12 January 2010

Jesus Doesn't Stand on Propriety

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized—he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but youc say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.   John 4:1-30

(Here's a transition thought from last passage to this one:  Religious people like causing strife through ego and rivalry.  Be careful of people whispering sweet nothings in your ear and pointing your messaged ego toward someone who threatens your messaged ego.)

This is one of my favourite stories about Jesus. So much can be said here, but I'll only respond with a few:

  • Jesus was tired from the journey. Yes, Jesus was human. He is not the ethereal figure some are more comfortable portraying him to be.
  • Jesus would talk to anyone. He didn't stand on proprieties and he certainly wasn't afraid for his reputation. ("The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”...Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman.") After all, he didn't even consider equality with His Father something to be grasped. In light of this, it is hard to justify and explain what makes some of us so special that we don't follow Jesus' example on this. Of course the flip-side to arrogance is my sin. Sometimes I don't know why anyone would want to hear anything I would have to say. So I keep my head down and walk oblivious to the world around me. Unfortunately, I disobey Jesus teaching to love my neighbour when I do this. Not only does it rob me of opportunities to help people in need, but it demonstrates a lack of trust in my Saviour who makes me worthy.
  • Three times, she demonstrates that her views of God and her neighbour are being drawn from the old wells of culture and tradition. First, she assumes a Jew like Jesus would ever attempt to relate to a Samaritan like her. Second, she assumes there is good water in the well because patriarch Jacob discovered the well. Third, she assumes her people are closer to God because they worship on the right mountain. All three of these assumptions are typical religious concepts. All three of these assumptions do nothing to improve her as a human being. Too many times we put everything into beliefs, doctrine, or customs that mean nothing. Jesus answers these assumptions quickly and simply. First, he does attempt to relate to her. Second, he refuses to accept that there is anything special about Jacob's well. ("Anyone who drinks from this well will be thirsty again.") He then informs her that she has access to something that will satisfy her true needs. Third, he informs her that the quality of worship does not depend on where the worship is but on the worshiper themselves. He tells her that God looks for people who worship in spirit and in truth.
  • Jesus speaks the truth about her life. He speaks matter-of-factly about her life. His words assume the question of "The way you give yourself quickly to men and the faith you place in traditions and customs, how is it working for you?" She doesn't have to be convinced that she isn't living the best possible life. She knows. What she doesn't know is how to move forward with her life. She laments that someone is coming soon to explain everything. Jesus tells her the good news that that time is now. The one who explains everything is here. The Kingdom of Heaven is near!
  • This woman who came by herself to draw water in the heat of the day is now so excited about this news she contacts others so they can share in this good news as well.

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