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Good For You? | Is Christianity Sexist?

April 28, 2024
John 4:13-20, 24-29

13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but 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.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

24“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27Just 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?” 28So 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?”

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To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst

To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships

To participate in God’s mission to the world 

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, the giver of all good things, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and grant that by your holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by your merciful guidance may perform them; through our Lord Jesus Christ Amen.

Responsive Prayer—Psalm 72

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

Who alone does wondrous things.

Blessed be his glorious name forever;

May the whole earth be filled with his glory!

May his name endure forever,

His fame continue as long as the sun!

May people be blessed in him,

All nations call him blessed!

Summary and Connection

From the ancient Greek comedy “Lysistrata” in 411 BC to the recent “Barbie” movie in 2023 AD, we’ve wrestled with the sense that men and women are set against each other. The best attempts to love and respect each other seem to fail while mutual misunderstanding and the outright oppression of women by men seem inevitable. Sasha, the most modern character in the “Barbie” movie, sums up the sad state of affairs like this: “Men hate women and women hate women. It’s the one thing we can all agree on.” While modern secular people used to be optimistic about the harmony of the sexes, Sasha’s cynicism hits a bit of a raw nerve today: things don’t actually feel like they’re getting any better. 

Many people critique traditional beliefs in general and Christianity in particular for the ongoing sexism in the world. Isn’t Christianity, after all, rather rigid and old-fashioned? Isn’t the Bible filled with examples of men behaving badly and women treated poorly? And while we can look at our own culture and regret the image-based exploitation of women and girls and the predatory hookup ethos we’ve enabled, we still have to ask whether Christianity is a part of the problem. So let’s ask: Is Christianity sexist?

We are in a sermon series called Good for You? and we’ve been asking questions like: Is Christianity escapist?, irrational?, intolerant?, repressive? And to answer these questions, we’ve been taking a hard look at the Bible as a whole and at Jesus in particular. When we look at the Bible as a whole, we do see that, sadly, men terribly mistreat women. Yet the Bible also explains the source of the problem and its surprising solution. In the beginning, God created men and women in his image, equally human, glorious, and dignified. But when humanity sinned, conflict and alienation began to mark and mar God’s good creation. That is, until a new man, Jesus, steps onto the scene. Humbly born of a poor unmarried woman, Jesus is a radically inclusive leader who invites women to be his disciples and points to the redeemed relationship of the sexes.

Here, in John 4, Jesus engages someone who no other Jewish rabbi would even look at: a foreign woman, a sexual sinner, and a heterodox believer. He says later in the passage that this kind of ministry is his food and drink, and it makes sense as we remember the whole scope of God’s story: the ultimate goal of Jesus’ mission is to bring all people, men and women, to himself so that they are also brought back to one another. We see this fully realized in Revelation 21 when all of humanity is united as a bride to Jesus the bridegroom, and we are supposed to see it partially realized even now in God’s family. As Paul famously says, “there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). That is to say, while differences matter, Jesus is ultimate. It is no surprise that this story begins at a well, between a man and a woman, the way that all the great biblical romances start. It is also no surprise that early Christianity was deeply attractive to women and was mocked by patriarchal critics as “a women’s religion.” Finally, the Bible tells us that it’s no surprise that sexism exists in a fallen world and in the church itself. The question is, when Christians are sexist, is it because of or in spite of Christian belief.

Discussion Questions

1. Looking at the Bible

Observation: Read the passage privately. What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? Do you notice keywords, parallels, or surprises?

  • Jesus' disciples marvel that he is talking with a woman (verse 27). In what other ways are Jesus and this woman separated by their cultures? Paying attention to what Jesus says, asks, offers, and claims, how are Jesus and this woman overcoming the barriers between themselves?

2. Looking at Jesus

At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.

  • How does this passage point us to the ways in which Jesus will overcome the barrier between God and ourselves so that he can give us the waters of eternal life?

3. Looking at Our Hearts

  • What barriers has Jesus had to overcome in your life to come close to you? If you do not consider yourself a Christian, what are the barriers that you see between yourself and believing in Jesus as the Messiah (verses 25-26)?

4. Looking at Our World

  • How should Jesus, both in how he relates to the Samaritan woman and to us, lead us as Christians to relate to the opposite sex? Where should we repent? What barriers do we need to overcome so that we, like the Samaritan woman going back to her village, can share this barrier-breaking gospel with others?


God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.

  • View Study Guide Notes

    Question 1: No two people could be more different than the characters in this passage. Jesus is a man, a rabbi, a Jew, and perfectly holy. The woman is, well, a woman in the first-century, a Samaritan with a checkered past who worships in the wrong temple, and is likely a social outcast who comes to the well in the heat of the day to avoid her judgmental neighbors. Jewish men, and rabbis in particular, would rarely if ever speak with a woman in public, even their own family. And Jews as a whole not only avoided Samaritans if possible, they used the very name “Samaritan” as an insult. This explains the Samaritan woman’s surprise, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (verse 9). This also explains why Jesus’ disciples “marveled” at him (verse 27). But after her initial shock, the Samaritan woman gives as good as she gets from Jesus. Notice how each cleverly mirrors the vocabulary of the other. First, they pun on “living water” which literally means “alive” but would have meant “flowing” as opposed to “still.” Then, when the woman asks for the living water so that she would not “have to come here,” Jesus says for her to “call your husband and come here.” We may think this is an odd thing for Jesus to say, but it gets her attention and reveals something deeply unsatisfied in her: She has routinely failed at her most important relationships. But she does not fail in this debate! Instead, she pivots and asks Jesus to solve the deeper divide between them: that of religious belief and the proper place for worship. Rather than dismiss her religious questioning, Jesus treats her as a disciple and reveals not only the future of worship, but the presence of her very Messiah, himself. Once she realizes who she’s talking to, she goes back to her neighbors and brings them to Jesus, which shows us that it’s not enough just to be reconciled to Jesus, but to be reconciled through Jesus to others as well.

    Question 2: Jesus meets this woman, and us, where we are. We may be surprised or offended at the thought that Jesus cares about us, or that he says we need him–and especially at the claim that we are sinners and do not deserve him–but he comes to us anyway. Jesus is not only the prophet who explains everything, he is the messiah who effects our salvation. The Gospel of John deliberately picks up on the meta-biblical theme of water that sustains God’s people in their wilderness journeys, flows from the Temple, brings life to the desert, and is finally the living water that wells up to eternal life, even the Holy Spirit. Jesus is baptized in water, changes water to wine, washes his disciples feet with water, and at the crescendo of Jesus’ suffering on the cross, just before he dies, he cries out, “I thirst” (John 19:29). Jesus was not just dying from a lack of water. He was suffering the lack of God’s life and love, an eternal thirst that we deserve to suffer, and he was doing it on our behalf. He said “I thirst” on the cross so that one day we can freely drink from “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1). That is the living water that Jesus promises the woman and all of us. And that should cause us to marvel, in a new way, that Jesus would give us, of all people, this costly and living water.

    Question 3: These are personal application questions. This is a chance for the group to take what’s true about Jesus and how he overcame sin in general and apply it to how Jesus overcame their sins in particular. It is a sensitive question so pay attention to the conversation and be gentle and understanding regarding how little or how much people feel like sharing. At best, this is a time not of confessing our sins but confessing our savior.

    Question 4: This is a personal application question.