The Woman at the Well

by: Lenny Cacchio


There have been many great sermons here this year at the Feast of Tabernacles, where several of the speakers admit to breaking various rules of public speaking, I spent the last few days trying to think about what rules I could break so that I also could have a great sermon.

What I want to do today is have you open your Bibles to John chapter 4, and I will promise you this, John chapter 4 has a Feast of Tabernacles' message in it. I am not going to tell you what that message is right now, you will have to stay till the end to find out what that message is, and hopefully you will stay awake as well.

So let's start reading in John chapter 4. "Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, {2} (though, Jesus himself did not baptize, but His disciples), {3} He left Judea and departed again to Galilee, {4} But He needed to pass through Samaria. {5} So He came to a city in Samaria, which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph. {6} Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat by the well. It was about the sixth hour. {7} A woman of Samaria came to draw water and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."

Background Information

Now I am going to stop here and I'm going to give you some historical, cultural and geographic background. Some context for what's happening here.

First of all, it says that, Jesus leaves Judea and He is traveling back up to Galilee. Now geographically, the southern part of what we may refer to as the Holy Land was a province called Judea. That's where Jerusalem is, that is where the Dead Sea is, the Negev desert and Gedi where David went into exile. Up in the very north where Jesus was from, there was a place called Galilee, this is where His home area is, His hometown.

These were both dominated by Jewish populations, but in the middle and between the two was a province called Samaria. There was also a city of Samaria, in the province of Samaria. If you read the Bible you will come to understand that the Jews and the Samaritans did not like each other at all. So the Scripture says in order to get from Judea to Galilee, Jesus needed to go through Samaria, but if you look at a map, you'll see, that's not quite true. Many times in traveling from Judea to Galilee, people would cross the Jordan River and go up the east side of the Jordan River to go to Galilee, so that they didn't have to go through the province of Samaria, where they would face some difficulties, some prejudice, some animosity.

You will recall one time that Jesus was passing through Samaria (Luke 9:51-56), on the way to Jerusalem and when they saw that his face was set toward Jerusalem, the Samaritans wouldn't let them lodge there. His disciples, James and John, said to Him, "Shall we call down fire from heaven upon them," and Jesus says, "You don't know what spirit you are of."

Jesus had a Heart for the Samaritans

We know from this, also from the Scriptures, that Jesus seemed to have a heart for the Samaritans. Remember Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Remember when Jesus heals ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19) and only one comes back to thank Him and Jesus remarks "Where are the other nine? The only one who's going to thank Me is this Samaritan." Jesus had a heart for the Samaritans.

So when the Scripture says "He had to go through Samaria," it wasn't because geographically He had to go through there, it is because He felt the compulsion to go through there, He had some work to do in Samaria.

Sychar

Jesus and His disciples ended up in a town called Sychar. This is the Shechem of the Old Testament. There was a well there that Jacob had dug, and apparently had given to his son Joseph. Sychar is probably about 8 miles from the city of Samaria and anything that would go on in Sychar could be easily communicated 8 miles away. A good runner could cover it in an hour.

Sychar is about 20 miles into their journey up to Galilee and it says it was about the sixth hour, which means about noon, which means it is the hottest part of the day.

So here's Jesus, sitting at this well, in this town that would naturally have animosity toward Him and a woman comes up at noon. This is very unusual to have a woman going to the well at noon to draw water because usually the women would go to the well in the early part of the day, in the cooler part of the day, to draw their water and bring it into the village, but this woman is there at noon.

Jesus is Breaking Social Conventions

Jesus looks at her. verse 7, and He says, "Give Me a drink."

Now I mentioned it earlier, we like to talk about breaking rules in public speaking. I will tell you Jesus was really good at breaking social conventions that didn't make sense or didn't conform to the word of God. Let me tell you what I mean. Remember this animosity between the Jews and Samaritans. I don't know how to explain what's going on here when He asked this woman to give Him a drink except to put it in the context of maybe something we are familiar with in our country.

You know about 60 years ago, we used to have two different types of drinking fountains, depending on what color your skin was. If you were of one color of skin, you would use one and if you were of another skin color, you would use the other one. This was a horrible tradition, prejudicial, showed all kinds of problems with the psyche of the day. That's what Jesus is doing here. "I want you to take some water out of the well and let me drink out of your water vessel." Jesus was a bit of an iconoclast, a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition.

Secondly, Jesus is a man, talking to a woman, a rabbi talking to a woman, one-on-one. That wasn't done in that day and a Jew talking to a Samaritan, that wasn't done in that day either.

Jesus was very good at flouting the customs of the day that did not conform to the 'word of God.'

So let's read on in verse 6 and see what's going on here, "For His disciples had gone 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 the Jews have no dealings with the 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."

I don't know how you would react to that? I know how I would've reacted if I had been that woman at the well. I would've thought about some itinerant preacher coming into town and telling me about Dr. Phoney Bones Medical Green Elixir. "Iíve got this magic bottle of water. All you gotta do is drink it and all your problems will be solved. You'll never be thirsty again." That's what I would've thought.

I don't know what the woman is thinking here, but Jesus is being provocative. He's giving her something to think about and she says to Him in verse 11, "Sir, You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do You get this living water?" Perhaps she is a little sarcastic. I don't know.

"Are you," {12} "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 again. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water springing up into everlasting life."

Do you know what Jesus is telling her here? Do you know the importance of what He is saying? Sure we know from a few chapters later that this fountain of living water, where Jesus stands up on that seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles and says, (John 7:37-39), "He who believes in Me, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water." We know He says that, but He is offering her something that is so important.

There is a Void in you Life

We spend so much of our lives, trying to fill this void that we have in our lives if we don't have God there. So people try to fill that void. They go to the wrong wells to fill that void. They go to that well in Samaria where they try to fill it by being busy, or by working or by making lots of money and having lots of stuff. Maybe they try to fill that void with substance abuse. When you see people like that, try to understand where they are coming from. Jesus was treating this Samaritan woman with compassion, even though she has some really major problems in her life. Jesus is saying, "Look, I have water that if you take this, you are not going to have that thirst anymore."

Jesus knew something about this woman before He set out on this trip and was engaging in a rescue mission, and the beginning of the preaching of the Gospel in Samaria. She needed that living water that He had and He wanted to give it to her.

Some people try to fill that void with alternative lifestyles, looking for fulfillment from a well that will not fill it. You always have to go back to that well and dig deeper and deeper into that well but never quench that thirst. Only God and Jesus Christ can fill that void.

Was the Samaritan Woman Abused?

Jesus is making this woman very curious. Watch what happens with the rest of this exchange. {15} "The woman said to Him, "Sir. Give me this water that I may not thirst or come here to draw."

She is still thinking in a physical sense, correct? So Jesus said to her, verse 16, "Go call your husband, and come here." {17} The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." And Jesus said to her, "You said, well, '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."

I gave this sermon at church back home and I made some comments about this woman that I've had to rethink. I gave this sermon and I said, "You know this woman essentially was a woman of 'ill repute.' She is somebody you wouldn't really want to hang around with." When I got done with the sermon, a friend came up to me, and he said, "You gave a good sermon, but." If you have ever given a sermon, you will have people come up to you and say, "You gave a good sermon, but." I will tell you, he said something that got me really thinking about what this woman is really all about. He said, "You're assuming she was a woman of very loose morals and that's probably not so. This woman was probably an abused woman and she was acting out the abuse of five husbands who abused her. She was now living with a man, because she didn't want to make a commitment. She's looking for financial security or something? You are misjudging her." What I find interesting about this, is Jesus is making a discernment here about this woman. He is not afraid to tell her of her sin, but notice how he treats her.

Grace in the Gospels

I want you to check something out for me when you get home. Pull out a concordance. I want you to look up a word and see how many times it appears in the Gospels. This is an interesting thing. The word is 'grace.' Let me expand if I can. How many times does the word 'grace' appear in the Gospels?

Do you know how many times it appears? It appears in two places, once early in Luke's Gospel, Luke 2 verse 40, where it says, "And the Child (Jesus) grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him." This was early on when Jesus was 12 years old.

The second time, the word 'grace' appears is a few times in John chapter 1 verses 14-17, where it says that Jesus was filled with grace and truth. Do you know where you never see the word 'grace' anywhere in the Bible? You will never see the word 'grace' in red letters in your Bible. Jesus never utters the word. Now why do you think that is? Let me give you my theory. Because He didn't need to! Jesus Christ modeled grace for us. He set the example of what grace is all about. He lived it.

In fact, in John's Gospel, where He said that Jesus was full of grace and truth, if you read it, you will see that almost in every chapter, you'll see 'grace' or you will see 'truth.' Truth is doctrine, solid teaching about God.

John chapter 1 verse 45, "Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth." and Nathaniel said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Jesus hears this and makes a joke about it, {47} "Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Jesus made a joke about it, that is grace.

John chapter 2, Jesus was at a wedding party and they ran out of wine. This was a case here, where it could have been a tremendous embarrassment to the host of that wedding festival and a tremendous embarrassment to the wedding party. They ran out of wine. What does Jesus do? He said, "Fill up the water jugs" and He turns the water into wine, better wine than what they had before. He could've said, "Well, it has been a great party, we should all go home and let the wedding couple be off." He doesn't do that. He turns the water into wine, so the fun and the partying and the joy could continue. That is grace.

John chapter 3. Nicodemus comes up to Jesus at night and asked some questions and Jesus not only gives him truth, true doctrine, He shows him grace and answers his questions patiently.

We see Jesus exercising grace and truth in chapters 4 and 5. Jesus was living grace. He didn't have to define it for us. He modeled it for us and shows us what it is.

I love the word that was given in the sermon yesterday, when the speaker was talking about grace. He talked about being gracious and that picture he gave of him hugging his son after his son did something he shouldn't have, rather than lecturing him. That's what you picture when God shows us His grace.

I think what Jesus is doing here, He is being honest with the woman at the well, about her sin, but He is being gracious about it.

You know He didn't hit her upside the head with a big black King James Bible. I happen to like big black King James Bibles and I have one at home, you know wide margins marked in pencil. I learned a long time ago to mark your Bible in pencil.

But notice how Jesus brings her to the truth. Notice how He brings transformation in her life. Notice how He introduces her to that living water that she is so thirsty for. Yes, He is judging her but He is not condemning her. He's discerning not condemning.

If Someone is Meddling Then Change the Subject

Let's read on in John 4 verse 19, and "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."

So what is it that people do when somebody starts to meddling and gets a little bit close to things that you really don't want them to know about? What do people do? They want to change the subject and start arguing doctrine. That is what she's doing here. She is trying to change the subject.

Doctrine is Important

Notice how Jesus answers this question. Jesus said to her, {21} "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."

Jesus is answering her doctrinal question, and He's reminding her that salvation is going to come out of the Jewish people. It is not going to come out of the Samaritan people, it is not going to come out of Mount Gerizim where you worship. It is going to happen over there in Jerusalem on that mountain, but the day is coming when you will not worship in either place.

Jesus is answering her question, and it's very important to get the doctrine right.

I get upset when people tell me that doctrine is not important. You bet it's important. John is about grace and truth. Truth is about doctrine and correct teaching. A poor perception of grace can ruin your spiritual life. Jesus is telling her, salvation is going to come from the Messiah, who comes out of Jerusalem. You don't understand that doctrine. All you're going to have is just good deeds and you're going to misunderstand what God's purposes are.

Doctrine is important and Jesus answers her doctrinal question and He says, {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."

What is Jesus saying here? He is saying that doctrine is important, truth is important. Jesus is spending a good bit of time in the book of John preaching doctrine, He saying that's important, but you also have to worship God in spirit. You have to worship God in your lifestyle, the way you model Christian behavior. This is what He is telling her. Doctrine is important, and where salvation comes from is important, but don't forget the other part, how you live your life.

Jesus Revealed Himself as the Messiah

Well Jesus is making inroads with the Samaritan woman, and it is like a little light bulb went on in her head, and the woman said to Him, {25} "I know that the Messiah is coming," who is called Christ, "When He comes, He will teach us all things." {26} "Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

Now this is a remarkable thing and I'll tell you why it's remarkable. It was quite some time after this that Jesus revealed Himself as the Messiah to His own people, even to His own disciples.

Early in His ministry here, He reveals himself as the Messiah to the Samaritans. Isn't that something? Why do you suppose He did that?

You know, the Samaritans had a different view of the Messiah than did the Jewish people. You see the Jewish people looked at the Scriptures and they correctly discerned that the Messiah was going to come and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Israel would be in its rightful place in the world and they interpreted this to mean that when the Messiah came, if He was going to come in their life time, He would kick the Romans out and set up the kingdom and you know they were right about that, they were 2000 or so years early.

But the Samaritans looked at the Torah, that was the part of the Scriptures that they accepted and they saw that Moses talked about the Messiah and Moses said that He was going to send them a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19), who would continue to teach them and so the Samaritans and the Jews were both right. The Samaritans had a better understanding of the first coming of the Messiah and that He was going to come and teach them all things.

So Jesus was safe in revealing Himself as the Messiah to them. If He had revealed Himself as the Messiah to the Jewish people, they would've come and taken Him by force and in fact we see them actually attempting to do that and it just wasn't His time yet.

Who Was The First Evangelist to the Samaritans?

Let's go on and read. At this point, John 4 verse 27, "Jesus' 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?"

Again, the iconoclast, stupid rules that people make up. If it got in the way of preaching the Gospel, if it got in the way of the word of God, Jesus would go with what the Scripture indicated that He should do. He was teaching a woman.

The disciples didn't understand. They were still steeped in their own culture and couldn't see beyond that.

"The woman," {28} "left her water pot." She completely forgot about the whole reason why she went to the well. She was excited. "She went her way into the city, and said to the men, {29} "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?""

Isn't it interesting that the first evangelist to the Samaritan people was a Samaritan woman. It wasn't one of the men. It was a woman, and a woman who apparently was not highly respected. She was at the well alone at noon rather than being with the other women. It means that the women in the community probably were shunning her somewhat. This is who God used to bring the Gospel to the Samaritan people in this little town of Sychar, about 8 miles from Samaria.

Verse 30, "Then the men went out of the city and came to Jesus."

Jesus Changed the Metaphor

Verse 31 of John 4, "In the meantime His disciples urged Jesus, saying, "Rabbi, eat." {32} "But He said to them, "I have food to eat which you do not know."

So Jesus is changing the metaphor. Remember earlier in this passage He was using the metaphor of water, living water, that if you drink it, you shall never be thirsty again, and now we have a different metaphor. Jesus is saying, "I'm not hungry because I have food that you don't know of."

You know, I thought about this. You know, we each have gifts and talents and things that we are personally good at, and God has a purpose in your life to use those talents and you need to discover what they are.

Jesus is saying here, to His disciples, "I have food that you don't know of, I am filled because I'm using the talents that God has given me. I'm using the gifts. I am doing what I was called to do." That is the same with us.

What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

I'm getting closer and closer to the Golden Age when the Social Security checks start coming and I have been doing a lot of thinking about retirement

What is it that you want to do when you grow up? When you are no longer going to the office every day or wherever your place of work is, and when you no longer are running your business, what do you want your life to look like, three months into retirement? Six months? One year? What do you want to do with your life? My job partly is to help my clients make sure their finances are arranged so that they can retire and they can afford to do it.

But it's a big question. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What do I want to be when I grow up? What can I do to fulfill the gifts that God has given me?

This is what Jesus is saying, "I'm full and I am content. I'm happy because I'm doing what God called me to do." That's what He is saying. Something to think about and take with you.

"Therefore," {33} "the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought Him something to eat?" They did not understand what He was saying. {34} "Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish the work."

That says it, doesn't it?

Four Months to the Harvest

"Do you not say," {35} "There are still four months and then comes the harvest?"

I told you there was a Feast of Tabernacles' message in this. And yes, the living water ties into Jesus' last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, where He talked about, "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-39.)

This verse, verse 35 of John 4, has a keyword in it. I believe this event took place in June of that year. There's a keyword in this verse that makes me think that, and that word is 'harvest'. And it is a part of the sentence that says, "Don't you say, "There are still four months and then comes the harvest.""

 

Godís Feasts Are Harvest Feasts

I think that most of us realize that the feasts of God are basically harvest festivals. Right? They begin with the early grain harvest around Passover time and continue to Pentecost. We have the Wave Sheaf Offering during the Days of Unleavened Bread during the Passover season. We have Pentecost, which we often refer to as the 'feast of first fruits.' At about that time around Pentecost is when the grain harvest was supposed to be completed. But there is also another harvest, the Feast of Tabernacles, in the fall of the year, when the grapes and the produce comes in from the field in this great harvest.

It's all symbolic about the great harvest at the end of the age when the word of God fills the entire world.

And Jesus says in verse 35, "Don't you say it's four months till the harvest." If the harvest is in the seventh month, four months before would be in June, right around Pentecost.

The reason why I think that is, back in the John chapter 2, it talks about how Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover. John chapter 3, He's talking about the Holy Spirit to Nicodemus, so that tells me that it is during that period of time when they were around Pentecost and then when He sees persecution coming, He decides to go back up to Jerusalem. So if my math is correct, 7-4 = 3. And Pentecost is in the third month of the year.

Jesus is saying to them, "It's four months to the harvest" and then He says something very significant, which pins it down, {35} "Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!"

I have never lived on a farm, but we have people back home in Kansas City, that know quite a bit about agriculture and I had one gentleman tell me that "when it's white with harvest that means it's over ripe."

It's after Pentecost, the grain is still in the field, still ready to be harvested. Just look around. Isn't it true, some of us came through with a theology that said, it doesn't matter if people are saved now, we can wait until the great fall harvest and then everything will come in. I believe that's true. Most people once they hear the word of God explained to them and understand, there will be a great harvest at the end.

The Fields are White with Harvest

But you know what, Jesus says, "Look around you, There's a lot of work to be done. Those fields are white with harvest. There are people out there who are thirsty and keep going to the wrong well."

Many of those people have an awareness of God. They know there's a God but they don't understand. They don't understand the word of God, and we can go out there and work in those fields to help them understand. You say, "I am not an evangelist." Well it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to go out and preach the Bible to them if you don't have that gift. But there are things you can do. You can be an encouragement to your family, your friends and your neighbors. You can model your life as to how Jesus lived. You can let people know, and not be ashamed of the fact, that you are a child of God. You do not have to preach at them.

Look at what Jesus did with this woman at the well, He was gracious and kind to her.

Let's read on here in verse 36, "And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. {37} For in this the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' {38} I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored, others have labored, and you have entered into their labors."

One sows and another reaps. We have no idea when we are interrelating with people in various ways, whether at work or in the neighborhood or at various clubs or whatever you're involved in, with your families, with kids at school. We just don't know, what happened before?

It could be that somebody planted a seed somewhere and you may not even know you are watering that seed, you may be the one planting the seed and you may never know what happens with that seed after it is planted, somebody else may come along and water it. Someone else may come by and reap it. We just don't know, one sows and another reaps.

Jesus Planted a Seed in Samaria

What is really interesting about this passage, remember the map with Samaria in the middle, and Sychar is about 8 miles from the city of Samaria. Jesus is giving a bit of a prophecy here, because it wasn't too many years later, after Jesus planted that seed in Sychar, and apparently communication being what it was, you could send a runner to Samaria, "Could this be the Messiah?" Just a few years later, Philip is compelled to go to Samaria and the people accepted the Gospel just like that. Remember that? Acts 8. Remember that? Jesus had planted the seed with one outcast woman who needed the living water and accepted it with all her heart. She brought it to her own town, and that seed was planted and Philip came and watered it, and there was a baptism of many Samaritans, the despised people of the Jews.

We don't know what the impact is that we have on people and it may not happen for 1000 years. I mean, when these people are resurrected, maybe then they'll know.

But the reality is, Jesus says, "One sows and another reaps." In His parables about the seed, we don't know what's going to grow and what's not.

It says here in verse 39, "Many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all I ever did." {40} So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them."

Again, it is a breach of protocol, He stays there two days. {41} "And many more believed because of His own word."

A Jewish man in a Samaritan village, teaching them the ways of God. Sometimes it pays, not just to break the rules of public speaking, but to break some of the social conventions that divide us.

"Then they said to the woman," in verse 42, "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." {43} "Now after two days He departed from there and went to Galilee."


There is Work to Do

What are we to learn from this? I told you there was a Feast of Tabernacles' message here and there is also a Feast of Pentecost message here. This message doesn't mean that there is no work to do today and no work that you can't do.

Jesus used this broken woman to preach the gospel and I'm assuming that many of us have that thirst within us and we can fill that thirst of which Jesus has that living water, the way of life, and the excitement of knowing what our purpose is in life.

So here's what I want to say to you. We need to look beyond the outward circumstances and "Try to understand where people are coming from, learn that people often act out their hurts. Of course, there is another side to that, because Jesus, of course, did confront evil in His day, sin from the Pharisees and all of the other religious leaders of the day and He did confront them in anger, when they were trying to control people, or when they were so self-centered and all they cared about was themselves. We are not talking about them. Jesus called them hypocrites, We are talking about the everyday people you and I run into, who are acting out of hurt, or confusion or pain and are trying to fill that void with water that will never fulfill them. Look beyond the outward circumstances. Most people have hurts and thirsts in their lives that we may not understand.

We need to plant seeds. We need to water seeds that have been already planted. Reap what you have not sown. You may not know where you are in the process. The fruit might not come for a long time, but the Scripture says that "When God's Spirit goes out from Him it does not come back empty" (Isaiah 55:10-11). Someday that will take fruit.

Finally, something to take home with you, don't wait for the great fall harvest, "The time is now, for the fields are already white with harvest."

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This article was transcribed with minor editing from a

Sermon given by

Lenny Cacchio at the Common Faith Networks - Feast of Tabernacles 2015 Florida

Titled: The Woman at the Well

Transcribed by: bb 5/10/16