Have you ever felt left out? Rejected? Like nobody could see you? I have. One of the worst times for me was Junior High School. If people can survive Junior High- they can survive anything. Without question the worst part of Junior High is the dreaded hour known as P.E.- Physical Education……Gym class. In gym class they would begin the class by lining us up along one of the painted lines on the gym floor. The two best and most popular athletes were chosen by the gym teachers to come forward and be the team captains. They would alternate turns choosing from those of us lined up along the painted line like cattle ready for slaughter. As each turn passed, the less physically gifted of us would be left standing on the line. On those days my only hope would be “Please God……don’t let me be the last one.” Being the last one chosen was the worst. I hope that today’s educational philosophy has progressed beyond this barbaric practice. The toll it took on my self esteem took years to undo. I’ll never forget what it felt like not to be chosen……
There is a woman in John’s Gospel who must have been feeling the same way. Cast out. Less than. Not a part of things. The story opens in Samaria. Samaria was a land that was less than- not a part of things. Samaria was the region located between Judah and Galilee. Jews were not supposed to associate with Samaritans. They were not even supposed travel across their land.
Yet the story begins with Jesus traveling in Samaria. He is weary from his journey so he stops at Jacob’s well to get a drink. He notices a woman there and he asks her if she will draw water from the well to give him a drink. How unusual it must have seemed to this woman to be approached by Jesus. First of all He is a Jew and second of all he is a man. Jews were not supposed to associate with Samaritans and they were certainly not supposed to talk to women. No self respecting, pious Jewish man would speak to a woman who was not a relative. It simply was not done.
It is late in the day. The normal time for the women of the village to visit the well to draw water for the needs of the day is in the morning. Before the heat of the day the women of the village walk to the well in the cool of the morning. The trip to the well has two advantages- the women can draw the water that they needed for washing, cooking and drinking. While there they can socialize and visit with the other women of the village. Exchange news. Trade stories. Maybe take a few moments to laugh together……fellowship. But this woman is not at the well early in the morning with the other women. This woman is not there for laughter and fellowship. This woman is less than- left out- not a part of things. There must be a reason why she is there all alone. What or whom is she trying to avoid?
We don’t know what the reason is but Jesus does. He sees right into this woman’s life. He asks her for a drink of water and attempts to engage her in a spiritual conversation. He begins to reveal Himself to her. At first she doesn’t understand. His spiritual references about living water and never being thirsty go right over her head. But gradually she begins to understand that there is something very special and unusual about this man. He asks her to call her husband and when she tells him the truth- that she is currently living with a man who is not her husband he tells her that He already knows this- and He also knows that she has had five husbands before this. This is truly astounding to her. She realizes that this man speaking to her must be some type of a prophet. Jesus goes even further to reveal that He is much more than a prophet. He leads her into a deeper spiritual discussion. The woman is a Samaritan. She is familiar with the Scriptures. She has heard the promise of the Messiah. She tells Jesus that everything will be explained when the Messiah comes. And Jesus, standing right in front of her declares to her face- “I who speak to you am HE.” He reveals His true nature to someone who is an outcast and a stranger. Someone who lives in a land where He is not even supposed to travel. Needless to say- this woman’s life is changed. She runs back to the village with boldness and excitement to tell the villagers all about Jesus “the man who told me all that I ever did.” Many people believe because of her testimony. Many people come to see Jesus because of her excitement.
“Yes” – you say- “But that was Jesus appearing to someone two thousand years ago when He was alive and walking on the earth! He doesn’t appear like that to people today!!” Are you really sure about that?
Tony Campolo tells a story about a similar woman in a similar situation who also meets Jesus. Tony is traveling in another time zone and having trouble sleeping. He gets up and wanders down the street to a donut shop that is near to his hotel. Turns out that the donut shop also happens to be the hangout spot for the prostitutes in the neighborhood who come there at the end of their work time. Tony overhears a conversation between two of the women. One of them named Agnes says“You know what- tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m gonna be 39.” “Whaddaya want from me”- says another woman- “a cake, a party, HA! Want me to sing Happy Birthday to you?” “C’mon”- answers Agnes- “why ya gotta be so mean- all I’m sayin is that its my birthday. I don’t want anything from you- why should I have a birthday party- I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?” When the women leave, Tony gets an idea. He asks the shop owner if Agnes comes in every night and when he finds out that she does they start planning a party. The shop owner’s wife even gets involved. They arrange for a cake, candles and party decorations. This woman is a complete stranger to Tony. The next night when she comes into the shop all the conspirators yell “Surprise!!” Agnes can’t believe it. As everyone sings “Happy Birthday” to her she cries so hard that she can barely blow out the candles. When the time comes to cut the cake she asks Tony if she can take the cake home uncut. She wants to keep it unspoiled. Like a treasure. After Agnes leaves Tony leads all of the people in the donut shop in a prayer for Agnes. It is then that the donut shop owner realizes that Tony is a preacher. He asked Tony what kind of a church he belongs to and Tony replies “The kind of church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning!!” The shop owner cannot believe him. “There is no such church like that. If there was- he says- I’d join it!”
Jesus would have thrown a birthday party for a prostitute- that is who inspired Tony Campolo to do what he did. Jesus was reaching out to that woman through Tony just as He reached out to that nameless, rejected woman at the well two thousand years ago- that nameless rejected woman whom Jesus chose to be the first evangelist……..Jesus reaches out and accepts anyone- no matter how much of an outcast they may seem to be. Everyone matters to Jesus.
Everyone matters to Jesus…..Liars matter to Jesus. Thieves matter to Jesus. Alcoholics matter to Jesus. People who yell at their children matter to Jesus. People who cheat on their spouses matter to Jesus. Workaholics matter to Jesus. The famous matter to Jesus. The infamous matter to Jesus. Divorced people matter to Jesus. Lonely people matter to Jesus. Doubters matter to Jesus. Atheists matter to Jesus. Outcasts matter to Jesus. People who look like they have it all together but really don’t matter to Jesus….YOU matter to Jesus.
How will Jesus reveal Himself to you?? Maybe through the outreach of a caring friend who is praying you through a crisis. Maybe through a quiet time reading the Scriptures. Maybe through a beautiful worship song. Maybe through this message. The bottom line is this: Everyone matters to Jesus. YOU matter to Jesus. Jesus wants everyone to be chosen for His team. Nobody is left standing with their toes on the white line, wishing and hoping not to be last. His desire is for all of us to experience His saving, cleansing and powerful love.