Archive for the ‘Who’ Category

I’m Impressed

March 6, 2009

With this blog called STUFF CHRISTIANS LIKE.  I like honesty with sarcasm, sardonicism, and wit, which this guy has in spades.  Go take a gander and tell me what you think.

The Problem of Perspective

June 25, 2008

“For my thoughts are not your throughts, neither are your ways my ways,”  declares the LORD.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher thand your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55: 8, 9.

Many unbelievers object to the above assertion by the God of the Bible.  The arguments are varied but the main ones I have heard go like this:  “If God’s way are not our ways, how can we be made in His image?”  “If God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, how can we know what the Bible says is true–if His ways and thoughts are so much higher, we couldn’t write them down now could we.”

The mistake most humans have made throughout history is to bring God down to our level of thinking instead of elevating our way of thinking to His.  Said another way, we attempt to make God dual in nature like us with evil motives and vengeful thoughts, but He’s saying in our passage above that His thoughts don’t match ours because He won’t do evil

I don’t claim to understand every mystery of the Bible, but I’m willing to study it until I find it out.  So what I say next may sound like a complete about face from what I wrote in my last entry.  This will take me a couple of entries to explain what I’m learning (I hope I’m learning it correctly) from my study, so bear with me.

Here’s the premise of the above passage:  God’s methods are not earthbound methods or self-centered human thought processes, but for the good of all creation.  This statement is not God claiming we cannot grasp His truths or understand His message rather He’s telling us we need a change of heart and mind to do so.  Look at the rest of this chapter in Isaiah and what comes through constantly is a call to turn around, turn away from evil and do good, and gain His perspective.

So it’s possible to get a handle on the mind of the God of the Bible according to His own words.

What Is, Is What It Is

As I’ve said before, no one can prove which God or gods rule the creation as we know it.  It might be as the ancient Greeks believed, the Hindus, the Romans, Jews, Islam or Christian.  It might be that we have no clear picture available to us and everyone is just guessing.  In fact it could be that no one has come close to an accurate picture of the true God in any religion.  What might be true is that snippets and snapshots of whoever rules are found in every one of them and none of them carry the complete picture.  Which would mean the truths are buried beneath human tradition and doctrine so far we wouldn’t know it without help.

Whoever this Boss is, who they are is who they are and we can’t change the truth of the “who” to suit us.  If God is a kindly, benevolent and loving God with no intention of harming His/Her/Its creation in any way–even to punish, then that’s what we get.  If He/She is vengeful, then that’s what we get.

This issue is sort of like trying to genetically choose who your parents are going to be once you’re already born and grown to adulthood.  Since we can’t go back in time and make the necessary adjustments like Zaphod Beeblebrox (refer to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), we kind of get who we get.  The god who rules holds the universe in a grip unlike anything we’ve known, for whatever this god decides to do, we can’t stop it.  If this god wishes to destroy, then recreate, we can’t do anything but say “no” and let it happen.  A being powerful enough to create all that is cannot be fought effectively.

I know people who have told me that if God is going to fry people in hell forever, they would rather join those in hell than serve such a God.  I’ve listened as comedians and preachers alike have poopooed any such notion about God being a punisher and being fair, loving and just at the same time.  I’ve heard the arguments for and against hellfire, and though I prefer the hell which lasts until things are burned up, the fact is the God I serve might be one who thinks the rebellious deserve to burn in hell forever without end.

My preference wasn’t consulted at creation nor will it be at the last Day.  God is in charge and whatever He dictates is what will happen.  Fight it however we want, protest it by denying Him or ignoring Him neither one will matter because we are stuck with His decision.

Yet we have some hope.

God can be negotiated with on destruction because He claims it’s a foreign act to Him (see Isaiah 28: 21).  The belief in an eternal burning hell is more of a Pharisee teaching than an actual one the OT clearly spells out.  For one thing we have no records of God torching anyone and forcing His people to watch them burn nor do they burn forever but are consumedn in an instant (see 2 Kings 1).  Much of this doctrine came from the Middle Ages, what we call the “Dark Ages” of history, where people were burned at the stake for searching the woods for natural medicines and studying the stars to learn new things.  I’d say that we can rethink this whole concept and be guiltless of blasphemy or heresy.  There’s no clear instructions about anything in Scripture when it comes to Judgment Day except that God will have the last word.

Despite how much has been said about this subject by popular preachers and the like, the truth is we only have the headlines not the details and most eschatologists are guessing when they conclude what things mean.  Sure their “guesses” are more educated than mine, but we must remember they bring to their study whatever bias they possess.  If they were taught a certain way by a respected teacher or preacher, they will hold to that view even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I have too, so I’m pointing out the possibility of the traditonal view of punishment for the sake of making another point:  No matter what we want our God to be, He could be different and we are reading it wrong.

Just because tradition taught the world was flat doesn’t mean it is.  Just because the the religious elite thought that the Bible indicated the world was the center of the universe, doesn’t mean it is, for now we know the earth is a sphere and orbits around another sphere, and that we are one of the outlying solar systems on the outreach of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Instead of shaking our faith in God’s interest in us, this just showed us how personal He is.  For God to be interested in a bunch of rebellious beings on the outskirts of His universe, on a small insignificant planet spinning around a small sun, just tells those of us who think of these things that He’s all the greater for doing so.

My conclusion?  God will be whatever He is and we will have to accept or reject it.  I will say one last thing though.

Whatever or whoever God is or isn’t, to rebel against Him just because we don’t like some of His policies and methods is plain foolish.  It’s like fighting a king who is for the most part benevolent and good to his people but harsh to those who cause pain to His nation.  If this king is as powerful as God, rebellion won’t accomplish anything anyway so why bother?  The wisest course is to affect the way He thinks about the subject by persuasion and dialogue–if that can be accomplished at all.

Am I copping because of this view?  Not to my way of thinking.  I believe what I believe because realize I could be dead wrong; I have been before and could be again.  The good news is that no one is sent to hell for believing anything about it at all.  Salvation is based on acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross not my opinion of the Judgment.

“Now We Know for Ourselves”

June 13, 2008

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony,  “He told me everything I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans came to Him, they urged Him to stay with them, and He stayed two days.  And because of His words many more became believers.

They said to the woman,  “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”  John 4: 39-42.

The testimony of others catches our interest, but it’s our owning the message which brings it to our hearts in a way which makes sense.  For the gospel to mean anything to us at all we have to own it, it has to become personal.  All the theological dancing will not make up for experiencing Jesus.  All the argument, intellectual posturing or reasoning won’t make up for the spiritual blindness or cataracts keeping us from seeing clearly.

The people in the town of Sychar saw for themselves the power of both Jesus’ words and miracles.  The woman, however, was convinced after one conversation in which He simply spoke the truth in a completely loving way, not once sidestepping her sin or condemning her for it.  Instead Jesus showed compassion, willingness to show her a way out of her trap and appreciation for her honesty.  Yes, she was honest by saying “I have no husband”, though she failed to mention the other facts as well.  Yet it was her honesty that gained Jesus’ praise.  She didn’t want to go into detail with a stranger, as well she shouldn’t, but when He came back with the details for her, it shocked the resistance right out of her, I think.

It wasn’t the fact of Jesus knowing her past that impressed her as much as His matter of fact way of revealing it to her.  He didn’t go into any sermons about how hot hell was, didn’t tell her she better shape up or ship out, never once forced her bruised and broken heart to face anymore of her fault than was necessary to show He knew.  He didn’t tell her (and therefore us) who was at fault for her current situation, whether those previous five men or her inability to be faithful.  John doesn’t elaborate or belabor the point either, it was sufficient for her and should be for us as well that Jesus knew and extended heaven in return for her hell.

We are instructed throughout the NT to be like Jesus.  If this, then, is how He treated the outcast sinners, who the hell are we to do any different?  Whoever started the trend of scaring people into repentance should be shot.  It misrepresent our Master’s will in the matter of salvation.  He didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it (see John 3: 17) so those who try to “win” souls using this method need to relearn from the Master.

On the other hand, Jesus never denied a person’s sin.  Even with the woman caught in adultery (see John 8), Jesus told her to go and sin no more, implying that her previous life was sinful.  And I don’t think He exactly expected her to just stop sinning all at once, but to grow towards that goal.

The reason I follow Jesus is because He teaches the contrast between light and dark, good and evil, righteousness and sin, yes, but shows such grace, mercy and forgiveness toward us that I am overwhelmed by the sheer wonder of it.  Jesus provides a safe place to grow up, heal and clean up our lives, which is supposed to be the church.  The problem is the enemy wants us to remain trapped and deceived about both our condition and the way out, so he plants either legalists or liberalists (extremes) in our midst and confuses the faithful with the forcefulness of their message.

The message of the last paragraph is the message of the title of our study:  “Now we know for ourselves…”  The reason confusion reigns so much of the church today is people who don’t understand the message gain power and a soapbox to preach their brand of Christianity.  But once we understand the meaning of the word “Christian,” we will never again allow our knowledge of Jesus be based completely on another’s understanding.  No, we will search the word–O, not like the Pharisees and teachers of the law, but to find Jesus.

In reference to the mistake of the Pharisees and teachers of the law Jesus told them,  “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  John 5: 39, 40.  So the point of Scripture, according to ou teacher and Master, is to reveal Him.

We need to know the point of the message before we testify to what have seen and heard.  Our “witness” to others should never be about another person’s experience alone but our own as well.  The woman in our text simply told her story and others came to see for themselves.  Their interest came as a result of the woman’s experience not her deep theological insight; their acceptance came as a result of their experience with Jesus.

The Real Food

June 12, 2008

But He said to them,  “I have food to eat that you now nothing about.”  John 4: 32.

We almost always get Christ’s words mixed up with some other philosopher’s.  The reason we do this is because we keep trying to combine His message with what we think we already know.  For the sake of parable, metaphor or illustration, using what we know is good, but understanding deep spiritual truths means we have to subtract sin from our calculations in order to grasp what is being said.  And subtracting sin isn’t something we’re very good at, since we are pretty much confused about that issue as well.

Let’s see what Jesus says about His message first so we know the rules:  “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”  John 6: 63.

“He who belongs to God hears what God says.  The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”  John 8: 47.

The Bible tells us clearly:  If spiritual subjects are confusing to those who read, it is because they either don’t accept them or have shut themselves off spiritually.  Jesus also told us that Holy Spirit would come into the world to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.  (See John 16: 8.)  Those who open themselves up to the message of Christ, will gain a growing understanding.  Not everything will come clear at once, but like babies they will begin first to distinguish the voice of God, then the shape of things then progress from there.

Sin is the most confusing subject mankind has ever discussed.  The problem is discovering what it actually is, for many interpretations and perspectives have judged sin as either anything negative or all that is earthbound.  Some take sin to be breaking the ten commandments alone, others have added addendums to the pentateuch.

Let me clear something up:  If eating a piece of fruit was a sin, then we all sin every day.  But if it wasn’t the fruit itself but what the fruit symbolized, then we’ve misplaced our focus.  The fruit wasn’t sin, but the choice to eat what God told us not to was.  What gives?  Here’s sin in a nutshell as far as I understand it:  Anything which goes against God as boss.

God is in charge, there’s no argument, insurrection or reelection campaign going to change the fact that He’s Creator of the universe and everything is alive because He gives it all power to do so.  We could tie our shoes against the command of God and sin, if there was such a thing.  Since God hasn’t designated a specific way to tie our shoes that I’m aware of, no one could sin doing it a variety of ways.  The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was a symbol of distrust in God.  There wasn’t anything poisonous perse about the fruit itself, rather it was what the tree represented.

Let’s take a common thing and use it to illustrate my point.

If I tell my son not to eat a cookie before dinner, the rule of obedience is that he needs to wait until after dinner to get his cookie.  If he eats it before dinner, he disobeys my instructions.  There is nothing wrong with the cookie itself for it is inanimate and morally neutral.  It’s the action of stealing a cookie or not that indicates the morality; his actions, his choice.

The tree wasn’t anything in and of itself, it was mankind’s choice to eat that was the whole point.

The Real Food Then Is?

Jesus tells us the real food is doing God’s will.  He survived 40 days and nights on nothing but communing with God, afterwhich He was hungry.  The devil thought Jesus would be vulnerable after such a long fast, but he forgot who he was dealing with first off, and second, what He had been doing for forty days.

The disciples insisted that Jesus eat something and when He answered them with our text above, they exclaim to one another,  “Could someone have brought HIm food?”  It probably didn’t occur to them that the woman herself gave Him food, considering that her status was immediately known to them because the time of day.  Plus, she was a Samaritan and they didn’t consider her an option for so holy a prophet as Jesus.  Since their reasoning didn’t include her as an option (remember Jews don’t eat out of dishes Samaritans have used) at all, they were at loss.

Jesus answered them,  “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.”  John 4: 34.  Succinct, educational and a complete mystery to the disciples.  Their reasoning didn’t include this kind of logic because they were so earthbound.  We aren’t any better for we still look at the physical body as some kind of curse, the sexuality of humanity as sinful and to be discarded with our glorified new bodies and food as a necessary evil that will go away once Jesus returns.

This is a declintion of Gnosticism.  There’s barely any Scriptural foundation for it and what is used is used completely out of context.  The Prophets proclaim that we will be made new and the original design of humanity will take on not only what we lost, but new meaning in the wake of grace through the cross.  Isaiah proclaims that humanity will be glorified, yes, but that glory will be on a new earth where they will build houses and inhabit them and their children will rise and call them blessed.  (See Isaiah 60 & following.)

What God made is holy.  The word “holy” means set apart to God, which is what we were originally and will be again.  The food of Jesus is to do God’s will.  The food of everlasting life for us is to ” know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”  Anything more or less is confusion.

The work of God is simple as we’ve studied before and not to be combined with human philosophy or sophistry.  Our obedience, therefore, is trusting Jesus completely in submission, which means in essence to come under His mission, and this is also our food.

From Outcast to Evangelist

June 11, 2008

Just then His disciples returned and were surprised to find Him talking with a woman.  But no one asked,  “What do you want?”  or  “Why are you talking with her?”

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,  “Come, see the man who told me everything I ever did.  Could this be the Christ?”  They came out of the town and made their way toward Him.  John 4: 27-30.

What we have is abbreviated, I’m sure, for the townsfolk weren’t going to go see someone based just on this woman’s word.  Something must have happened in her, however, to stir them up enough to go see who she was referring to and they were curious.

The reaction of the disciples, though, amuses me.  It’s kind of like John recorded their speechlessness with a rueful grin and a shake of his head.  Hindsight always allows us the luxury of seeing how utterly silly we can be and I think John tells us about the disciples reaction on purpose in order to demonstrate how little they understood about their Master’s purpose.  The fact that they were aghast is readily apparent in the text; the woman herself struggled with the fact that Jesus spoke to her at all, so why not the disciples?  They would buy food out of necessity from these Samaritans but they wouldn’t be found discussing the weather, let alone theological truths.

Also, I think John intimates that they had followed Jesus long enough to not second guess Him or question His actions too much.  Since they began following Him, they had noticed (because it was in their face constantly) that He rarely performed on demand, never took the path predicted and generally worked the works of God in a method diametrically opposed to the teaching of the day.  Their Jesus walked to His own music and wouldn’t dance at the piping of pouting children (the leaders of Israel, see Luke 7: 29-35) or become a performing circus act for the amusement of the unbelieving.

Later, we see the disciples, John and Peter, reaping a great harvest of converts in Samaria because of the above event.  By that time,however, they had learned the gospel extended at least to the Samaritans, though they weren’t going so far as to apply it to gentiles in general.  Their reasoning included the Samaritans in part because Jesus included them and the Samaritans had Jewish blood in their heritage and therefore were worthy of the gospel.

The woman on the other hand, lost all need for water, social decorum or fear of censure, for she forgot clean about her water jar in the joy of sharing Jesus with everyone she knew.  The story gives us the contrast of her lonely trek to the well to get water with her change of heart and attitude going back to share Jesus.  Though there are several important lessons to be gleaned from this story, I believe this is the most important one.  The hopeless find hope, the outcast finds belonging, and the sinner finds forgiveness and reconciliation.

The outcast became an immediate evangelist from sheer delight not some religious obligation.  It didn’t take her years to grow into one either because this whole incident couldn’t have take more than an hour or may be even less.  She didn’t know all the theological mysteries, couldn’t have argued effectively about the messiah as far as an in depth look at the subject might go, but she could testify to what God had just done for her.

Herein lies the key to effective evangelism:  Testifying to what we know.

We might not understand all the mysteries of creation, the formal history of the church, be able to answer all the doubter’s questions or prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus is God, but if our lives demonstrate the change, it’s impossible to refute.  If we show the attitude difference that Jesus brings through His grace and mercy, that love we know spills over onto others.

Because of this woman’s efforts, an entire town found the Way.  Her status of outcast became a tool for Jesus to wedge into hardened hearts and closed minds a glimpse of light and hope.  Here was a Jewish rabbi giving the outcasts through one of their own outcasts light, love and salvation.

If this were a game of chess and salvation a prize, Jesus put the enemy in checkmate and won the day in the most unlikely move ever.

Dispelling Confusion

June 10, 2008

Jesus declared,  “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Well, that was succinct.  John wanted to dispell any doubt about who Jesus claimed to be, what His mission was and through whom He originated.  We have to go a long way out of our path to explain this passage away.

Jesus makes a few points that we should list so that we don’t forget them:

1.  Where we worship doesn’t matter anymore, not since Jesus arrived on the scene.  No more holy mountains, temples or shrines are needed.  The new worship place is among His followers wherever they meet.

2.  Salvation comes through the Jews in the form and person of Jesus of Nazareth.  The Jews weren’t always right in the way they approached God, but they held the truth in their law and prophets, according to Jesus.

3.  The Samaritans and thus the entire world, worshiped blindly what they didn’t know, for the only light in the world was the God of Israel incarnate in Jesus.

4.  Our worship, if we are to be called Christians in the truest sense of that word, must grow from our spirits.  Worship, however, cannot be called worship if we have false ideas about God or hold to lies.  So the only way to be worshiping God is to hold to the truth.

Now let me be quite clear and succinct as well:  I’m not claiming these opinions or POVs as coming from me.  These come straight out of the gospel of John.  We can dispute the authorship of the gospels, question the message, reject the message and a host of other reactions which deny the validity of either  the source or content, but we cannot deny that both contain them.

It seems ludicrous to me that people who call themselves “Christan” would forget the fundamental truth contained in the title itself.  In Acts 11: 26 we find the first reference to those who follow Jesus as Christians, which means “Christ’s men”.  Though there are and were many who branched off to begin other sects of “Christianity”, the only authentic form of it is based on the Bible.  Now those who read this teaching might disagree on sentax, word meanings or doctrinal requirements, but the essential message of who saves humanity, according to our written source, is Jesus alone.

Like it or not, that’s the message in the NT.

Jesus settled the source of salvation with one quick paragraph.  Then settled another question the woman had like this:

The woman said,  “I know that Messiah”  (called Christ)  “is coming.  When He comes, He will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared,  “I who speak to you am He.”  John 4: 25, 26.

No slight of hand, no dramatic flourish or fanfare, just an emphatic statement.  Jesus told this woman what He is rarely recorded as saying to anyone else, even His disciples.  His reasoning for this, I beleive, can be found in John 10: 24, 25,  The Jews gathered around Him, saying,  “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered,  “I did tell you, but do not believe.  The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me…”

His miracles spoke for Him.  Isaiah foretold that Messiah would heal our wounds by His stripes.  These wounds are as much spirit as they are body, for Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead, but in our story above He went to the heart of a woman so bruised, hurt and most likely bitterly cynical that even a small drop of spiritual water gave her new life.  Jesus speaks into this woman’s life His mission, His identity and asks her to come under His authority.  She’s ready, for John records she got so excited and happily flustered she forgot her water jar.

John says Jesus just sat there happy with the way things turned out.  He forgot all about HIs thirst or the disciples mission to the local town and reveled in the joy of refreshing one lonely, hopeless and utterly fallen human being.

And we are to be like Him…

The Prophet Speaks

June 9, 2008

One thing we must remember about the words of Jesus is that they are “spirit and they are life.”  John 6: 63.  Paul alludes to this form of reasoning when he warns that The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot undersand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  1 Corinthians 2:14.  So trying to grasp the message of Jesus without the Spirit’s revelation will be an uphill battle everyone will lose.

Jesus offers the woman the water of life, which she doesn’t know what to think about, I’m sure, but desires anyway.  Then she tries to throw Him off by challenging Him to put up or shut up.  Jesus doesn’t give her the answer she expects, for her expectations would range from incomprehensible rabbi rhetoric, a magic formula or some spiritual sacrifice on her part to obtain it.  What she gets is far from the direction her mind must have been going in.

Jesus said to her,  “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,”  she replied.  John 4: 16, 17.

First off, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this woman is an outcast from her own community for she’s coming to the well alone at noon.  Second, the ways a woman could hurt her reputation usually centered around gossip, adultery or prostitution for her era.  Now while I believe Jesus was gifted with insight from on high, I don’t think He needed it to figure out what to ask her at this point.  Furthmore, He was a man of keen insight into the human psyche so His request held a two fold reason:  1)  She probably suspected His motives for talking to her so wanting to put her at ease, He showed an interest in speaking with her male counterpart, which was only proper for His day and age.  2)  He knew she had a sin or problem (we aren’t told why she had been married five times and was currently living unmarried to the man she was with) that needed to be dealt with so He gave her the opening to admit her fault.

Jesus’ request set the stage for her confession and her confession opened the way for Him to speak into her life mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  So He tells her about her five husbands and her current situation with almost matter of fact gratitude.

Again, she tries to throw Him off subject by drawing Him into an argument.

“Sir,”  the woman said,  “I can see that you are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”  John 4: 19, 20.

At this point I think she is also fishing to see who He is because immediately she knows He’s something special once He pointed out her situation to her.  He couldn’t have known this unless He was gifted with prophecy in her mind, and it probably occured to her that He could settle the argument between Jews and Samaritans once and for all.  If that was her thought, she was right on the money.

But the mention of her sinful present also made her shy away from talking anymore about it, I’m sure.  Her instinctive reaction was to draw Him into debate so she wouldn’t have to deal with the painful subject He’d brought up.  The debate of where to worship seemed safer than the stark sunlight He was shedding on her life.  Her wish to escape, however, got shut down most firmly for Jesus shattered her preconceptions.

Outcast Dialogue

June 8, 2008

Jesus answered her,  “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

“Sir,”  the woman said,  “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep.  Where can you get this living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”  John 4: 10-12.

Jesus begins a dialogue with an outcast among outcasts by doing the unthinkable as far as His Jewish heritage is concerned.  Now He crosses the line firmly and remains on the other side of it by offering her somthing more than she had to offer Him.  She knows He is the one He refers to because she shows it in her reply by addressing Him as “you”.

Notice how she works to throw Him off, probably thinking to antagonize Him or testing His sincerity, by calling Jacob her father.  The Jews didn’t accept the Samaritans as heirs of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so immediately any other Jew would have handed her head back to her in short order.  Knowing the psychology of those who get marginalized, I surmize she was testing His motives by being obnoxious.

Jesus didn’t rise to the debate but kept focused on His point,  “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thristy again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

She wanted to play the game of evasive action and misdirection so Jesus continued the illustration in order to peak her interest.  At this point, I’m not sure she really believed Him because she immediately replied,  “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”  Some writers have implied that she spoke this in hope of never having to come alone to this well again, which daily reminded her of her status.  Others have said she saw divinity flash through humanity and ached for what Jesus had to offer.  I believe she didn’t know who He was at all and was challenging Him to prove His claim.

Looking at the phrasing of our original passage, Jesus tells her “If you knew…”  implying that she didn’t know at all who was speaking to her at the time.  So she’s clueless and completely unaware that He is anything more than just a man, which follows what Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah,  He had no beauty of majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.  Isaiah 53: 2b.  So she couldn’t know who He was and Jesus wanted it that way because it forced her to listen first to his words not be awed by His appearance or presence.

The power of Jesus was in His message not His presence.  His presence only took on effectiveness once a person witnessed His message and actions.  In this He played a good hand of poker.  God invented the game so knows the rules as well as every trick in the book.  His trump, if you will, was putting Jesus in such a human, non-discript package that no one would mistake Him, once they got to know Him, for anyone other than who He was:  the  Savior of the world.

The woman challenges Him to give her this water.  Without knowing her thoughts, I can only guess at what she must have been thinking.  But from her questions and the methods she used to draw Jesus into those common debates between Jews and Samaritans, I’d guess she wasn’t interested in giving this man water, not interested in being given anything either, all she wanted to get her water and go home.  Yet, at the same time, Jesus peaked her interest by not reacting to the most common cause for arguments between their cultures.  In fact, He seemed to ignore it completely and went on to offer her something no man had ever offered before: life.

Not only did Jesus offer her a new life but He suggested she could find salvation.  That’s what eternal life means, salvation from death.

She drew the line in the sand by virtually telling Him to show His cards or shutup.  “Give me this water…” or leave me alone!

Jesus, as always, went a completely different direction she didn’t expect to prove Himself.

Outcast of Outcasts

June 7, 2008

Now He had to go through Samaria.  So He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well.  It was about the sixth hour.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her,  “Will you give me a drink?”  (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to Him,  “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.  How can you ask me for a drink?”  (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)  John 4: 4-9.

If you look at an NIV Bible, you will see a little note on the last sentence down at the bottom of the page which reads a different, more literal translation of it:  (Jews) do not use dishes Samaritans have used.)  It clarifies the text a bit.

If we go back into the history of the hatred between Jew and Samaritan, we learn that on the Jews return from Babylon the Samaritans did their level best to discourage the building of the city walls around Jerusalem.  They used trickery, tried force and started whisper campaigns to stop any progress.  The other reason these people were despised by the Jews was they were mixed races, part Jewish, part whatever Babylon left there to settle the area.

To get a clear idea of what the situation was in Christ’s day and age, we must see the Samaritans as scorned by the Jews for worshiping on Mt Garizim since it wasn’t the site of Solomon’s temple.  Next, they mixed idolatry many times with the worship of God.  This wasn’t overt all the time but it was tolerated,  plus they had magicians, soothsayers and a host of other occult practices.  To the Jew the Samaritan was the worst of the worst, they had Jewish heritage but had fallen from the beliefs so far, which made them not quite Gentiles but unclean none the less, therefore impure blood.

Jesus spoke to a person His disciples and most of Israel would have seen first as unclean because of her nationality, then because she was a woman, next because she was not married to the man she lived with at the time, lastly because she had been married five times already.  We don’t relate as much to the system of outcasts the world held to at the time, so when we read that Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman, it doesn’t register why it was a big deal.  Jesus knew that her reasons for coming to the well at noon (that’s what the sixth hour means) couldn’t be good for most drew water during the morning or evening.  She also came alone which spoke volumes about how the women of the town looked at her.

Let’s recap:  She was born into a nation which the Jews considered cursed by God.  They wouldn’t even touch a dish that these people used and wouldn’t have wasted their time speaking to them, let alone asking them for a drink.

Jesus, in one smooth action, broke all the taboos by talking not only to a Samaritan woman but one who was divorced five times and living in sin.  Does this mean He approved of her lifestyle?  No, because later He points out what she’s doing as sin, though without any condemnation attached.  He includes her in the world and gives her value by speaking to her.

What went through her mind?

If you’re a woman, what would go through your mind if a strange man spoke to you in a friendly way?  Now place yourself in her mindset of either being unfaithful to her past husbands or some such thing, being either used by men or a man eater, then see her opinion of Jesus through her skewed perspective.  She thought He wanted something from her besides a drink of water, for a Jew would not ask for anything from a Samaritan even if they were dying, so His request suggested something else to her.  I can’t say for sure what it really was, but I know she went on the defensive right away.

In some ways, I would think there would be some amusement in her reply.  The reason I say this is due to what she chose to say,  “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.  How can you ask me for a drink?”  She thought there was another reason behind such a request and set out to find what it was.  Jesus, on the other hand, wasn’t put off by her defensiveness nor attracted by her challenge.  Most Jews wouldn’t have spoken to her, yet if they had asked for water in that isolated place and been questioned, they probably would have beaten her and taken her water jar.

I think Jesus might have been amused at her attempt to throw Him off, but serious about her heart condition to draw her into a conversation.  That’s His way, you know, to draw us into a dialogue which helps us grapple with our questions and His answers.  Yet He also goes out of His way to meet the outcasts.  This woman was the outcast of the outcasts, the cursed of the cursed, so far below the norm of society that she was barely one rung above a whore.

Jesus drew her into a conversation.

We know kind of who she was by the evidence available, but what does this say about Jesus?  He went out of His way to reach out to the worst of the worst.  He was a village rabbi, recognized as such from the prayer shawl they all wore as a badge of office so Jews would now something about what He did at home.  The fact that He was asked to read Scripture in the synagogue suggests His status as a visiting rabbi as well.

So, we have a Jewish man who is also a recognized rabbi and teacher speaking to a woman who is considered by the rest of His countrymen to be horse dung and something to be stepped on–not even someone.

Have you got the picture fixed in your mind now?