Explore The Bible: But Whoever Drinks

5:17 PM

Showing and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others--different races, backgrounds, and cultures--is well worth the risk because many will not only become “friends for life” but friends for eternity! Jesus took an intentional risk that was life-changing for a woman who came to well thirsty and in need of water. This is the focus of the Explore the Bible Study: But Whoever Drinks.

What are some of the risks one might take when trying to help someone in danger? Do you recall any stories about someone you know or heard about who took a risk to save someone else? It seems that the news was full of risk takers during the previous Christmas Eve blizzard that swept across the Northeastern part of the United States. 

Risking Life to Save Lives

One news story recounts the story of a 27-year-old took to at least 24 lives during the recent Christmas holiday blizzard (2022) that paralyzed cities like Buffalo, New York. According to a Buffalo news outlet, during the height of the blizzard, this young Kenmore mechanic named Jay Withey, broke into a school to find shelter for himself and others who were stranded in their vehicles because of the blizzard.

Jay Withey’s truck was stuck in the snow overnight during the blizzard. While trying to stay warm in his truck he took in a stranded child and an elderly woman but, eventually, his truck ran out of gas.  Whitley got out and trudged through the snow, knocking on the doors of 15 homes to find shelter, but the scared residents declined. He even offered them $500 from his wallet, but the scared residents declined.

He eventually broke a classroom window of the Pine Hill Primary Center school, climbed inside, and opened a door to the heated building. He went back to his truck and brought the child and elderly woman to the school and then went back out to rescue others. He risked his life to save at least 24 complete strangers. While recalling the incident, Withey said, “My muscles are cramping, my eyes are fogging up, and my vision's going black. It was super scary.” 

Crossing the barriers of race, backgrounds, traditions, and cultures to rescue a Samaritan woman

The continuing study of the gospel of John takes us to a time when Jesus took a huge risk to save someone. This risk required crossing the barriers of race, backgrounds, traditions, and cultures to rescue a Samaritan woman who was stranded in her sin, isolated from society, and desperately thirsty for something different in her life.

John 4:1-6 tells us that the Pharisees were beginning to feel threatened by Jesus’ ministry in the region prompting Jesus to leave Judea and return to the Galilee region.

Verse 4 indicates that Jesus “had to travel through Samaria.” This would be very unusual and an unlikely route for most Jews even though it was the shortest route between the region of Judea and Galilee because the Samaritans were not held in high esteem by most Jews because of their past.

  • The region the Samaritans occupied formerly belonged to the tribe of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
  • While Nehemiah was engaged in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans vigorously attempted to halt the construction (Nehemiah 6:1-14).
  • They built a temple for themselves on “Mount Gerizim,” which the Samaritans insisted was designated by Moses as the place where the nation should worship. This led them to the idolatrous worship they practiced.
  • Samaritans willingly received and protected Jewish criminals, greatly increasing the hatred which existed between the two nations.
  • They accepted the five books of Moses but rejected the writings of the prophets and all the Jewish traditions.

Because of this, the Samaritans were universally despised by the Jews and regarded as the worst of the human race (John 8:48). Despite this deep grained hatred Jesus knew He HAD to go through Samaria. This route took Jesus to a town called “Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph” (John 4:5). We are told in John 4:6 that, “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from his journey, sat down at the well. It was about noon.” This is where Jesus intentionally spoke to someone with whom He wouldn’t have normally had a conversation; He also guided the conversation toward the woman’s greatest need.

Sharing the Gospel Involves Risks

Take a moment to read the entire interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. It can be found in John 4:7-26 (Read it in your Bible or scroll over the reference for a pop-up of the passage.) Take note of how Jesus guided the conversation and how He interacted with someone who had preconceived ideas of how a Jewish person might treat her. Notice also how the woman responded to Jesus. Consider how you might respond to those you encounter.

Notice how Jesus moved the conversation toward a discussion of spiritual things. He used the need for water to introduce living water. He answered questions. He directed the conversation toward her need for Salvation but wasn't judgmental. He was patient. He clarified the message of salvation and who He was. And, He explained how salvation was also available to her.

Did Jesus avoid talking about sin? How would you have handled the situation if you knew the woman’s past and current situation? 

How would you summarize the woman’s initial response?

The Explore the Bible Leader Guide made this observation: “Like patients reacting to doctor’s probes, people with painful issues often shy away from dealing with uncomfortable problems. As Jesus engaged in conversation with the Samaritan woman about physical water, she shifted the focus by responding to Jesus’ comment about living water. Her previous response (see v. 9) may have contained a sense of scorn—or, at least, skepticism. In her past experiences, she had likely suffered the prejudice that Jews showed toward Samaritans. When Jesus offered her living water, though, her tone changed.”

Jesus earned the respect of this woman and the right to be heard by the way He treated her, but He did not gloss over her sin or spiritual needs. He used her current circumstances to reveal the need for something more than the water she came to get from the well. It’s obvious that she was listening because she addressed Him as Sir and asked additional questions based on her spiritual knowledge. This led to a life-changing encounter with Christ for her!

How observant are you when something is said or done that could lead you to have a gospel conversation with someone?

The Risks and the Rewards

John 4:28-30 reveals the transformation that took place in this woman’s life because of her encounter with Christ:  Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They left the town and made their way to Him.

Sadly, verse 27 indicates that the disciples didn’t get it, nor could they believe Jesus was even talking with this woman. They missed out on the joy that comes when someone has a life-changing encounter with Christ.

Here are four takeaways all believers should consider as they read about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well:

  1. We should take the unlikely and sometimes difficult path to share and show the Good News of Jesus to others.
  2. We should look for ways to intentionally engage people in gospel conversations.
  3. We should ask questions that will help others understand who Jesus is and what is required for salvation.
  4. We should celebrate when anyone receives Christ!

Remember the opening story about the risk Jay Withey took to save so many lives during the winter blizzard? Remember he knocked on the doors of 15 homes, but no one offered to help even when he offered them money?

One person Jay saved said something that is so applicable when taking risks to share the gospel: “We were all from different races and backgrounds and cultures, and we all just bonded. We’re going to be friends for life.”  This statement describes the beauty of sharing the gospel with others. Jesus made an intentional choice to take a risk to talk with a stranger from a strange land, and now this woman has an eternal relationship that not only changed her life but the lives of countless others in her village!

Let’s share and show the Good News of Jesus Christ with others, even if they are from “different races, backgrounds, and cultures.” It is well worth the risk because many will not only become “friends for life” but friends for eternity!

Perhaps you are like the Samaritan woman. Perhaps you are the one who is looking for something to “quench your thirst” but haven’t ever come to Jesus. Please talk with your pastor, someone in your church, a friend, or your Bible study group about your questions. Jesus WILL quench your spiritual thirst!

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. 

Download PDF Version              Download Word Version

LifeWay Explore The Bible Resources

These teaching helps are intended to be used as a supplement to your study of Lifeway's Explore the Bible curriculum resources. Portions of this material are taken directly from content copyrighted to Lifeway Christian Resources Explore the Bible and is used with permission.  This material has not been reviewed by Lifeway Christian Resources. 

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