Intro: Last Friday on my flight to Las Vegas to attend a speaking engagement, and just before getting on the plane a lady who looked like a Filipina was right behind me. As usual I asked if she was Filipina and she said she was Vietnamese and said that is not the first time she is asked that and added that she has many Filipino friends and attends their pot-lucks and loved it. As we got inside to look for an empty seat, I saw Dr. Terry Arnold our Nevada Baptist Convention Executive Director with two empty seats beside him. I asked the lady if she would like to take the window seat and she did and I took the middle. I continued our conversation until I got a chance to ask her religious background. Her father had no religion and had many wives and she hated them but she became a Buddhist at an early age. She finished her nursing and got married to an American against her parent’s wishes and later moved to the US. After listening to her for some time, I pulled out my Bible and two copies of the tract “Steps to Peace with God.” Right away she recognized Billy Graham because she attended one of his crusades in Oakland thirty years ago. I gave her one and we read through the tract together. About five minutes before landing she prayed the sinner’s prayer to receive Christ. I asked her if it was alright if one of our pastors living in her area will give her a call to connect her with their church and she readily gave me her phone number, which I gave to brother Terry to give to a pastor. Our seating was not by accident because Terry prayed as I was sharing the gospel with her. We saw her joy to receive the greatest gift in her life, the salvation of her soul by turning from her sins and Buddha to Jesus.
Our meeting and the whole encounter was a divine appointment for God was offering to her the gift of her life – eternal life and she received it. The title of our message is the message in the cover of our bulletin.
“The Greatest gift”
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associatewith Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “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.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. “Sir. Give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep on coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “”Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:4-26
There are so many truths we can learn from this account that time will not permit. One of the lessons we can learn from this is how Jesus shared the gospel to this woman. But the main truth is salvation is a gift of God.
First we see this truth that Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” Was this by accident or by God’s will to lead Him to encounter this woman? I submit to you that Jesus was always right in the center of His Father’s will. Just as he was led by the Spirit after his baptism in the desert and was there for forty days to be tempted, this time He was led to be at this place where God will draw to him this woman whom He will offer the greatest gift, the salvation of her soul. Another truth that we can observe is the reality of Jesus being human, “He was tired from the journey.” Just like any of us. He got hungry and thirsty. So the most logical place to go for a drink was a well. But he had no pail to draw water with. Notice also that it was the sixth hour. Sixth hour at that time is equivalent to our twelve o’clock for that was how they reckoned their time. At midday the sun is at its hottest and nobody goes to the well at this time to draw water. So why then did this woman would go there at this hour of the day. Since we have read the whole account it was obvious that she was not well loved and accepted in her community because of her reputation. She was living with a man not her husband. It is safe to assume that she was ashamed to be seen in public and to be with people.
Jesus opened a conversation with her by asking her for a drink. She was a Samaritan woman and Samaritans were treated as second class citizens by pure Jews. A Samaritan is a “mestizo” Jew. Half Jew and half Gentile. So she was surprised why Jesus would even speak to her. But she saw that this man is different and showed her respect and valued her being a Samaritan. I believe in her mind she must have thought, if He only knew? Yet she asked Him why He would even speak to her. Jesus now moved the conversation to the spiritual and also threw this question, “if you knew the gift of God.” Think about this for a moment, Jesus was no longer talking about drinking water but a “gift of God.” At this time the concept of a gift of God has not yet been introduced to the people of Israel. And besides perhaps in her heart, she is saying, I am not worthy of this gift because she knew she was not doing the right thing before God. What was more confusing to her was that the one asking her for a drink is the one who will give her this gift of God.
Now notice that she brought back the conversation to the drawing of water. She was now comparing him with her father Jacob who gave them the well. Her understanding was still limited to the water from the well. But Jesus did not stop there but explained to her that he was not talking about water to drink but a “living water” that will last that she will never thirst after drinking. The concept of living water was not new to the Jews. It was already revealed to them through the prophet Jeremiah,
“My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jer. 2:13
God is the source of living water and the water here represents the Word of God. This is affirmed and explained to us by the apostle Paul,
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy by the washing with water through the word.” Eph. 5:25b-26
Jesus then moved on to reveal to her that he is the source and he is the one who gives this living water that will be a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This means that this water will not be exhausted and will be fresh day after day until that day that those who have drank from this living water will drink it in heaven as revealed now to us in the book of Revelation.
“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Rev. 7:17
Now the woman was getting a little understanding and was now asking for this living water but still referring to water so that she will not be coming to the well at noon and be seen by others. When Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband and come back,” what can she say? She cannot say yes or no and be truthful. She does not have a husband. So what did she say? “I have no husband.” She was honest to herself and to Jesus. Was that a confession? Yes it was, but now she was diverting the issue to worship. She thinks that by worshiping God it will cover her sins and have this eternal life. Did Jesus let her get away with that? No again. He explained to her that a time is coming that worshiping God the Father will not be on this mountain where the Samaritans meet to worship nor in Jerusalem. This will be fulfilled when one has come to Jesus for salvation as the way, the truth and given eternal life.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” John 4:23
The woman was now confronted with the truth. She cannot worship God the Father if she is living in a lie. The lie is her sin for living in an unlawful relationship with a man. Now she knows that she cannot be a true worshiper. She now expressed her hope on the promise of God to send His Messiah to explain everything to them. Jesus earlier said to her that she and the other Samaritans do not know the real worship but the Jews know it and salvation will come from the Jews. Jesus is a true Jew and the gospel is first revealed and preached to the Jews. Finally Jesus revealed Himself to her, “I who speak to you am he.” Did she believe Him? I believe she did, for this is how she responded and acted on Jesus command to call her husband, which she did not really have. But she did obey.
“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ? They came out of the town and made their way toward him” John 4:28-30
She became the first witness of Jesus. She could not keep her excitement of what she heard not just to tell the man she was living in but the people in town. I believe deep in her heart that she repented of her sins and believed in Jesus when He said I am he and receive forgiveness of her sins. This is the evidence that it wiped out her shame. Just as Paul did after he got saved.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Rom. 1:16
He also affirmed what was written of those who trust in Jesus,
“As it is written: “See I lay a stone in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Rom. 9:33
Did the people believe in what she said? I believe her testimony and her boldness to tell them about Jesus persuaded them to believe her because of the change in her to come out boldly without shame to tell them of this man who knew her past and her sins. And what was the result of her witnessing?
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So, when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42.
They received the gift of eternal life because they believed. They had encountered the truth and the lie was revealed. How is this truth true today? How does God work in His redemptive plan to save sinners. What we have heard and read from the very words of Jesus is salvation is a “gift of God.” Paul affirmed this as the means how God saves sinners.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23
Wages is what everyone receives from God as payment of sin, even just for one sin. And the bad news is everyone has sinned. And here is what everyone will receive for having sinned against God.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23
Thank God there is a “but.” This is where the good news comes in. God is giving away gifts not just to the Jews but to Gentiles as well. It started with the Jews, then the Samaritans and has reached us Gentiles. This is the greatest gift that one can ever receive because if it was not given to us we will surely spend eternity in hell. Thirty years ago, God by His grace sent a messenger to give me this gift. I was convicted by the Holy Spirit of having broken God’s law and have sinned against God. Just as Jesus convicted the woman of her unlawful relationship and how she lived her life, she saw her need of salvation and this living water that wells up to eternal life.
The Vietnamese woman whose name was Moui, knew in her heart all the sins she has committed. The Holy Spirit convicted her as she read through the tract, saw her need and asked Jesus to forgive her and received Him as Lord. After she prayed she admitted that she is living in with a man for 11 years, unhappy with him because he is a drunkard. But now she expressed concern for him and for her children who are also having bad marriages.
I thank the Lord for the privilege to be used by Him as His messenger and carrier of the gift of God. The greatest gift that cost God the life of His Son as the payment for a debt we cannot pay. The only payment that cancels this debt that otherwise every sinner will pay for eternity in hell. Lord willing we will unwrap the gift and find what is inside welling up to eternal life.
God is continuing to send and offer this gift all over the world. For those who have already received this gift He is calling and inviting us to be messengers and carriers to deliver to those He will draw and give to His Son.
You may be here today and have not yet received this gift. You are thirsty because everything that the world offers does not quench your thirst. Now you know the answer to what your greatest need is, the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ and eternity life to spend with God in heaven. Here’s God’s invitation for you to receive His offer as His gift to you.
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Rev. 22:17
Receive Jesus as God’s gift to you…