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Maxie Dunnam, President of Asbury Theological Seminary in his book, This is Christianity tells a remarkable story about Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon. A man had been injured in a fire while attempting to save his parents from a burning house. He couldnt get to them. They perished. His face was burned and disfigured. He mistakenly interpreted his pain as Gods punishment. The man wouldnt let anyone see him not even his wife.

She went to Dr. Maltz for help. He told the woman not to worry, I can restore his face. The wife was not convinced her husband would let him help because he had repeated refused any help.

Then she said, Thats why I have come to see you. I want you to disfigure my face so I can be like him! If I can share in his pain, then maybe he will let me back into his life.

Dr. Maltz was shocked. He denied her request but was so moved by the womans love that he went to speak with her husband. Knocking on the mans bedroom door, he called loudly, Im a plastic surgeon, and I want you to know that I can restore your face.

No response. Please come out. Again there was no answer. Still speaking through the door, Dr. Maltz told the man of his wifes proposal. She wants me to disfigure her face, to make her face like yours in the hope that you will let her back into you life. Thats how much she loves you.

There was a brief moment of silence, and then, ever so slowly, the door knob began to turn.

The way the woman felt about her husband is the way God feels about you. He humbled himself and took on the form of man and died in our place.


Unconditional love 

Its the deepest longing of our hearts, because many of us harbor deep inside the fear that if others really knew us, they would want nothing to do with us. I mean really knew us. In fact many of us are sure that God knows everything about us and that has us convinced that there is no way He could love us. Today in our journey with Jesus we find ourselves at a well in a Country that Jews did not go into. 

A woman with a past meets up with Jesus and finds that here is someone who loves her even though he knows her deepest darkest secrets. In spite of all of the flaws in her, Jesus offers what counselors often call unconditional positive regard. Jesus loves her. 

 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacobs well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, Please give me a drink. 8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. John 4:4-8 NLT

Jesus loved her: 


In spite of Her Pedigree     

 9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?

                  John 4:9 NLT

The Jews of Jesus day considered the Samaritans something almost subhuman. You see during the period of the exile the Jews of Samaria had intermarried with the gentiles that the Assyrians had resettled there, because of this the people were "mixed race" and the Jews who had kept themselves "pure" throughout the exile had nothing but disdain for the "half-breed" Samaritans.

When traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee they would cross the Jordan River to avoid passing through Samaritan territory. It was said that to eat with a Samaritan was like eating swines flesh.

So when Jesus spoke to this Samaritan woman, she was taken back--why would a Jew speak with a Samaritan? She was supposed to be inferior. But Jesus doesnt seem to have any interest in her heritage.               


In Spite of Her Pedigree Jesus Offered Her a Possibility

Jesus replied, If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water. John 4:10 NLT


Jesus had room for people like her, and he wasnt concerned with what His world said about her status. He was concerned about a precious soul--as precious as the souls of the Pharisees who took such pleasure in considering themselves superior. 

You know Jesus still has room for the outcasts of society--and for the outcasts of religion. It doesnt matter if you grew up in a church going home or in the home of an alcoholic or both, it doesnt matter if youve dabbled in one kind of a sin or the other or even if youve never been to church before today. Jesus offers you a possibility, He offers "living water" a drink that satisfies not just the body but the soul and fulfills our deepest needs.

In spite of your Pedigree He offers a possibility. Next we see that Jesus cared for the woman at the well . . .


In Spite of Her Past . . .

Go and get your husband, Jesus told her.  17 I dont have a husband, the woman replied.  Jesus said, Youre right! You dont have a husband18 for you have had five husbands, and you arent even married to the man youre living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!

                                                                                                                        John 4:16-18 NLT

Here were all the secrets of her life--known by a stranger. All the things she wanted to keep hidden from the world, because if people knew--theyd want nothing to do with her. In fact in the text there seems to be evidence that this was exactly the case. It is midday when this conversation with Jesus takes place. Not the time of day that you would expect a woman to be coming to draw her water for the day--that was a morning chore, but its likely that this woman came so that she could avoid the other women who knew her secrets and probably made little attempt to hide their feelings about her.

But here is a stranger, who somehow knows about her past yet . . .

In Spite of Her Past Jesus Offered Her a Promise

But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life. John 4:14 NLT

To a woman with a past Jesus offers a promise of a never-ending future. Jesus hasnt reserved this promise for the select few who are good enough. Jesus said the healthy dont have need of a doctor but the sick. He also said that he had come to seek and save the lost. Jesus doesnt ask you to clean up your life before you come to Him--youre not able to do that on your own. He wants you to come to Him just as you are so that he can change you from the inside out.

John Newton was born in London England on July 24, 1725, the son of a merchant ship commander. When John was eleven years old he went to sea with his father. After his father retired, John signed-on as a crew member on a British war ship. Finding the conditions aboard the ship to be harsh and difficult, John deserted ship only to be captured. He was then publicly flogged and demoted from midshipmen to seaman and then reassigned to work for the captain of a ship carrying slaves from Africa to the new world (America).

Seeing his condition, a friend of Johns father obtained his release from the slave trader. Despite the cruel and despicable conditions John witnessed on the slave ship, he ultimately became the captain of his own slave ship. As the captain of a slave trading ship, John Newtons ship would anchor off the African coast. There African tribal chiefs would bring to the ship men and women of rival tribes that had been captured or taken prisoner. The captives would be loaded in the ships cargo hold where they were kept below decks, chained together to prevent suicides. To save space, the slaves were laid side by side, row after row until as many as 600 men, women and children were packed in the cargo hold of the ship.

After the human cargo was aboard, the ship set-sail for what would eventually become America. Two out of every ten slaves aboard the ship died as a result of the harsh treatment. When a slave became ill during the voyage, he was tossed overboard to prevent the spreading of any infection. Captain Newton showed no compassion or remorse for the misery and suffering of those he was carrying in bondage. Upon arrival at his destination, those enslaved were traded for sugar and molasses. From there, John would return to England, unload the sugar and molasses and then once again sail to Africa to pick-up another load of human cargo bound for the new world. This was the pattern of operation for slavers.

In his early years, John received some religious instruction from his mother who died when he was young. After her death, John appeared to set aside any religious morals or values he may have been taught. But on a homeward leg of a voyage from the Americas to England loaded with sugar and molasses, John Newtons ship encountered a violent storm. Waves crashed over the deck as the wooden sailing ship was tossed back and forth like a childs toy on the turbulent ocean waters. As recorded later in his personal journal, John Newton noted that all seemed lost, and it appeared the small ship would surely sink. Then in the midst of fear and uncertainty, John Newton called out to God, "Lord, have mercy on us." As the ship floundered in the storm, John Newton gave his life to Christ.

He soon realized that his new life in Christ was incompatible with his chosen profession and eventually ended up a pastor who also wrote songs. His journal entry from the day after that storm had changed his life became the inspiration for the best known of his songs, "Amazing Grace" We sang those words last week. We may sing them again today before we leave this place.

Grace means that God offers us a gift we dont deserve, the promise of eternal life, purchased by the blood of Christ, which paid the price for our sins. Gods Amazing grace is still amazing, and most amazing of all its for you no matter your past... You still can take part in the Promise.

Well Jesus revelation was a little much for the woman and she doesnt know what to do with it so she changes the subject and in doing so she reveals to us some of her understandings of religion, which gives Jesus the chance to show that He cares for her...

In Spite of Her Preconceptions

Sir, the woman said, you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped? John 4:19-20 NLT


Realizing that shes stumbled upon someone special, the woman decides to ask some of her religious questions... This is the same thing that happens to doctors at dinner parties, grocery stores and wherever else they can get cornered --"Hey, Ive got this pain right here..." She says "Since youre obviously a prophet let me get something straight here, which religious teachings are right, what do we have to do, where do we have to go to be accepted by God."

This is the heart of mans attempt at religion. Its got to be about us, what we do where we go what we can do to impress God with us. This is her preconception. I think its an honest question, it shows a heart that genuinely wants to understand the things of God but it betrays the same lack of understanding thats at the center of all mans attempts to create a religious system or plan. But Jesus, doesnt get frustrated with her, rather He simply shows her the truth--"Look its not about Geography," He says, "Its about relationship... And then he reveals the most important thing of all its about relationship with HIM. In spite of her preconceptions...

In Spite of Her Preconceptions Jesus Offered Her His Presence

Then Jesus told her, "I am the Messiah." John 4:26 NLT

She says, well all this religious stuff will get sorted out when the Messiah gets here. And He says, "Youre looking at Him, Im right here." And He says that same thing to you today. You may be saying in your heart--"Ill get this religious stuff straightened out later." But Jesus says "Im here now!" He offers you a relationship with Him. He offers you a relationship with the one who died on the cross to pay for your sins. He offers you a hope and a future, He offers you an everlasting Promise and He offers His very presence.


You never know the story of the person next to you in this church. In fact, I dont know of any other gathering like this one in this city. We come from so many different backgrounds and many of our stories and even current lives are full of challenges and sometimes even pain. 


The good news. . .no the GREAT news is that Jesus offers you and me His incredible unconditional love and that love will change us and transform us in spite of our circumstances. Heres the story of Cindy. If you have been paying attention at all today you know her but not like God knows her.

Prayer

Maybe youre here and youve never accepted His offer; Id like to invite you to do that today. Maybe you were here last Sunday and listening to the message and you saw others praying but you just didnt have the courage to come forward. 


For the second Sunday in a row we are telling you the story of Jesus Christ and His love for all people.