do we refill our inner well? Well we need to let the life giving water of Jesus flow into us. We need to focus on the things that are life-giving for us.
Just wait … something is not working here!!! we need to take off the lid. It doesn’t work if we are closed. We need to open ourselves up to Jesus, believe that he can and will pour himself into our lives. Take off your lid. [GENEROUSNESS OF GOD]
When you are open … then you need to find the God-given blessings of this world which are life-giving for you. I know some people who are spiritually filled through music – taking some time out and allowing themselves to be consumed by the music. Some people find read a good book to be life-giving.
For me it is worship – especially singing in worship. At evening service when I have less responsibility I just let myself go and I love worshipping deeply … it connects me with God and does refresh my soul. It fills me. For others it might be Prayer; Talking with other Christians; Time in God’s creation; rest; meditation; cycling … What are the things which you have found to be helpful in filling your inner well?
If you are brave … turn to the person next to you and take a 60 seconds to share what works best for you in allowing Jesus to pour his life-giving water into you. [Pause]
But Jesus said in John 7:38 that we are filled not just for our own fulfillment … but so that steam of living waters will flow from within us to others.
What is the water like which is flowing from your inner well at the moment? Is it flowing at all? Is the water fresh and life-giving? Where are you directing the flow of your inner well’s living water?
Are there people whom you need to bless, forgive, refresh, serve? Are there situations or ministries which need what you can offer?
Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” I started this talk by saying that Jesus talked a lot about life – about how Jesus gives real life, abundant life, eternal life, Zoe life.
In a moment we are going to share together in communion – were we remember what Jesus did on the cross and how through Jesus death and resurrection we can find this real, eternal life, zoe life.
In two week’s time we are going to explore this a little more with the challenge from Jesus that if you want to find Zoe Life then you must be prepared to lose your own life … or if you want to experience the fullness of Zoe Life, you need to give up walking your own way and walk in the way of Jesus. But we will get to that in two weeks.
But right now, we are going to worship – sing a couple of worship songs – and I encourage you to hear the words of Jesus and come to the water. Open yourself up to receive into your soul the life-giving water of Jesus … do whatever works for you to best receive this water that is life-giving. Don’t settle for a life that dry or drained. Jesus came to bring your life, and life in all its fullness.
Come to waters, all who are thirsty.
Come drink, live. Amen.