E UNUM PLURIBUS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 23, 2020
1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
— John 4:1-42, ESV
On one side of a well known well, a gentleman sits, although gentleman is not nearly a good enough word to describe His character and personality. Approaching on the other side is a lady, and calling her a lady might be a stretch. He claims to have water, but she points out He has no bucket to draw some from the well. She has come to the well to draw water, and has the tools to do it.
It is high noon, the right time for a serious showdown. What ensues is a face-off between an unusual man from Galilee and an almost invisible woman from Samaria. The water waits. Which one do you think will be quicker on the draw?
The Man from Galilee
His name is mentioned in the first verse, but put yourself in the woman’s sandals. She did not know him, had never seen him, and had no idea of what had gone on before during His public appearances in Galilee and Judea. He is just a man to her, a very unusual man.
He is a man who speaks openly to women. For reasons both proprietorial and prejudicial, men did not have conversations with women in those days. But this man broke this mold many times. He is a man who sees women and men as equals, in sinning, in salvation, and in potential service of spreading the gospel throughout the world.
He is a Jew who speaks to a Samaritan. Conversations must be conducted on a level playing field, and there was nothing equal about the normal treatment of Samaritans in first century Jewish culture. The Jews considered themselves to be the superior race on the planet, and the Samaritans were a mixed race people. Today a mixed race person can become president of the United States or MVP of the Super Bowl, but such was not the case in first century Palestine. They were looked down upon and ignored, except by this particular Jew.
So here we have an unusual Jewish man, and a man He is, indeed. He was sitting because He was exhausted. He wanted water because He was thirsty. His clothes were not glorious and white, but stained khaki by the middle eastern dust. He looked like any other ordinary man; except, this man claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the God-man.
His name you know, but not the name of the invisible woman.
The Woman from Samaria
Though she is plainly at the well with Jesus, you can hardly see her. She came to the well in the heat of the day rather than morning or evening so she would not be seen. She had a plain face, poor clothes, and no name.
She is a woman in a man’s world. The men she had known heretofore only used her for sex and maid service. Other than that she was invisible to most men, but not the unusual man. He spoke to her, kindly, directly, honestly.
She is a Samaritan in a Jewish nation. As a half-breed she had no hope of rising in class, culture, or economic prosperity. Samaritans stayed in their villages and seldom traveled far so as to not encounter full-blooded Jews or hot-blooded Romans. Now she is having a dialogue with a Jewish man about water and worship, morality and spirituality.
She is a divorcee and a cohabitating woman in a male-dominated, Jewish-dominated, traditional marriage society. She is a five-time loser in love who now clings to a man who chooses to use her but not marry her. The society of that day looked so far down on her it needed a microscope to see her. But not so for this Jewish man who met her at the well. He is different, and soon she will be, too, because more than any thing else, she is a sinner in the presence of a merciful God.
You know His name. But what is her name?
The Man’s Name is Jesus
The Gospel writer, John, mentions it in the first verse. You knew it from the first, too. But remember what that name means, God saves. Notice how, in this high noon episode that spawns three days of discipleship, Jesus saves.
God always takes the initiative in salvation. It is Jesus who comes and converses with the woman at the well, not vice versa. Jesus did not have to go through Samaria, logistically, for there was a well worn path from Judea to Galilee that Jews typically took to avoid the Samaritans. Jesus had to go through Samaria to keep a divine appointment He had made before the foundation of the world, to save a soul from sin and death, and more souls through hers.
God always takes the initiative in salvation in every case because the case is, we cannot. We are depraved, spiritually disabled and dead, incapable and unconcerned with coming to Christ (ref. John 15:16; Romans 3:10ff; Ephesians 2:1ff). Sinners are not willing to come to Christ, but thank God for His grace, Christ is willing to come to sinners.
God convicts of sin before He saves. There is no salvation without repentance, and repentance is acknowledging one’s sin and turning away from it. Jesus knew this woman’s checkered sexual history. Jesus knew the mockery she had made out of marriage and morality. Jesus knew her sins and she knew He knew her sins, yet He continued to speak to her, kindly not condescendingly, about the Spirit of living water, the confession of sin, and faith in the Messiah.
God is the Messiah without prejudice to all who are saved. Jesus revealed Himself to this woman, a Samaritan, at a juncture much earlier than His revelation to the Jews. Her profession of faith was like everything else about her, stilted, unconventional, but nevertheless sincere. She proved it at the root, and she proved it by her fruit. She was touched by God’s Spirit and became committed to God’s truth, a true follower and worshiper, all in this encounter with the man from Galilee.
Of course, His name is Jesus, but what is her name?
The Woman’s Name is E Unum Pluribus
Before she met Christ, this woman at the well could never go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. She was a nobody, and not even John mentions her given name. But Jesus gave her a new name on this new day.
She is E Unum Pluribus. Sounds funny but faintly familiar, doesn’t it? "E Pluribus Unum” was the motto of the United States from the days of the Revolutionary War until after World War II, when the official motto became “In God We Trust.” E Pluribus Unum means out of many, one. Out of many colonies, we became one country.
E Unum Pluribus means out of one, many. Out of this one, heretofore nameless but priceless soul, there came many more souls, many more Samaritans and sinners, to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One soul matters to God, and it does not matter the gender, the color, the socio-economic class. He is the lover of all souls. Hear from the late, great Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: “Though you are one of the teeming millions in this world, and though the world would have you believe that you do not count and that you are but a speck in the mass, God says, ‘I know you.’ When God approaches you, it is because He has an interest in you. And by all means, you should have an interest in Him.”
God saves one soul at a time. His methods are not cookie-cutter, drawn from a box from the Christian book store. He comes to different people differently, always offering Himself as Savior and salvation, with the consistent demands of repentance and faith.
God knows it takes a saved soul to save other souls. In redemptive history it is almost always a parent’s conversion to Christ the leads a whole family to salvation. Sometimes it is one student who leads many other students to Christ. Once in a while it is a desperate prisoner who gives his life and life sentence to the Lord, and the gospel spreads through the cellblocks. Out of one, many.
E Unum Pluribus. Out of one, many. That’s her name. Let us make it our name as well. Who can we tell in our town, our neighborhood, our family circle? What can we tell? We can tell them about this unusual man who is the Messiah. We can ask them, like E Unum Pluribus asked her people, “Can this be the Christ?” Yes, He is. He is Jesus, the God who saves.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org