Over the years, social media has inspired all sorts of different trends. About a decade ago, it seemed like everyone was either planking or tebowing. Then there was a period of time when these trends got downright dangerous when wannabe social media influencers were doing the cinnamon challenge or the Tide Pod challenge. And, of course, there have been more dance trends than anyone could ever hope to keep up with.
But there’s one minor trend that’s made its way around different platforms over the last few years that recently caught my attention. This trend is called the baby blanket check, and it all started when a guy named Corey shared a video where had the courage to admit that even though he’s now 24 years old, he’s been sleeping with a baby blanket every night since he was little…and then he held up his baby blanket for the world to see. And his blanket looked something like this.
And since Corey shared his video a couple of years ago, there have been thousands of other people who have recorded videos that prove there are a lot of people who would rather have a beat-up, worn-out, run-through-the-mud blankie than just about anything else in the world.
Tony Campolo, a well-known preacher, remembers just how much his son loved his blankie. As he tells it:
When my son, Bart, was just a little guy, he had a favorite blanket. He actually gave it a name. It was called, “Yellow.”
Bart needed Yellow every time he was upset or tired. Just pressing Yellow to his little face brought him instantaneous comfort and the assurance that all was well with the world. He used the blanket so often and demanded it so constantly, that we ended up tearing the blanket in half. That way we could give him one half while we washed the other.
Bart Campolo is not the only one who has ever had this type of affection for his blankie. There are countless children who cherish their blankies more than anything else their parents have ever given them. But in the grand scheme of life, a little blankie seems pretty silly.
Think about it for a minute. Think about all of the things your parents or grandparents, your aunts or your uncles have ever given you. They've put food on your table and clothes on your back. They’ve given you a roof over your head and more love than you can imagine. These are the important things in life – not some raggedy, old blanket. Compared to food, clothing, shelter, and love a blankie seems insignificant.
So why is it that some kids love their blankies more than anything? Well, perhaps the world's most famous blankie aficionado can shed a little light on the subject. Of course, when I say the world's most famous blankie aficionado I can only by referring to one individual: Linus Van Pelt, one of the members of Charles Schultz's beloved Peanuts gang.
Anyone who has ever seen a Peanuts comic strip knows that Linus loves his blue blanket more than anything in the world. He even vows to turn it into a sports jacket when he gets older in A Charlie Brown Christmas. But in one particular story arc, Linus's older sister, Lucy, takes his blanket away. Why would she do such a horrible thing? Because Linus is just too old to have a blankie any longer.
Needless to say, this nearly drives Linus insane. The poor guy can't sleep. He can barely eat. And he is unable to focus on anything besides his beloved blue blankie. Despite his best efforts, however, it appears that Linus' blankie is gone forever. But just as he is about to give up all hope, Snoopy – Charlie Brown's beloved beagle – comes to the rescue by digging up Linus' blankie from its burial ground in the Van Pelt family's backyard.
And let’s just say that Linus’s blanket isn’t in very good shape when it was dug up. That blanket was dirty, ragged, torn up, and even a little moldy…so it probably looked a little like the blanket we showed you earlier in this sermon. So Linus’s blanket was worthless.
But what does any of this have to do with us? Well, we’re now a few weeks into the season of Lent. And Lent is a time of both reflection and action. It’s a time when we look at our lives so we can try to find the things that keep us from following Jesus. And it’s also a time when we recommit ourselves to following Jesus as we move forward.
But, as we think about all the things that keep us from following Jesus, when we think about all the times we’ve messed up and all the mistakes we’ve made, we can start feeling like Linus’s blanket. There are times when we feel like we’re dirty, ragged, and torn up. There are times when we all feel worthless.
There are times when we all feel worthless.
And that was definitely the case for the person that we’re going to be reading about in our scripture reading for today. So, if you’ve got a Bible close by go ahead and grab it, and turn with me to John 4. John 4.
And, as you’re finding John 4, I just want to point out that the book of John is essentially a biography of Jesus. So in the book of John, you can read about Jesus's ministry and his miracles, you can read about how Jesus lived and who Jesus is, and you can read about Jesus’s crucifixion and his resurrection. But in John 4, we’re going to read about the time that Jesus meets a Samaritan woman by a well. So with that in mind let’s take a look at John 4 together. We’ll start reading in verse 4, where John writes:
4 Jesus had to go through Samaria. 5 He came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, which was near the land Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus was tired from his journey, so he sat down at the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water.
John 4:4-7a (Common English Bible)
Okay, let's pause here for a minute. Just like last week, John includes a small detail in this story that’s easy for us to overlook. So, just in case you missed it the first time around, did you notice what time of day the woman came to the well? She came to the well about noon, in the middle of the day.
And why does it matter that she came to the well in the middle of the day? Well, when most women went to collect water from a well, they went at the beginning of the day. And they did that for a couple of reasons. First, if you went at the beginning of the day you would have water for the whole day...not just the second half of the day. And second, they went at the beginning of the day because it was significantly cooler outside. Now I don't know about you, but if I had to lug around a heavy jar filled with gallons of water, I'd much rather do it when it was cooler in the morning than in the scorching heat of a middle eastern afternoon.
So the fact that this woman went to the well at noon instead of first thing in the morning tells us a lot about her. It tells us that she was an outcast, someone who was looked down on by the other women in her community, she was someone who felt worthless. So she would rather brave the mid-day sun and sacrifice water for a few hours each morning than face the other women in her own community.
Okay, with that in mind, let's get back to the story. We’ll pick back up in verse 7, which says:
7b Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.
9 The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.)
John 4:7-9 (Common English Bible)
Here's another place where we need to stop for a minute. In the verses we just read, it’s pretty clear that this Samaritan woman is absolutely shocked that Jesus is willing to talk to her – and a little bit later on we'll see that the disciples are also shocked by this whole series of events.
But why? Why is she shocked that Jesus would talk with her? Well, once again, there are two reasons. First, Jesus is a man and the Samaritan woman is obviously a woman. And in ancient middle eastern society – as well as many middle eastern cultures today – men weren’t allowed to interact with women who were not part of their families. And second, Jesus is Jewish and the Samaritan woman is again obviously a Samaritan. And these two groups didn't get along well. As a matter of fact, there were severe tensions between these two groups, and the Jews firmly believed that they were better than the Samaritans.
So for Jesus to even speak to this woman, he’s violating two accepted social norms. So keep that in mind as we get back to the story again. This time we’ll pick back up in verse 10. It says:
10 Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.”
11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, get your husband, and come back here.”
17 The woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.”
“You are right to say, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus answered. 18 “You’ve had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the truth.”
John 4:10-18 (Common English Bible)
Alright, let's pause one last time here. And tell me, how would you feel about someone today who’s been married five different times? Now, we live in a culture today where second and even third marriages are fairly common – but when someone’s been married five times or even more they usually become punchlines in our jokes. Now rewind 2,000 years and imagine how people felt about someone being married five times. And that doesn't even begin to discuss the social stigma of living with someone you weren't married to in those days.
So at this point in the story, it should be pretty clear that this woman was near the bottom of ancient Israel's social standings. She was a woman. She was a Samaritan. She had been married multiple times. And she was living with a man she wasn't even married to. So this woman was an outcast in nearly every sense of the word. She was dirty. She was ragged. She was torn up. And she was worthless.
Now let's get back to the story. We’ll pick up in verse 25, where John writes:
25 The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.”
26 Jesus said to her, “I am—the one who speaks with you.”
27 Just then, Jesus’ disciples arrived and were shocked that he was talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman put down her water jar and went into the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to see Jesus.
John 4:25-29 (Common English Bible)
As we've read through this story, we’ve heard a story about a dirty, ragged, torn-up, and worthless person. We’ve heard the story of someone that most of us would have thrown away without a second thought…just like we would’ve thrown out Linus’s blanket after Snoopy dug it out of the ground.
But that’s not what Linus does with his blanket. In my favorite Peanuts strip of all time, this is how Linus responds to the return of his blankie. “My blanket! I got it back!” I can't believe it! My good ol' blanket! For two weeks it's been buried beneath the ground. It's dirty, it's ragged, it's torn...it's even a little moldy...but it's my blanket!”
To anyone else, that blanket wouldn't have meant a thing. It was dirty, ragged, torn up, and worthless. Most of us would have just thrown it away...but not Linus. All that mattered to Linus was that the blanket was his.
And that’s all that mattered to Jesus when it came to the Samaritan woman he met at that well. Jesus didn’t care about her gender. Jesus didn’t care about her marital status. Jesus didn’t care about her ethnicity. Jesus cared about her.
When Jesus looked at the Samaritan woman, he saw a person created in the image of God with infinite value. When Jesus looked at the Samaritan woman he didn’t see someone who was worthless…he saw someone who was worth everything to him.
And the same thing is true about you. Even if there are times when you feel dirty, ragged, and torn up. Even if there are times when you feel like a complete failure. Even if there are times when you feel worthless, you are worth everything to Jesus.
Even if there are times when you feel worthless, you are worth everything to Jesus.
The question for us is: Do you see yourself the same way? Do you see yourself the way God sees you? Do you see yourself as trash or treasure? Do you see yourself as junk or do you see yourself like Jesus sees you?
You see, throughout this series, we’re not just talking about things that keep us from following Jesus. We’re also talking about what it means to really follow Jesus. And you can’t follow Jesus if you think you’re worthless. If you’re going to follow Jesus, you have to see yourself the way Jesus sees you. And you have to love yourself the way God loves you.
We talked about this last week, you can’t follow God if you don’t love the world that God so loves. And you can’t love the world if you don’t love yourself. But following Jesus is a choice.
Following Jesus is a choice.
So today you’ve heard what it takes to follow Jesus. You’ve heard that if you want to follow Jesus you have to love yourself the way Jesus loves you. But you have to decide if you’re going to do it or not. You have to decide if you’re worthless or if you’re worth everything to God.