The Good Samaritan
By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | March 12, 2023
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Read John 4:5 – 15, 39 – 42
The month of March is significant for several reasons. It is the month when we see the official change in seasons from Winter to Spring. And it is the month when many people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day along with Irish American month.
And, for those sports fan among us, let us not forget, it is also the time for March madness. [And as if all that was not enough, as we may recall from just last night, it is also the time when we spring forward into Daylight Savings Time.]
But March is also the month that we pause to recognize Women’s History Month and when we celebrate International Women’s Day.
And so today, I want to focus our attention on one woman in particular in the Scriptures. A woman who may have remained nameless throughout history… but one whose story has great significance for us, even to this day.
That is why for our time together this morning, I want to invite our attention to the subject: THE GOOD SAMARITAN.
Now some people may hear that title, “THE GOOD SAMARITAN” and a very different story will come to mind. I am referring to the story that we find in Luke 10 that Jesus told about a Samaritan traveler who came across a man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead.
THE GOOD SAMARITAN that we read about in Luke’s Gospel was presumably a man of means who… with little thought to his own safety and well-being… did not hesitate to do what he could in order to save the life of a stranger.
The Scriptures tell us that while the leaders of the church passed by on the other side of the road… the “good Samaritan” tended to the man’s wounds and made provision for his care… despite the fact that the man was most likely a Jew and would have done his best to steer clear of a Samaritan.
It is this story that gets to the heart of what are known as Good Samaritan laws… which are laws that offer legal protection to people who stop to render aid… so that they cannot be sued or held liable for unintentional harm or injury that comes as a result of them attempting to help someone else who may be in need.
But today’s New Testament lesson from the Gospel of John draws our attention to a different Samaritan… one who would likely not have been thought of back in her day as THE GOOD SAMARITAN… but I want to suggest that is exactly who she was.
We primarily know this woman only by her circumstances and her location. In fact, most of the time, we simply refer to her as “the woman at the well.”
And that is where Jesus encountered her… at the well in the heat of the day… we know that it was hot because the text tells us it was about noon. Presumably this woman came to the well at this most inconvenient and uncomfortable time of the day because she was trying to avoid something or someone.
Perhaps it was the awkward glances and the chatter of the other women who would have been at the well at other times of the day… after all, later in this chapter, we read about this woman having been married five times and being in a relationship with someone that was not her husband.
It is not a far stretch of the imagination to think that this woman would have been the focus of much of the town gossip.
But it is important to note that this woman was not the only one who went out of her way to avoid certain people. In fact, the Jews had such an intense dislike of Samaritans that they would actually walk miles out of their way despite the inconvenience… just to avoid going through Samaria… but not Jesus.
But Jesus cut straight to the heart of the matter… paying no heed to the long-standing prejudice that existed between the Jews and Samaritans… the text tells us that Jesus went through Samaria to a town called Sychar… stopping at a well… where He met this woman in the place of her discomfort and inconvenience.
And what makes this encounter at the well even more remarkable is the fact that not only was Jesus intentional in speaking to a Samaritan… He was intentional in speaking to a Samaritan woman… and not just any Samaritan woman but a Samaritan woman who was living in sin… with a man who was not her husband.
What could He have been thinking?!
Well, I will tell you what He might have been thinking… [because far be it from me to claim to know what Jesus was actually thinking]. But what I believe He could have been thinking is that this woman, this sinful Samaritan woman, was exactly the kind of person He came to earth to seek and to save.
Remember what we read, just last week, from the previous chapter in John’s Gospel (John 3:16 – 17):
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Regardless of her circumstances… Jesus did not come to condemn that woman… He came to save her… just as He came to save you and to save me.
And Jesus’ willingness to interact with that woman… to engage in conversation with that woman… to offer the gift of salvation to that woman… is a reminder to us that the gift God gave to the world through Jesus is for EVERYONE… for whosoever would believe in Him.
And that is why I want to suggest that this woman… this sinful Samaritan woman… is really the one who should be known as THE GOOD SAMARITAN.
We look at the man in Luke’s Gospel who stopped to save one person whose life was endangered as a result of his physical injuries… and because he helped that one person we call him a GOOD SAMARITAN…
But what about this woman in the Gospel of John?
Jesus had offered this woman the gift of salvation… revealing Himself to her as the Messiah that she and everyone else had been waiting for… And in verses 28 – 30 we read:
As Max Lucado puts it, “… the insignificance of her life was swallowed by the significance of the moment.” And that is why in John 4:39, we read, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’”
Suddenly this woman who had been the focus of the town’s scuttlebutt became an evangelist in her own right…
Which is why in the last verse of our text we read, “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.’”
This woman shared the Good News about Jesus and as a result many people came to believe in Jesus… I think that ought to qualify her as THE GOOD SAMARITAN.
So, what is the moral of the story for us today? What lessons can we learn from the life of this truly GOOD SAMARITAN?
The first lesson, I would suggest, is that we are never too far gone for Jesus to reach us.
Just as Jesus met the woman at the well in the heat of day… where she was seeking shelter from the stares and glares that were seemingly even more uncomfortable to deal with than the heat at high noon… Jesus meets us in our places of shame and embarrassment as well… in those places of isolation and rejection… of defeat and discouragement... of hopelessness and despair.
And it is in those very places that the words of the Apostle Paul can bring us comfort and reassurance…
In other words, nothing… no thing… can ever separate us from God’s love.
The woman at the well may have been viewed by many as a woman of ill-repute… but Jesus saw so much more… and He sees so much more in each of us as well.
Which brings me to the second lesson that I think we can take from the life of this Good Samaritan which is that we are never too far gone for Jesus to turn our mess into a message.
The text tells us that it was because of the woman’s testimony that others believed in Jesus. The Good News that she had about Jesus was just too good to keep to herself… she could not help but go and tell others all about it.
And this Good News about Jesus is too good for us to keep to ourselves as well.
In Matthew 28 (19 – 20), Jesus told the disciples, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
In other words, we have a responsibility to go out and tell a dying world about a Living Savior. We have not been given this precious gift to keep it hidden away… it is meant to be shared… on purpose with a purpose.
And that bring us to the third lesson, which is that we are never too far gone for Jesus to use us to bring glory to God.
In Matthew 5:15 – 16, we find these words of Jesus:
While in Romans 15:5 – 6, we find Paul’s words of encouragement:
In spite of the challenges we may have encountered in our lives and regardless of the difficulties we may have faced… we are called to let our lights shine and bring glory to God in all that we say and do.
But just as the Samaritan woman discovered… this not something we can do on our own… we need the Lord to help us overcome our adversities so we can be an encouragement to others… and learn from our past mistakes so we can show others how to navigate the complexities of their lives… and help them to see why we all need to put our faith and trust in Jesus.
Now, there was something else that the Lord revealed through this text that I wanted to share before we move over to the Communion table.
Earlier, I mentioned that we do not know this Samaritan woman by name… we know her only by her circumstances and her location.
And this is not an unusual occurrence in Scripture… for people to remain nameless throughout the course of history. And I feel compelled to say something about that, especially in light of this being Women’s History Month…
This is not unique only to women… although given the patriarchal society in which the Scriptures were written, there were likely more women than men who were left without a name.
But even in the other story we find in Luke 10, THE GOOD SAMARITAN mentioned there also has no name. Now that could be for one of a couple of reasons. In a time when Jews had little or no use for Samaritans, his name may not have been seen as important enough to record. Or it could actually be that he was not even a real person and was only an example that Jesus used for illustration purposes… to demonstrate what it means to be a true neighbor.
Whatever the case may be, it is interesting to note that not even the man Jesus told that story to had a name… he was simply referred to by Luke as an expert in the law.
But this is the point that I really want to leave us with this morning…
It does not matter whether anyone else in all of history knows us by name. What is important is that the Lord knows exactly who we are. In fact, back in Isaiah 43:3, we find these words, “But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine…’”
That Samaritan woman at the well had likely been called all kinds of things by the people in that town… but Jesus looked right past all of that and saw only His beloved… someone in need of the Living Water that brings eternal salvation.
And once the woman realized who Jesus was and what He was offering her… the Scriptures say she left her water jar behind…
In that moment, the whole reason she was even at the well in the first place became unimportant… as did the potential for ridicule and judgment from the townspeople… because that is exactly who she went back to tell about Jesus.
And apparently, the townspeople forgot about all her past history and their disdain for her… because nowhere do we read about them discounting her testimony or ignoring her because of who she was… or what she had done.
No, the Scriptures simply say that they made their way to see Jesus…
Getting to see the Messiah for themselves was the only thing that mattered then.. and it is the only thing that matters now. There is nothing else in all the world that matters more or that we need more than Jesus.
And given what we have seen happening in the world around us, I dare say we definitely need Jesus now more than ever. So, with that in mind let us take our cue from THE GOOD SAMARITAN and the townsfolk in our text today as we stand and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: I Need Thee Every Hour #578.