H.H. Pope Tawadros II – Weekly Wednesday Sermon

Friday March 29, 2019
The Samaritan Woman – Luke 15:11-32
.H.H. Pope Tawadros II – Weekly Wednesday Sermon - Wednesday March 27, 2019

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. One God. Amen. May His grace and blessing rest upon us, from now and to eternity. Amen.

By the grace of Christ I will read a portion from the Holy Gospel according to St. John the Evangelist. The story of the Samaritan woman meeting with our Lord Jesus Christ is the Gospel Reading for this coming Sunday, if the Lord allows and we live. It is the reading for the fourth Sunday of the Great Holy Fast. The story is the entire fourth Chapter and it is long, and since most of us already know this story, I will read only a certain section from it, beginning in verse 7.

7 A woman of 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 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says 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 with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 
15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” 
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” 
Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” 
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

You see, now she is changing the subject; He was telling her to go call her husband and she is now asking him about the subject of worship.

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such 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” (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.”

Glory be to God, always and forever. Amen.

As we have been doing and continue to do at our weekly Wednesday meetings during the Great Holy Fast, we select a day of the week and we contemplate that day’s Gospel Readings during our meeting. We also look for a question that God may be asking each one of us personally, through that portion of Scripture. In 2019 we have selected the day of Sunday.

This Sunday is also the midway point of the Fast, and this Sunday’s Reading is the story of the Samaritan Woman’s meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ. In this well-known story we know that this woman went to the well seeking water. We do not know her name, it is not mentioned in the Holy Bible, and this may be because God wanted to protect her since some of her weaknesses were exposed during her dialogue with Christ.

And it is a story that can be of benefit to each of us personally, because when the Holy Bible mentions a specific name in a story, this indicates it is a specific, personal story, but when no name is mentioned, this indicates that this is a general event and is to be applied in each of our personal lives.

As you may have noticed, since the beginning of the Fast, all the Readings have to do with repentance and with the purification of a person’s heart. In the Sunday of the Samaritan woman, the Lord Christ went to the well in order to specifically meet with this woman. And I want you to notice that although it is a very precise story: Christ went to meet this woman at the well, but for many reasons, the story also has a very broad meaning and application.

Christ had become tired from His journey and He still had to pass through Samaria, and just so that you can have an idea about the geography of that day, Palestine is to the west of Jordan and was segmented into three sections: Judah in the south, Samaria in the center, and Galilee in the north. And so for Christ to go from Judah to Galilee, He had to pass through Samaria.

“6 … Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well.” So the first thing we see is that He grew weary, of course because He was walking, and He may have already walked around 40 kilometers, which is the distance from Jerusalem to Samaria. And so Jesus became weary and He intended to stop at Samaria, and if we were to ask Him, “Why Jesus?” He would say, “So that I could meet with this woman.”

The second point is that He appeared to be thirsty – “Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” And of course when we think of thirst we think of water, but when Christ was on the cross He also said, “I thirst” (Jn 19:28), and thirst here is a thirst for repentant souls, because nothing quenches Christ’s thirst except repentant souls; a soul that repents, so He is not thirsty for water.

Another point is that when the Lord Christ went to meet with the Samaritan woman, He intentionally met with her at 12 noon (which is the 3rd hour of the day as we pray in the Agpeya), which is the hour of the crucifixion.

Even more importantly is that the disciples had left the Lord Christ and were not with him during this meeting because they had gone to buy food, which is exactly what the disciples had done during the time of the cross – they left the Lord Christ. And so it as though the story of Christ’s meeting with the Samaritan woman is the same story as that of the cross; the story of the meeting between the God who saves and the human sinner. And also, these events prepare us for the cross, which we will be celebrating in a few short weeks.

This woman represents a person that seems to know, and we all know – we know Christ, and we know the Bible, and we know about the Christian life … a person that “seems” to know. The first thing this woman seemed to know is history, because she knew of the enmity between the Samaritans and the Jews and how they were not to speak to one another.

After the days of Solomon the Wise, the Kingdom was divided in two: a Northern Kingdom known as “Israel,” which was composed of ten tribes and had Samaria as their capital, and a Southern Kingdom called “Judea,” which was composed of two tribes and its capital was Jerusalem. And so there was enmity between the two kingdoms and each one had its own kings.

And so the first thing is that the Samaritan woman knew this history, and that’s why she asked the Lord Christ, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. How is it You are speaking with me? Don’t you know we are enemies? And also, you are a man and I am a woman!” Because Jewish custom did not permit men and women to speak to one another in public places, even if they were a married couple they were not to speak to each other in public, only at home.

Another thing about this woman is that she appears to know the Scriptures, because in the middle of the conversation she said to Christ, “Our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock” – and so this is someone who is knowledgeable in religion, to some extent.

Another point is that she was concerned with the matter of worship because she asked Him, “Is worship to be done here in Samaria, or over there in Jerusalem?” And so overall, this is a woman who had a measure of knowledge, and she may have even considered herself to be superior because of her knowledge. But what was the Samaritan’s woman’s problem? Her problem was that she did not comprehend the complete and perfect gift of God to people, which is the gift of the abiding of His Holy Spirit within them.

I’ll give you a practical example to help you understand this. We all live in the air and we live by air, but sometimes we do not notice nor pay attention to this air, maybe because it surrounds us everywhere, but if a person were to go into the water for just one minute, he would begin to sense the value of this air. It is exactly like this. Often a person is living in grace and he is not aware of the value of this grace.

And this is why the question I would like us to consider today, the question Christ would ask us as we approach the halfway point of the Fast, is: Are you aware of God’s blessings in your life? Do you actually comprehend God’s blessings? This is a question for each one of us, personally. Do you really notice God’s blessings? Do you pay attention to God’s blessings?

For example, a common and accepted human sin that we all do is that we pollute the air, even though we live in this air, and we also have so many ways of polluting it, or that we pollute the waters, and we have many ways of polluting that too.

God gives each of us health, are you aware of the value of this health? Because there are some people who ruin their health with bad habits, with bad drinks, with bad eating. Are you aware of the blessing of health?

And so the question is: Do you comprehend the blessings God has given you? Do you comprehend the blessing of salvation? Do you comprehend what Christ did for you on the cross? Like really comprehend it, or do you just know it by ear?

I always remind you of Job the Righteous who had not fully comprehended God, but one day, toward the end of his Book he made this statement: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5). Yes, and so this means that there was a stage when I was not feeling Your Presence, Lord.

The Samaritan woman represents any one of us - a person who does not comprehend the blessings of God. Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

And Christ’s meeting with this woman reveals to us how the Lord deals with us; the revelation of His identity to her came gradually. At first she was closed and she blocked Him with her response: “You are a Jewish man and I am a Samaritan woman.”

Then after a little while, as her knowledge began to elevate, she addressed Him as “Master,” so she elevated Him a little bit. And as He continued to discourse with her she said, “Are You a prophet?” – so He received another promotion. After that she said, “The Messiah,” and after that she said, “Are You the Christ?”

And after she had gone and spread the news about Him to the other Samaritans, at the end of His visit they said, “You are the Savior of the world,” and there she was, in their midst.

And so notice the six stages, from bottom to top:

A Jewish man
The Messiah
The Christ
Savior of the world

And this is what we call the building up of knowledge, which is needed for a person to comprehend the blessings of God. We may study, we may read, we may know about it, but what is important is that you comprehend and that you feel these great blessings within your heart.

In the Prayer of Thanksgiving we thank the Lord and we say, “… for He has covered us, supported us, preserved us, accepted us unto Him, had compassion on us, sustained us, and brought us to this hour.” Do you really comprehend the meaning of each of these seven blessings? Do you comprehend what it means that the Lord covered you? Do you really comprehend what it means that the Lord has protected you and all of us to this day? Do you actually comprehend that He has brought you to this holy hour? Do you actually comprehend this? Has it entered into your awareness, into your consciousness?

And one might ask, “Does Christ have nothing better to do than to make a long trip to go visit a woman just so that she can repent?” But I would tell you no, Christ is very smart, because He arranged for this particular meeting to happen in this particular way, so that through the repentance of this one woman, she would then go and evangelize the Name of Christ to an entire city. And so by communicating with just one woman, Christ saved an entire city, the city of Samaria, and so this Samaritan woman was the key to unlocking the entire city of Samaria and its people.

Let’s briefly look at how Christ dealt with her. The first thing you must know is that a soul, any of our souls - the human soul is very precious to Christ. Every person is extremely precious to Christ, and as I mentioned earlier, when Christ said “I thirst” on the cross, He was not thirsty for water but He was thirsty for souls to repent and accept the gift of salvation. And when Christ said, “I was thirsty and you gave Me drink” (Mt 25:35), do not think this means that we offer Him water, no, this means that we bring souls to repent and come to Christ – “ I was thirsty and you gave Me drink.”

A soul is very precious to Christ, you must be aware of this, you must understand this, and you must feel it. One day Christ entered the home of Simon the Leper (Mt 26:6) – “But Lord, don’t You know that Simon is a Leper? And don’t You know that he is a Pharisee? And don’t You know all the details of his life?” He said, “Yes, I know, but I am entering his house in order to reveal the value of this woman who had sinned,” and so He spoke to this woman who came offering her tears and wiping His feet with her hair. And we may wonder, “What is this Jesus? What’s going on here?” And He would say, “Because this soul is precious.” And He establishes a comparison between this sinful woman who repented and between Simon the Pharisee who was all about words and no action. The soul is precious.

Another time, the Lord Christ passed through an area where the tax-collectors worked and He stood before a certain collector, knocked on his table and said, “Follow Me” (Mt 9:9). And the result of this is that Matthew the tax collector became Matthew the disciple, the apostle, the author of the first Gospel in the Bible, and one who served much and evangelized much after the ascension of Christ. And the same thing happened with Zacchaeus the tax collector. The soul is precious, the soul is precious.

And so if you were to ask, “What causes Christ to suffer? What kind of suffering or pain does Christ feel?” Christ suffers because of every person who lives apart from Him and lives in sin. And He rejoices greatly at every person who comes to Him, repentant and with a pure heart, and you all know the beautiful verse that says, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Lk 15:7).

Christ always feels that a soul is precious, and when we studied the parable of the Prodigal Son last week, the thing that was seen most clearly seen in that parable was how the father went out to meet and embrace his returning and repentant son. He wanted to let him know, “Your soul is precious to me, son. Your soul is precious.”

And there are some people whose intellects are leading them astray, their thoughts are destroying them, but at the same time, every person must know that the door of repentance is always open. Return to your right mind and your right thinking and you will find the door of repentance open, and Christ’s embrace wide open.

I will give you an even greater example that illustrates how precious a soul is to Christ. I suppose you all remember St. Paul the Apostle, who used to be Saul of Tarsus. And this Saul used to persecute the Church of God vehemently. And he lived about 62 or 63 years, but half of them were away from the Lord. And he took great pride in the fact that he was a Jew and a Pharisee, but his soul was precious to the Lord, the same as every soul is precious.

And I am not telling historical stories or stories of long ago here, but until today, the most wicked person, no matter where they are, their soul is very precious to the Lord, and the Lord awaits this person’s repentance and He awaits this person’s return.

And the Lord gives this person one day, and another day, and another day, and another year, and another year, in the hope that he may repent, that he may return, exactly as the father who awaited his son, the prodigal son who was lost and returned. And as that father said, “For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Lk 15:24), so a soul is precious to the Lord.

And after Christ met him on the road to Damascus, Saul repented. And after being temporarily blinded, he began to know the way of Christ and to walk in a new path, and he became Paul, the great saint and an evangelistic giant.

Christ seeks the human soul. Your soul is precious, and each person’s soul is precious before Christ. This is the first point. The second thing a person must know in order to comprehend God’s blessings in their life is that whenever Christ deals with any person, He does so in all gentleness. Christ was very gentle with this woman, despite her somewhat harshness at the beginning of their conversation.

And Christ’s gentleness comes from the verse where He says, “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:29). Meek and lowly of heart. And Christ’s gentleness flows forth from His complete humility, and humility and gentleness are always connected – a humble person becomes gentle. And here, let me remind you of when the Lord Christ went to John the Baptist to baptize Him, and at first John the Baptist tried to prevent it, but what happened is that Christ said to him, “Permit it to be so now” (Mt 3:15) – utter gentleness.

Christ does not overtake the human soul, and if we had to say that He does overtake it, we would say that the Lord Christ overtakes the human soul in all humility. When He met this Samaritan woman, He knew that the way to her heart was through water, so He appeared before her as One who was needy, saying, “Give Me to drink.” That’s all. And from here the conversation began: this water and that water, and He said, “Did you know that the water I have, whoever drinks from it never thirsts again?”

“Oh? But I don’t see that You have anything to draw water with, so where do You get this water from? Are You greater than our father Jacob?”

And the conversation continued, “Okay, I’ll give you this water, but get your husband” – gentleness, even though Christ has complete knowledge; He is Omniscient.

And our friend spoke as if she were eager to bring the conversation to an end saying, “I have no husband.” But Christ searches for the ray of light in this darkened soul and continued the conversation with her, encouraging her by saying, “Truly you have spoken that you have no husband,” and then He revealed her to herself.

And again, she tries to change the subject and begins to ask Him about worship. And at the very end she makes the beautiful statement, “I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things,” and Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Christ is very gentle in how He deals with a soul. Sometimes He deals with a person through gentle knocks in order that a person may awaken, other times the knocks are a bit heavier, but that is only because a person’s sleep is heavy; a person is completely asleep, unaware, and so Christ does this to help a person awaken. And the gentleness of Christ flows from His humility.

So the first point is that a soul is precious, the second point is the gentleness of Christ in how He deals with humans, whom He loves very much, and the third point is the step-by-step, gradual growth in knowledge.

We notice in her conversation with Christ that the Samaritan woman had desire for knowledge and a desire to be good; she wants and desires, and this is what we call “the will,” a person’s will. And so in this interaction with Christ, He helps her along until she repents and until she arrives at a stage of completeness of knowledge.

Let’s continue reading the story, picking it up in verse 27.

27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” 28 The woman then left her waterpot.” Notice how she left her waterpot. At the beginning of the story, her waterpot and water were her only concern, it was all she thought about. Her entire life and world were based on going to the well, getting some water, carrying it back, and she repeated this work every day.

When she came to know Christ she left everything, and now Christ became what is most important, as St. Paul said, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8) - worthless.

28 The woman then left her waterpot went her way into the city, and said to the men (and I want you to imagine this scene with me), 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.

And a few verses later it says:

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word. And here is another progression: she began the work by telling them of Christ, then Christ went and stayed with them for just two days and He began to speak to them (because every other soul in Samaria was also precious to Christ, although do not forget, that the Samaritans are enemies of the Jews). And in just two days, many people believed in Him.

42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” So His meeting with the Samaritan woman was the starting point, and here we have the conclusion and fulfillment of His intention. You may serve just a single person, but this one person may become the key to serving an entire city, and the key for the salvation of many nations.

And this is also exactly what happened with Christ and His disciples. He served them, and one of them, St. Mark, came to us here in Egypt, and because of just this one person, the faith came and spread throughout all Egypt. And so the establishment of Christianity in Egypt came from just one person, St. Mark. And there are many, many other examples of how this also happened in other parts of the world.

Christ desires all. The soul is precious, Christ is gentle, and growing in the knowledge of Christ and growth is a gradual process, and this growth is marked by the increase of love in a person’s heart.

And of course this woman went from being an unknown – just another woman who went to get water every day, just living an average, ordinary life, and yet today we call her the Saint and Evangelist of Samaria, and we dedicate a day to celebrate her during the Great Holy Fast - the midpoint Sunday. And because it is a story about water, we read her story a second time, on the third Sunday of the Holy Fifty days of Pentecost.

So the first time we read her story is during the Great Holy Fast, and the focus is on repentance, the second time we read her story is during the Holy Fifty days of Pentecost, and the focus is on water, a symbol of life, and finally, because this story contains a dialogue on worship, we read it a third time, on the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in the third worship segment of that day.

The Samaritan woman asks and seeks and desires, and in the end she attains the great graces and she comprehends, she comprehends the blessings God has given her. All of us are in need of spiritual renewal and the story of the Samaritan woman drives us toward this. We are not to read the story of the Samaritan woman and then forget it, or just read her story out of habit or because it’s that time of year to read it during the Great Holy Fast, as a reminder that half the Fast has passed and only the second half remains, no.

The Sunday of the Samaritan woman is an invitation to each and every one of us to:

“Arise, open your heart, understand the Holy Words that you are reading, understand and know that when you approach the Holy Communion and you open your mouth to take in the Holy Sacraments, this is for the purpose of your illumination, that you may comprehend the grace.”

If you were to really comprehend the graces God has given you, you would spend the entire 24 hours of the day thanking the Lord, and you would spend the entire 24 hours of the day in a state of satisfaction.

But as for a person who isn’t satisfied with anything, who is rebellious and stubborn, like the elder brother in the previous parable, such a person stands to lose much because such a person is one who will hear this story and miss its point.

Today’s question for us to place before ourselves is:

Do you truly and completely comprehend the blessings God has given you? Do you feel them?

This is the question the story of the Samaritan woman offers us today and we are to consider this question for our lives in general, and for our salvation.

The days of the Fast are running by quickly, we are already at the halfway point. The days are running by fast, so beware, and know that it is not too late to begin. Begin today, and Christ will support you.

To our God be all the glory and honor, from now and to eternity. Amen.