Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

                                                                                                                                                                16 November 2005
The Man Who Understood A Woman  
  John 4:7-4:26 

The title of the lesson this morning is “The Man Who Understood A Woman.” 

I knew that I might get in trouble when I settled upon that title for my message. 

I didn’t tell Sierra, because I knew she would probably giggle and say, “Oh, yeah . . . that will be the day.”

I know what the guys are thinking, “Oh yeah…if only you could understand women.”

Many on both sides of the gender divide are convinced that “The man who understood a woman” is a contradiction in terms.

John Gray who wrote a best selling book declares: Men are from Mars and Women are From Venus.

This is the place where I need that joke. 

The one about the guy who found a genie in a bottle who promised to grant him anything he wanted.

His first request was for a bridge to Hawaii.

The genie balked at that reminding him how impossible it would be and how much concrete it would take.

He was offered a second try.

This time he decided to be more serious.

Since he had been married and divorced a couple of times, he asked for the ability to understand women; what made them tick, and what they really meant when they asked for something.

The genie paused for a moment and then said, “Do you want that bridge four lanes or six.”

Just to balance things a bit I want to read you the Top Ten Reasons why Eve Was Created.

Fasten your seat belts.

The #10 reason why God created Eve—God was worried that Adam would frequently become lost in the garden because he would not ask for directions.

#9—God knew that one day Adam would require someone to locate and hand him the remote.

#8—God knew Adam would never go out and buy himself a new fig leaf when his wore out and would therefore need Eve to buy one for him.

#7—God knew Adam would never be able to make a doctor, dentist, or haircut appointment for himself.

The #6 reason Eve was created—God knew Adam would never remember which night to put the garbage on the curb.

#5—God knew if the world was to be populated, men would never be able to handle the pain and discomfort of childbearing.

#4—As the Keeper of the Garden, Adam would never remember where he left his tools.

#3—Apparently, Adam needed someone to blame his troubles on when God caught him hiding in the garden.

#2—As the Bible says, it is not good for man to be alone!

And the #1 reason why God created Eve---when God finished the creation of Adam, He stepped back, scratched his head, and said, “I can do better than that!”

I am making light of this, of course.

But the real tension that can sometimes exist between men and women, even husbands and wives, is not a laughing matter.

“Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus” makes a cute title, but it also clouds the reality of a lot of pain and hurt and even more a hunger to understand and be understood.

Even in the church in our day, just beneath the surface, unspoken, but not unfelt, runs a current of concern and confusion about whether men and women really understand one another.

I am not going to solve that problem today.

I will not even attempt to.

Our text today reminds us that the one we serve and follow understands us and our mates far better than we even understand ourselves.

Where Christ is Lord, there is hope for a better future—either on Mars or Venus or more importantly right here on earth.

Today, we are going to look in John 4 at the story of a meeting between Jesus and a woman He met at a well.

Jesus met a woman.

I have met her.

So have you!

You might have met her at a battered women’s shelter.

She came beaten and bruised by her boyfriend.

She has a couple of kids and no place to go because she won’t put up with the abuse anymore.

Her family had taken her in before, but no more, they said.

It’s her fault.

It has to be, they say.

Anyone who works in an emergency room has met her.

Every policeman in almost every community has met her more than once.

She calls the police for help one minute and attacks them the next when they threatened to haul her husband or boyfriend off to jail.

She may not have been a victim of abuse—at least any abuse you could treat in an emergency room.

Maybe she was just a tough girl from a tough home who was just looking for a good man who would love her.

She always seemed to look in the wrong places and find the exact opposite of what she wanted.

She just didn’t seem to learn or listen to well intentioned advice.

Jesus met a woman at a well.

You could meet her in the inner city or the suburb.

You can find her in the countryside.

She might have moved there to get away.

You could meet her at church.

Brokenness, hurt, mistakes, and marriage problems are no stranger at church.

George Barna, and other religious statisticians, tell us that the divorce rate among evangelical Christians is as high, if not higher, than among the population in general.

Anyone who is half a wake knows that marriage problems, domestic violence, and moral failure happens in the lives of people who go to church, too.

Probably, in a pew not far from you on any Sunday morning sits a woman who is torn between crying out to somebody, anybody, to help her and hoping no body finds out what she has been going through.

Jesus met her at a well at the sixth hour, probably noon by our clock.

It was most likely the heat of the day.

Most of the women came early in the morning while it was still cool.

In fact, the morning meeting at the well was when most of the women caught up on the latest village news.

Who was engaged . . . who was expecting . . . whose youngster was in trouble with the rabbi . . . or which husband and wife were not getting along.

You have met her.

She may live down the street or across town.

You have met her in the grocery store.

She often comes early or late because she doesn’t want to run into anyone she knows.

They always ask her the most embarrassing questions or some who think they already know the answers don’t even want to talk to her.

You pass her in the aisle and she looks down or the other way so she won’t make eye contact.

Maybe she comes to the store at odd hours to lessen the chance of running into her ex-in-laws or her boy friends ex-wife.

She just doesn’t want to deal with that.

You get the picture!

You have met her.

Jesus met her at a well at noon.

He did the unthinkable.

He talked to her!

Respectable men didn’t do that in those days.

They often didn’t even acknowledge the presence of a woman except in the home.

They would never carry on a conversation in public.

Someone one might get the wrong idea.

You know how the women at the well talk every morning.

Most respectable men especially didn’t talk to her.

If word got around that a husband had been talking to her in public, he could expect a word or two when he went home for supper.

In a society where women had virtually no right to divorce or legal recourse against a brutal or even unfaithful husband, she had been married five times.

Now there was probably more than one side to the story.

But that probably didn’t make much difference at the gossip well.

She couldn’t keep a man or rather for some reason a man wouldn’t keep her.

She always managed to find another and each situation was no better than the last.

She probably told herself, “Never again will I allow myself to get messed up with somebody like him.”

The first time she even believed it.

And maybe the second and third time.

But after marriage number four and five, even she knew she was just kidding herself.

So this time she didn’t even bother with the formalities of a permanent commitment.

She was living with a sixth man to whom she wasn’t married.

Why would a woman do such a thing?

Why would a woman keep making the same mistake over and over again?

Two times, maybe?

But five?

Why do women you know go back home after the visit to the ER or the domestic violence shelter?

Why does she call the police, and then refuse to press charges?

Why does she go from one alcoholic to another?

And it is not just “dumb” women, it even happens to college educated women, doctors, and lawyers, and marriage counselors!

You have met her.

Maybe someone here is her!

She could have been the poster girl for Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s book Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives.

We simply don’t know enough to be sure.

Which of Dr. Laura’s “stupid things” have you seen mess up a woman’s life:
• She looks to a man to find herself. She believes that without a man she is nothing or nobody.
• She has sex too soon or uses sex hoping to win love and affection.
•  She moves in with a man, not out of love, but because she hopes he’ll want her if she does.
• She has a baby hoping that this will jump start love, personal growth, or commitment.
• She allows her man to keep hurting her or her children because of an obsessive need for security or a need to be wanted. Once in the mess, she doesn’t know how to get out.

Why five husbands and now she is living with a man who has no legal obligation to her at all?

Some psychologists refer to what they call “love hunger”—a deep need that some people have, men and women, to be loved and accepted no matter what.

They will even self-destruct in an effort to find someone who truly cares about them or—in some strange way—that they can take care of.

They need to feel needed.

If not with this man—then maybe the next.

Surely, Mr. Right is out there.


I suspect that this is difficult for most men, and a lot of women, to understand.

Granted a woman in that society—and even in ours—had some special burdens that most men don’t bear.

Normally, she is weaker, no match physically for a man.

And she knows it.

A woman normally has a mothering instinct that goes way beyond just bearing children.

She will put up with almost anything herself to feed and shelter her young.

Men seldom have that same drive to the same depth.

Along with that mothering instinct comes a capacity to care and forgive—that sometimes doesn’t make sense.

Women then and now sometimes have to put up with social and legal structures that can be unfair and applied with remarkable injustice.

A woman can work hard and long, raising children and fashioning a home for those she loves and then be left with little or nothing.

Until modern times, and even now it is not perfect, she had no financial security at all.

In many societies a man is free to take the best years of a woman’s life and then on a whim trade her in on a newer model.

Did you read about the fellow in Southern California who came across a classified ad that he couldn’t believe?

It read: “Like new Porsche, $50. Call 555-1213 for more information.”

He knew that normally such a car would sell for as much as $100,000.

He called.

A woman answers the phone. “You have a Porsche for sale.”

“Yes.” “What year is the car?”

“It’s six months old.”

“How many miles?”

“Only 12,000.”

“What color?”

“Candy apple red.”

“Does it run?”

“It runs fine.”

“Any body damage?”

“It’s in prefect shape.”

It was too good to be true.

He has to ask for more details.

“Lady, there has to be something wrong. What’s up?”

“I assure you there is nothing wrong with the car.  But it’s like this.  My husband is a doctor.  We’ve been married thirty years.  I worked to put him through medical school.  This sports car is his pride and joy.  Yesterday, he called me from Las Vegas telling me he had ran away with his twenty-five year old secretary and was divorcing me.  He told me I could keep the house, but he wanted me to sell his Porsche.  He told me to take out the cost of an ad and send him the rest of the sale price. So I am!”

Jesus met a women.

How her life became such a mess we will never know.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she was a Samaritan and not a Jew.

The Jews normally had pretty high standards about such things.

The Samaritans were the outcast cousins of the Jews racially.

The venom between the two groups was five hundred years old by Jesus’ time.

According to the Jewish line, the Samaritans had bad blood, bad religion, and a bad reputation in every way.

What do you expect from a Samaritan?

THEY are like that you know!

Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a public well at noon—and he spoke to her.

She was surprised at that for a lot of reasons, no doubt.

But then he took the conversation in an unexpected direction.

It was as if he knew something.

Indeed he did!

Remember John tells us in John 2:25, “ He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.”

And a women, we are safe to say!

Jesus talked to a woman that most people only talked about.

He looked past the racial divide, the religious differences, the social customs and looked into an unquestionably messed up life and said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

If you knew—there lies the rub.

How our lives would be different—if we knew.

If we knew the end from the beginning, if we knew it could be better, if we knew the past could be left there, if we knew we weren’t alone, if we knew God would really listen and care and forgive.

If you knew the gift of God . . .

Empty promises?

She had heard that before.

Had she ever!

Jesus spoke of God’s gifts and of living water, water that didn’t run out, water that satisfied, water that really quenched the thirst that went beyond the throat all the way to your heart.

Even though she was suspicious of any man, probably with good reason, and even though this one had no canteen or water bucket, he touched a nerve.

Oh, how she wished that deep down hunger or thirst could be satisfied!

She had tried everything—even religion.

“So you think you can do what nobody else can do?”

She thought she had heard it all before.

But this guy was something else.

“This very well was dug by the Patriarch Jacob—so our teachers say—and I will still get thirsty again.  Who do you think you are? Living water! Never thirst again! Really!”

“Yes really!  I can give you the very thing you have been looking for all your life.  What you always wanted when you were growing up and never found?  I can fill that hole in your heart that you hoped married love would fill.  And it didn’t fill, even though you keep looking and looking and looking.  You have never quit looking and you are still thirsty.  This thirst will be quenched not from the outside, but on the inside.  The life you have always wanted can be yours forever.”

A women met a man at well.

She had met a lot of men—the women of the village would be glad to fill you in on the details.

But she had never met anyone who seemed to offer her something without expecting something in return.

He was different.

Had she finally met a man who understood a woman?

And then he said it.

He didn’t have to say that.

They could have talked all day without bringing that up.

“Go get your husband,” he said.

The request seemed to come out of the blue.

“He doesn’t know me, maybe I can get around this.”

 “I’m not married,” she replied.

“That’s right, you’re not.  You have had five husbands and now you are living with a sixth even before his divorce is final.”

Her face probably turned three shades of red.

She wanted to tell him it was none of his business.

She didn’t have to put up with that from a total stranger.

She received enough of that from her mother and sister in laws.

But he hadn’t said it with a condemning tone.

It was a fact.

There was no white-washing it.

She hadn’t planned for her life to turn out this way.

She wasn’t proud of it—even though she tried to rationalize it to her family.

The fact was—she was ashamed and embarrassed.

But he hadn’t really condemned her.

It was like he was noting the obvious and letting her know that it didn’t have to stay that way.

He could have not brought it up.

He could have avoided the one fact that told more about her than anything else in life.

But Jesus isn’t like that.

If you want someone to sugar coat your life and tell you sweet nothings and never saying anything bad—and lie to you.

You have the wrong man.

Jesus understands a woman—and a man—too well to fall for that.

If you are here today and you know your life has some big holes in it, some dark stains, a lot of brokenness and hurts, don’t think that you can do business with Jesus and have him not bring that up.

Do you want the doctor to tell you how pretty your eyes look and avoid talking about the cancer?

That was the way men had been treating her all her life.

One line, one lie after another!

She instinctively knew that the conversation had taken a spiritual turn.

She knew that he wasn’t talking about wells and water and dry parched throats.

Many Bible scholars think her next question was an attempt to evade the issue and change the subject.

“Samaritans say worship at Gerizim and the Jews say Jerusalem. Who is right?”

Maybe she was tossing in a theological red herring just to change the subject.

Maybe not!

Maybe she saying—“You’re right. My real problem is spiritual. All along I thought it was economic; I needed a man to take care of me. Or it was psychological; I just needed to forget my past. Or maybe, educational; I just needed to learn how to make smarter choices. But really, I have been looking for a man, a lover, to fill a hole in my heart that only God can fill.”

That’s true for many people, men and women, young and old.

Sometimes the problem isn’t the problem at all.

The real problem is deeper.

Some jump from job to job, or church to church, or relationship to relationship, looking for something they never find.

Some eat or drink trying to satisfy a hunger or thirst that never gets filled.

Sometimes it’s a God-sized hole in the soul.

Jesus met a woman who asked a religious question.

“Where is the right place to worship?”

In a sense, Jesus’ answer was: “it’s not where. It’s who!”

In a sense it is true; a person can worship just as well at the fishing bank or camp site as in a church building.

It’s not where; it’s who!

But let’s not kid ourselves—it is the rare person indeed who worships the King of Glory and the Lord of the Cross outside of the fellowship of other believers.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Jesus met a woman with a deep spiritual thirst.

She listened.

She believed.

She was never the same again.

Two surprises follow in the story.

The disciples return from an errand to the village and are surprised that Jesus was actually talking to THAT woman.

Sometime later the villagers are surprised to find THAT woman inviting them to come meet the one who had changed her life.

And many of the people of Samaria believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony.

A woman went to a well and met what she never expected to find—a man who understood her, inside and out.

Today, right here, a woman—or maybe a man, or a teenager—went to church.

She may have come expecting one thing or another—to meet some friends, to find a few moments of peace, to just get out of the house, maybe to be inspired, maybe to even be entertained. But she can meet Jesus—a man who understands. 


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