The First Gospel Preacher: The Samaritan Woman at the Well (Red Letter Year: 10/10)

John 4.27-38

27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”

33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.

34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”


I wrote yesterday about this woman’s marignal status (three times over), so there is no need to do more than mention the disciples’ confirmation of that with the questions they didn’t have the nerve to ask Jesus. John includes everything except the “Eww” and wrinkled up noses that so readily complete this picture.

The woman leaves her jar (indicating she is coming back), runs into town, hurtles her marginalized barrier, and preaches the very first Gospel sermon. Ever. That’s right, the first Christian sermon was preached by a woman, an ethnic minority, and a person cohabitating outside marriage (after being married five times). Think about all the restrictions placed around preaching ministry these days and let this fact sink in. And she doesn’t just preach, her sermon leads to the conversion of her entire town. So she gets to claim the first Christian revival too.

Since she was such an effective preacher, we should see what we can learn from her homelitic technique. Her sermon was invitational (Come and see), affirmed the humanity of Jesus, personal, self-critical, and also affirmed the divine power of Jesus (who told me everything I ever did). She brought her hearers to a moment of decision while also being engagingly honest about her own doubts (You don’t think this could be the Messiah, do you?). Her sermon was full of energy, Christ-centered, and (this is important) brief. She was a very good, very effective preacher.

In preaching the Gospel, this woman brought about what Jesus had just told her could happen. She received the living water Jesus offered her and then immediately she became a well, gushing the living water of Jesus onto everyone in her reach. Jesus reminded his disciples of an old proverb about waiting for the crops to come in – and then shows them that common wisdom does not apply here. Now the sower and the reaper get to celebrate together at the same time. The sower in this analogy is Jesus. The reaper is the Samaritan woman – the first person to partner with Jesus to do the work of the kingdom. The first one to experience the joy of the harvester, the joy of the preacher who delivers God’s word to those thirsty for it, those ready to be harvested. We should all aspire to be preachers like this woman.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.