Unexpected Jesus #10 - Can Jesus Satisfy My Deepest Longings?

Dr. Kurt Bjorklund looks at the age-old question, "Are you satisfied with your life?" and how Jesus's promise of living water works in making our lives better.


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Good morning. Welcome to Orchard Hill. It's great to be together in Wexford and the chapel and the Strip district, Butler county. We have been working our way through the first four chapters of the gospel of John. We've called this 'the unexpected Jesus' where we've been dealing with some of the ways that John just reveals who Jesus is to us in our world. It was certainly revealed to people in that world, but what we're finding is that some of the things that may have been unexpected then or unexpected today. And so today we're going to look at a familiar text, John Chapter four verses one through 42. And I say familiar because even if you haven't been around church, even if this isn't familiar to you in the sense that you've studied it, you've probably heard this story, the account of Jesus going through Sumeria and meeting this woman at the well and telling her that he would give her living water. But what I hope that we'll see today is that there are some things in this text that are unexpected for you, for me. So let's pray. And then we'll jump into it.

Father, we ask today that you would speak to each of us wherever we're coming from, whatever our week has been, whatever our expectations are, father I pray that my words would reflect your word, in content and in tone and in emphasis. And we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

So let me begin by asking a question, actually a series of questions. Are you satisfied with your life? Satisfied with the way things are going, with some of all of your experiences? Are You satisfied? Now if, I would guess, I would say that there are some of you who would say, "I'm absolutely satisfied. My life has gone from one great experience to another and I am just full of satisfaction with my life." And then there are probably some who would say, "Ah, you know, there are some parts of my life I'm not super satisfied about. Some things I wish would be different." And then there are some who right now feel like you're hanging on by a thread and you say, "I am the opposite of satisfied at this moment. My life was just very difficult."

But let me ask you another question. Do you think most people in our world today are satisfied? Again, I don't know exactly how you'd answer, but my guess is similar to our individual answers, there would be some who would say, "Yeah, I'm satisfied." But many who would say, "I'm not." But, but here's yet another question. And this might be maybe the most probing question. Do you think most Christians, people of faith, people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ are satisfied? And the reason I asked this question is one of the things that draws people to faith is this idea that if I come to faith, then God will work in my life. And if God works in my life, I'll be satisfied. And it seems that even on the face that this passage that we're looking at today where Jesus offers streams of living water to anybody who will drink from him, that there's a sense in which God will satisfy. And yet if we're honest, many of us would say it seems like the people of faith are no more satisfied than people who don't have faith.

In fact, I've been around church most of my adult life and I would guess that there is not a statistical difference in satisfaction between people in Church and people outside of church. And I have to be honest, that concerns me a little, because you would think that if Jesus offers these streams of living water that that people of faith would typically be more satisfied with the way that their life is going. In fact, I have to be honest, this is a week that in some ways I struggled putting together this message a little more than I do most weeks simply because of this disconnect. This distance between what's proclaimed in Christianity and what's experienced. And I think if we look at this encounter Jesus had with this woman, we'll see something unexpected about Jesus.

And so the story is told here in John four, and it's a fairly straightforward, simple story. There's a woman in Sumeria. Sumeria was a place that Jews typically traveled around, not through because they had such a distaste for the Samaritans. But Jesus goes straight through Sumeria, and when he's there, the disciples had gone into town to get food, Jesus asked this woman to draw some water from the well. And so as the exchange is taking place, Jesus makes that bold statement about, "I would give you streams of water and then you'll never thirst." And she says, "I'd like that." And then Jesus kind of throws a bomb into the conversation. And the bomb is basically, he says, "Go call your husband. And she says, "Well, I don't have a husband." And Jesus says, well, "You're right. You don't have a husband. You've had five. And the person you're with now is not your husband."

Now, you may hear that today and may feel like that's a little bit of shame that Jesus was throwing on her. I don't believe it's shame. I believe what Jesus is doing is he is pointing to something that she has tried to find satisfaction in her life. And there's some debate among the commentators about whether or not this woman had chosen to go from marriage to marriage from man to man or whether or not she was more of a victim, somebody who had been on the receiving end of loose divorce laws and had just been passed along. And because of the economic realities had to marry to survive. But either way, what is clear is that her longing, her desire to have romance satisfy her, had not worked.

And this is a place where certainly this story reads very similar to us today, because what is it in our society that so many people believe is essential to the good life? It's having that somebody in your life. And that if you have somebody, then your life will be good. If you don't have somebody, then your life will be bad. This woman had lived that, and Jesus exposes this in this moment. But it isn't just this. This woman probably wasn't just somebody who had been dissatisfied with her romantic experiences, but this is also a woman who probably had experienced some version of being a social outcast. And the reason I say this is because, the text tells us that she went to the well at noon. And what we know about people drawing water in arid desert climates is that they would usually go early in the morning or late in the day and they would gather water. They'd usually travel together for safety. The women would, so she goes to this well at noon in the middle of the day. And part of why she probably went at noon in the middle of the day, is that there was some shaming from the women in the culture.

Because some of the women, we're probably looking at her and saying, "Do you what? She's had five husbands, can you believe it? And the guy she's with now, not her husband. Keep your husband away from this one." And what probably was happening was she was saying, "I don't want to be in this culture in this place." And then she probably had some longing which you see again in the text, when Jesus says, "Would you draw some water for me?" And she says, "Jews don't have anything to do with Samaritans." And so for a moment she says, "I live in a culture where people can't get along. They can't reconcile."

Now, I don't know how you come here today, but my guess is that for all of us, there are some things personally, where we say that is not how I wished things would go in my life. That is not how I thought they would go. It may not be around romance, it may be around romance, but it may not be. It may be around the death of somebody you love. It may be around the career trajectory that you had hoped for. It may be around finances, it may be around health. It may just be around you're in a marriage, but it doesn't feel satisfying. It could be all kinds of things, but there's something where you might say, "You know what? I wanted this to happen. I wanted it to go this way and it didn't." And so there's a little disconnect.

Or maybe there's some social situation where you thought that the way that you had lived would lead to a certain acceptance with a certain group of people, and maybe it has or hasn't. But there might be some disappointment there and then there's certainly some global disappointments. Some things where you look at the world in which we live and you say, "that is not how things should be."

And Here's what happens when you and I experience those moments and that is we start to say, "Okay, the life that I envisioned, the life that I wanted, the things that I thought would be true are not true." In other words, the target has been missed in some way. And when that happens, what we'll tend to do is, we'll tend to do one of several things. First, we may simply say, "Well, the thing itself wasn't satisfying, so I need a new thing." For some of us, this is like this woman with five marriages, where what we'll do is we'll go from one person to another person to another person, always thinking that the reason we're not satisfied is because we got the wrong person, and that the next person will be the right person. Only to find out that the next person isn't necessarily the right person.

Now, there's certainly a time to leave a bad relationship, when there's abuse, when there's infidelity, when there's those kinds of issues. But the point here is that sometimes, what we'll do is we'll simply say, "I just need something else because this isn't enough." And so we think that the next job, the next house, the next big purchase, the next vacation, the next thing will somehow satisfy us. And what happens is, a lot of times it doesn't satisfy us. And so we go through our lives always thinking and believing that if we could get the next thing, if we could just get what it is we think we want, then we'd be satisfied, we'd be happy. And some of us will say, "Okay, maybe it isn't the next thing. Maybe I'm the problem. Maybe I'm just not a person who can ever be satisfied with anything." And some of us might even turn and blame God and say, "God, why didn't you bring satisfaction to me? Why didn't you bring to me what it is that I thought I needed?"

And here's what Jesus does very simply, in this account, is when he's talking to the woman, he says this, verse 10 and following. It says, "Jesus answered her, "If you know 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."" So Jesus takes a common element like water, and he says, "I could give you living water." "Sir", the woman said, "You have nothing to draw with. And the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?"

You can almost hear the sarcasm like, like, "You're offering me living water? You can't even get a drink of real water. I mean, who do you think you are? Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself and also did his sons, as did his sons and livestock?" And Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water", speaking of the water here in the well, "will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them, a spring of living water welling up to eternal life."

The woman said to him, "Sir, give me some of that water, so I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." And what Jesus does in this moment is he says, "I will give you something that will be significant in your life, in a way that will give you what you ultimately need." Now water, in our Bible is a picture that is used in the old testament several times to allude to a relationship that God wants to have with his people. Let me just read you a few of them. This is Psalm 36 verses eight and nine. "They feast on the abundance of your house. You give them drink from your river of delights, for with you as a fountain of life in your light, we see light." Psalm 42 verses one and two. "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you. Oh God, my soul thirsts for you, the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Isaiah 55 verse one, "Come all you who are thirsty come to the water. You who have no money, come buy and eat. Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost." And then Jeremiah two verse 13, "My people have committed two sins. They have forsaken me, the spring of living water and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot hold water."

And so the promise in the Old Testament was the god would bring water to the people that they needed. And then he says, "But my people have committed two sins. They've forsaken me, the real source, and then they've made themselves cisterns that don't actually hold the water." Now part of our challenge is, when we read this, is our distance from that culture. And the reason I say that is, I have lived my entire life in a place where if I want water, I walk into the kitchen, I get a glass, I stick it under a spicket, and I turn it on and I have clean, safe, cold or hot water instantly. But in that culture, water took great effort and strategy in order to have enough. People didn't just go into their kitchen and get water. They walk sometimes for miles to go to a well, they carried jugs back. They conserved it. They needed it. And sometimes even then, the wells would dry up because it was a desert climate.

In other words, for these people when they hear the of water, it isn't just, "Oh, I get some water and it will overflow and I'll be completely satisfied." It was, "This is the stuff that is the sustenance of life." You see, what happens for some of us is, we perceive that what coming to Jesus will do is it will make our life better, because we read passages like this and we say, "Jesus will always satisfy me." Rather than understanding that what Jesus is actually pointing to, and this might be the unexpected piece, is he saying that, "I will give you what you ultimately need, what's most important in your life, not just everything you that you think you need or want." And as a result, what some of us do is we continually try to satisfy ourselves in these broken cisterns.

I thought about, bringing some broken cisterns in to try to illustrate this, and pouring water into them and having it spill all over the place. But I thought I'd wait till we're closer to the auditorium refurbishing that's coming, rather than do that here today. So, stick with this analogy, just for a moment, because sometimes a picture helps us think through what is the implication that we're learning about. So these are a bunch of Dixie cups that I've put here. And just imagine for a moment that the Dixie cups represent all of the things that matter in your life that you try to drink and get satisfaction from. Again, using the analogy kind of Jesus saying, "I'm the living water and you've [hewn 00:16:32] cisterns that are broken. You've forsaken me."

And what happens for most of us, is we will take things sometimes that are good, sometimes that are maybe not good, and we'll say, "What I really need is I need a drink from this cup." I thought about labeling the cops, but then I thought rather than labeling the cups, I want you to identify what it is that you really believe you need in order to be satisfied. Because what is happening here is that this woman in a sense had been putting all of her hopes into relationship, into societal acceptance. She had said, "If I could just find this, this man", or maybe if she was a victim, she would say, "If I could just find a man who when victimize me." But what happens for you and me as we start to drink saying, "Maybe I can be satisfied if I could just drink enough." And you can use the analogy of a broken system. And you could also, I thought of this analogy of salt. And it's like there's salt in each of these cups. But the issue is, we often can't taste the salt. And so what happens is we begin to think that this will really satisfy us. And the more we drink from the cup of whatever it is that we say, "I need", we find ourselves increasingly dissatisfied because we need more of it now.

Now I know some of you right now are saying, "Really? Really? I'm married and I'm happily married and I have a great family and it brings me the deepest satisfaction in my life." And it probably does for some of you. Or some of you have a career and you say, "You know what? My career has been thrilling, and I have done really well and I feel really good about my contribution to the world." There's some of you have done financially really, really well, and you're saying, "You know what? It's a whole lot better to have a whole lot of money than to have very little. And I'm really satisfied with the stockpile that I have." But here's the issue with all of those things, and that is to the degree that those things are the satisfaction of your soul, they can be taken from you.

Now, you may argue with that, but the reason that family is a good thing and should be pursued but isn't an ultimate thing, is because it is by definition, going to end when people die. A career will end when you retire. Your money will go to somebody else when you die. And what that means is you can drink from them, and even if you're successful all the way to the end of your life of managing it, you'll always be trying to manage it, to keep it, because that's where you get your truest satisfaction. And here's what I believe Jesus is ultimately saying, and that is he saying, "I am the living water."

Now I just have a pitcher here. Again, if I were to try to make this analogy more visually correct, this would be a huge cistern that had a constant flow of water coming in. But again, I didn't want to make the mess here. But the idea is not that you say, "I'm going to drink from this pitcher", and ignore all of these other cups, but the idea is say, "I'm going to get the water that I need from the pitcher from the ultimate source of life, and that will give me the ability to live and navigate these things. Notice that this woman did not get exactly what we may have thought she wanted. Jesus says, "I give you living water."

And as the passage unfolds, she leaves her jar. She goes and tells the people, "Come and see this man who told me everything I've ever done." And it was her encounter with Jesus where Jesus saw her and loved her that brought change to her. That was her moment of transformation. And what happened for her was that instead of saying, "You know what? My life is good now because Jesus came into my life and now I'm going to have a good marriage. Now I'm going to be socially acceptable. Now the Jews and gentiles are going to get along." All of a sudden, she says, "I've got something greater than that. I've been seen and I've been loved at the core of my being. And that changes things for me."

I was thinking about this and, and just trying to think about, "Okay, so how do we take this from just a nice theory to being practical?" And I'm going to use an analogy from the NCA tournament and I was telling my wife I was going to do this. And she said, "You know, like half the people roll their eyes if you use a sports analogy." Because she's one who rolls her eyes when I use a sports analogy. But I'm gonna use this sports analogy anyway. And by the way, it has been months since I have used a sports analogy as far as I remember. I may have used one more recently, but I don't remember it. So it doesn't count.

So in the NCA tournament, there's a team, University of Virginia is coached by Tony Bennett. And Tony Bennett, and by the way, this isn't actually a sports analogy. Sports is just the context. Because sports is a cup in a sense. And Tony Bennett led the Virginia Cavaliers to a number one seed in the tournament last year. By the way, if you live in Pittsburgh, the NCA tournament is really one of the only things that makes March palatable. But anyway, I digress. So, Tony Bennett led his team to a number one seed. They lost to a 16 seed, which was the biggest loss that any one seed had ever had. Humiliating really, for him and for the program. Tony Bennett now has led his team back this next year to a number one seed to the final four. And now tomorrow night they'll play for a National Championship. I actually knew Tony as a kid. We played against each other. He grew up in a town right near where I lived. And so we played basketball against each other when we were kids. He destroyed me. But he was always so nice about it.

And Tony is a person of faith. He believes in Jesus Christ. And I want you to hear when he was asked about the loss last year, after he won the game that they got into the final four. I want you to hear what he has to say. And again, this isn't really about basketball. Listen for how he actually manages to say, "I have something that's bigger than basketball in my life." So take a look.

I know you were saying yesterday, which you've said before that, if the final four didn't, happen that you were at peace with it and then you could live with that. But when the buzzer rings, when you see your dad, when you're standing on the ladder and swinging it, was it everything you could hope it today.

It was great. We said it before, the joy of competition, the fun and the pursuit of trying to win a championship and we didn't win a championship, but we got to the final four. And of course, it was exhilarating. It was great. But I meant what I said. And it's easy to say up here, but I said it before. And I experienced things. And I was at peace, but there was a burning desire to get these guys and our program to a final four and hopefully beyond. So, the moments are good. But I remember 19 years ago, I was sitting in the back of a press conference when my father took his team to the final four. They beat Purdue. And I memorized his quote. He said a quote that I've never forgotten and it stuck with me for that long.

And they asked him, "Is this one of the greatest feelings that you've ever had, getting to the final four?" And he said this. He said, "From a feeling state, euphoria? Yes, it is. But it doesn't compare with faith, with kids, family, grandkids." He said, "Because I know what truly matters that enables me to enjoy what seems to matter like this." I've remembered that quote and I've tried my best to live by it. I've wanted this program to honor what's important to me, my faith in these young men through success, and through failure. That's what I've wanted. And he pointed me in the right direction. As a competitor, you go after it and you want to do it. But in the bigger picture you have to be at peace with both. That's just my viewpoint on it. So I'm sorry for the long answer, but I think I'm glad I got the chance to say that.

Now, did you hear it in there? He said, the reason I can pursue winning a National Championship, and not be basically overwhelmed by the pressure of that is because I have other things in line. Now, he included faith, kids, family, everything else, which I would say are still these little cups. My take is he was saying that in reference to basketball. In other words, these cups are better than, or more important to me than basketball. But ultimately, what's at core here, what's at the core of this is the ability to say, "You know what? I'm okay with or without these things."

Now there's a part of this passage that's significant in this way, and that is, right after Jesus calls her about the these five husbands, and this other man, the woman basically tries to change the subject. She says, "Sir, I can see that you're a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where you must worship is Jerusalem." So here's what she does. She's being confronted with something that's hard in her own life. And do you know what she does? She goes to a theological conversation. She says, well, "Let's debate where's the right places to worship." This seems odd at this moment.

And the reason that I point this out, is because sometimes people who love to talk theology and debate things and dive into minutia, use it as a way to avoid Jesus. They use it as a way to avoid their own brokenness. It's like, "Let's debate stuff because then I don't actually have to deal with my own self." And here's what does, right after that, is he says, "There's coming a time when true worshipers will worship me in spirit and in truth and that it won't be about the temple." In other words, what his answer was wasn't this group's right, that groups, right? He said, "You're asking the wrong question", because the ultimate issue here is worship. And here's the issue for you and me in terms of where we try to get our living water.

And the reason I think that this is so significant that Jesus goes to worship here. And that is this. And that is, the things that we think will satisfy us are ultimately the things that we worship. And the way that you know what you worship, is because it's the things that you find yourself getting anxious about, worried about, fretting about. It's the things that you get angry about when somebody stands in your way. And it's the things that if you lose them, you will be absolutely devastated.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you're not devastated by a significant loss in a sense, but there's a difference between devastation and being so devastated that you can never move past that, because then what it says is, "That was everything to me, and it was more important to me than God." Meaning you worshiped that instead of God. In other words, part of how we come to a point to have open hands and pursue and to live and to enjoy the life that God gives us is to say, "I worship God even if I don't get all the things that I want."

There's a great account in the Old Testament. It's in Daniel three where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the three youth sue had been taken into exile, were being told that they had a worship the king by bowing down to him. And the story goes that, if they didn't bow down, they would be thrown into the fiery furnace. And so they looked at it and they sized it up, and they said, "You know what? We're not going to bow down." And so they stood there, everyone else bowed down. And they said, "We're not bowing down because it would be a violation of what matters to us." Talk about having your cup kind of threatened for a moment. Our lives will be taken away, our family will be disappointed, everything will go wrong. I mean, that's just not pleasant to think about.

And they said, "You know what? We have something that's more important." But I love the quote that they give. It's in Daniel chapter three, 16, 17, 18, right in there. And they say this, they say, "Oh king, our God can deliver us. But even if he doesn't, we won't bow down to you." This is, but if not faith. This is a willingness to say, "I will worship even when it doesn't feel like God is working in my life the way I want him to." With what I do, I meet people often, who when they find out what I do, will tell me their church history. People you know, just out in public and they'll just say, "Oh yeah, I used to go to church." And do you know what I've found? Is that most of the time when somebody tells me that they used to go to church, that their departure from church was not a church mass, was not a church problem. Although there are some of those. It usually isn't even a theological problem, or an intellectual problem. Usually it's an experience problem where they say, "I used to go to church, I used to believe, but then something happened in my life that was devastating to me and now I don't want to go worship."

Do you see what Jesus is doing here? He's saying, "Worship isn't a place. It's not about a place. Worship is in everything. Worship is all the time." And as you come to understand that, you'll say, "The only safe thing to worship is God. Because if I'm anxious, if I'm depressed, if I find myself in a place where I'm consistently angry", and I'm not talking about chemical kinds of depressions or anxiety, I'm talking about about more routine types. Then what it shows is that I'm worshiping something that can't hold the weight of my soul. That's what that shows.

Now there's another thing that we see here besides this idea of worship and that is we see hope that's here. And we see this because Jesus says that, "Whoever drinks this water", verse 14, "will spring up to welling up to eternal life. And what he's talking about here is he saying, "There will come a day when, if you are my follower, all of the disappointments, all of the dreams, all of the hopes, I will ultimately bring to complete fulfillment." There's a part at the end of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, where Narnia has represented heaven, and the kids have been in a sense in this journey through all kinds of adventures and now they're finally coming to the world as it will be. And C.S. Lewis writes this. He says, "all of their life in this world and all of their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page. Now at last, they were beginning chapter one of the great story no one on earth has read, which goes on forever in which every chapter is better than the one before."

You see, the way that you and I can live for something other than this world is saying, "I choose to worship God even when things aren't exactly as I might want them, because he's the only one that can satisfy." And I live with the knowledge of saying, "I wasn't created just for this world." But there is a world, if I've come to faith in Jesus Christ, if I've come to acknowledge my sin before a holy God, that all of a sudden I'll say, "I can have that life." And you see, this was the transformation for this woman. Why was she transformed? It was because she said, and you see this because she goes into the town and she tells the people, she says, "Come and see the person who saw everything I did, and I wasn't judged, but I was loved."

See that experience, that moment of being able to say, "Everything I've ever done, God has seen and he loves me because of what Jesus Christ has done." Well, what that does is it says, "Whatever else is happening in my world, I can navigate because I know where that will lead me." And this leads her, by the way, outward in Verse 28, and following, where she leaves her jar. She goes and she invites the people to come and they come. And what we see here is that this ultimately gave her a new purpose. It took her eyes off of herself, and onto this great mission. Not just a saying, "I want to make the world better." But saying, "I want people to come and see this Jesus who revealed himself here to say, I am He."

And so here's my questions, just to end today for you. And that is if you're here and you've always just seen God as an add on who might help you have a better life, might not be. But you see a lot of people whose lives aren't necessarily more satisfying, can you see you see the brokenness of your own cisterns? The saltwater of your own cup. And have at least enough honesty to say, "As much as I think this time it will be different." To know that unless you fill it with the living water, you won't actually enjoy it because you'll crush it with anxiety, and anger and despondency.

And what that means is that part of coming to Jesus for you is saying, "God, I've tried so many things to satisfy myself, but now I want to instead, have your living water." And the way you do that is you just simply come and say, "God, I know that that the brokenness that I experienced is really my own sinfulness. And so I trust Jesus to be my savior and to give me what I can't give myself." Maybe you're here and you've believed in Jesus for years, and yet you're one of those people who, despite being a follower of Jesus, would say, "You know what? I'm not that satisfied." And part of that might be that you've had little cups with saltwater in them that you've been trying to drink to satisfy yourself.

And again, the, the answer here is not to abandon your little cup, but it's to say, "I want to fill it with the living water that Jesus gives." Rather than just trying to satisfy my thirst on that. And what that means maybe, for you is that you come and say, "I want to worship more fully. I want to live with a, with an expanded view of the future. I need a grander purpose for why I'm living. That means living about something that matters for eternity." And if those things will be true, then then you'll find that all of those things have some greater satisfaction, because you know they're not ultimate, but they point to what will be ultimate.

So does Jesus satisfy? Yeah. But it may not be like you think. It'll actually be deeper and better, because it will be in the midst of even the disappointments that you can't hedge your life against.

Father, we pray today that you would help each of us who's here to drink from this living water. That what we would do in our lives would, would be to live in such a way that our focus is beyond what we believe will satisfy us today, and on you. And that we will worship you fully, and celebrate where you are leading your people. And father, we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Thanks for being here. Have a great day.