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John4(4)

December 13th, 2017
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Today we want to look at a very challenging subject. Where should the focus be In Christian ministry?

Jesus’ ministry is always following his Father’s will.

What is that will?

Listen to John12:49-50

49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.
50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.’

In Jesus is life. It is the Father’s will that Jesus give us his life.

So lets return to the well. Here Jesus has offered the Samaritan woman living water.

How does God work in this world? Sometimes we think it depends on us.

The encounter of the Jesus and the Samaritan woman initially has nothing to do with the disciples.

John 4:27

27 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?’

The disciples were surprised at seeing him conversing with the Samaritan woman, but no one challenged him about the inappropriateness of such an encounter.

The implication is this is what they were thinking. And they had no idea what it meant and what would be the outcome. They would have not initiated this ministry. Their minds were locked into an old creation way of thinking: divided from others in the flesh.

The woman felt the acceptance of Jesus. He was not an arrogant Jew damning her or her people but opening the door to a new way.

And now comes the remarkable consequence of this encounter.

The problem here was not simply that Jesus was a Jew and she a Samaritan; their peoples, their fathers and grandfathers, were bitter enemies in the religious and the political arenas. Both peoples considered the other to be imposters.

Yet she feels safe with him. He already knows her life and yet invites her to know who he is.

Do you remember this seemingly obscure reference to Joseph near this very place where the conversation took place?

John4:5

So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

This is where Joseph’s was taken from Egypt and buried.

At the beginning of the story, John wanted us to remember Joseph. He was a man who suffered much in his life; but whose suffering was ultimately used for the salvation of Israel and the known world. Under Joseph’s leadership, Egypt became the only nation that acted wisely by saving grain during the years of plenty and then being able to feed others during the years of famine. It is highly symbolic that this conversation took place in the presence of a silent witness – the bones of Joseph.

God first allowed terrible physical, psychological and social injustice to be done to Joseph, but he then used this suffering to greatly bless those who came in contact with Joseph.

The Samaritan women is a product of this suffering world and Jesus invites her into his life and ministry for her people.
Jesus ministry also involves terrible physical, psychological and social injustice

John4;28-29

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

She has moved to accept the Jewish hope of the Messiah. We talked last time about what salvation is of the Jews meant. They were waiting for a king out of David’s lineage- something the Samaritans rejected.

Now consider the connection with Joseph in more detail. It was in Shechem that Joshua assembled the tribes of Israel, challenging them to abandon their former gods in favour of YHWH and after making the covenant with them, buried Joseph’s bones there. We read in Joshua 24: 23-24,32

23 ‘Now then,’ said Joshua, ‘throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.’
24 And the people said to Joshua, ‘We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.’
32 And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants.

In a sense, the Samaritan woman does the same thing as the Ancient Israelites in confessing to her fellow villagers her faith in Jesus as the Christ and covenant Saviour of the world.

John4:30-36

30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

That the Samaritan woman has a real missionary function is made clear later as we will see by the dialogue between Jesus and his male disciples after this.

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John4(3)

December 12th, 2017
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We saw last time that Jesus had come to cross all the boundaries that separate people from one another. He offers her living water. In the course of the encounter with the Samaritan women he shows he knows her very well.

If Jesus knew the facts about her unusual marital status, she believes he must be a prophet. Thus he must also know spiritual truths, as well.

So having seen Jesus’ intimate knowledge of her miserable situation and his compassion, the woman feels secure enough to also break tradition and to climb over the wall of forbidden associations.

She makes a statement that invites Jesus’ commentary on a matter having to do with the key theological difference between the Jews and Samaritans.

In a very forthright way she dives in to the most controversial question: who has got it right about the worship of God. She focuses on the where: the location of worship because this is the claim of legitimacy.

As you may remember the Samaritans were Mt. Gerazim-centered Israelites in their understanding of the Pentateuch (Torah), while the Jews were Mt. Zion-centered in their interpretation of essentially the same body of literature, admittedly with occasional variations.

With fear and trepidation the Samaritan woman, putting away her feeling of humiliation and bitterness towards the Jews, posed her question in a form of a statement.

John4:20-21

20 Our ancestors (fathers) worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’

There is a smug human vanity that somehow we have God contained in our group. Use cartoon of about.

It is the “we have got it right” competition.

Jesus’ reply is something that she definitely did not expect to hear from a Judean prophet:

21 Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

Instead of where we worship Jesus focuses on whom we worship. Notice the reference to “the Father”. She had not said that. He said that. Why? Why not say, “God” or “the Lord” or some other designation? Why “the Father”? — You are not going to worship “the Father” in either of these mountains.

First he uses it to link with her reference to the Samaritan fathers and draw her attention to the one all-important Father. She said in verse 20, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain.” And she had already asked in verse 12, “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” (John 4:12). So she is very focused on the externals of place and tradition. The fathers seem very prominent in her mind.

Jesus shifts the focus. He doesn’t say: Well, the real Jewish fathers worshiped in Jerusalem. He says, there is a Father you should care about, namely, “the Father” — the Father who aims to be worshipped, but not in any particular place and by implication not under the control of any Temple or priesthood who prescribe the how of worship: to be in the right place at the right time with the right people doing the right things. In many ways it becomes a question of what makes us holy and acceptable before a Holy God.

And that leads to the another answer to why he referred to God as “the Father”. It calls to mind — for us at least — that “the Father” has one unique Son who is “the Son.”

The one to be worshipped is “the Father.” This woman is dealing here with “the Son.” And we are going to see: his presence is far more important in worship than what mountain you are on, or what city you are in or any other religious practice.

This is not the answer she expected. She expected a good argument that Jews defend Jerusalem as the focal point of worship, and Samaritans defend Mount Gerazim. But Jesus rejects the whole argument. We could understand Jesus saying:

“You wonder about where? You are concerned about location? Ma’am there’s a day coming — sooner than you think — when both these mountains will be irrelevant for true worship.” That’s amazing for a Jew to say. “The day is coming”, he says, “When

Jerusalem, the holy city, the city of David, the place with the temple of God, will not be the focus of true worship.”

Jesus had already stated that the centre of earthly worship was to be relocated from physical places to the heavenly, spiritual Jerusalem concentrated in himself when he spoke to Nathaniel.

The incident is related in John 1:50-51.

50 Jesus said, ‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig-tree. You will see greater things than that.’ 51 He then added, ‘Very truly I tell you, you] will see “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on” the Son of Man.’

Jesus invoked the great Torah story of Jacob’s dream of the angels of God ascending and descending on the Holy Land of Israel where he was sleeping (Gen.18:12).

He said to Nathaniel that very soon the angels would be ascending and descending, not on Bethel (in Hebrew – House of God) which Samaritans believed to be identified with Mt. Gerizim, but upon the ultimate House of God – Jesus himself.

John4:22

22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.

This is blunt and painful: the problem with you Samaritans is not that you worship in the wrong mountain, but that you don’t know whom you worship.

Why not? “Because,” he says (verse 22b), “salvation is from the Jews.” What does that mean?

Does it mean that all Jews knew whom they worshipped? No. Listen to what Jesus says to the Pharisees in John 8:19 (the really serious Jews): “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

They don’t even know God. They’re just like the Samaritans. “You worship what you do not know.”

All such worship Jesus says is “vain,” empty. It is not “true worship” ..

So what does Jesus mean in verse 22b: “We worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews”?

He means that Jews teach that a Saviour is coming into the world. He is coming as the Son of David, the Messiah, the servant of the Lord. And because there will be a Saviour, true knowledge of God and true worship of God are possible.

The very last clause of this whole story (that runs from verse 1 to verse 42) is the announcement of the Samaritans in the town of Sychar: “We know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (verse 42).

You don’t know whom you worship because you are not depending on the Saviour — the salvation that is coming into the world. The Saviour is the Jewish Messiah. You Samaritans don’t believe that. And therefore your worship is not true worship.

It’s very important that we see the implications of this for our situation today — in regard to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and any other religion that does not embrace Jesus as the divine Saviour of the world who comes to die for sinners and rise again and become the Mediator between God and man. It’s important because the glorious, unique, supremacy of Jesus among all the religions depends on it.

Jesus’ point here and elsewhere in this Gospel is that there is no true worship apart from receiving the Saviour that comes from the Jews.

Not only did Jesus say in John 8:19, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also,” but he also said to the Jews in John 5:23, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” And in John 5:42-43 he said to them, “I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.”

In other words, whoever does not know who I really am, and honour me for who I really am, and love me for who I really am, does not know or honour or love God. And therefore whatever they do on their mountains or in their temples or shrines or mosques or synagogues, they do not worship God.

In other words all religious practices, no matter how ancient and revered, must play second fiddle to the ultimate revelation of the Son.

Jesus says we are on the brink of something new.

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Message for the Day

John4(2b)

November 15th, 2017
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Why does the Samaritan woman need living waters?

Remember Jesus has decided to travel through Samaria rather than take a longer route around the territory. Jews usually took the long route to avoid interacting with Samaritans, whose religious views they opposed.

The Jews saw the Samaritans as ritually unclean, and thought that contact with Samaritans would make them unclean too The woman is understandably surprised to find this Jewish man at her village’s well, talking to her and asking her for water from her bucket.

She may have even been afraid to find herself alone with a Jew, considering the very negative view of Samaritans held by the Jews. Josephus, for instance, calls them evil, envious, and enemies and Jewish-Samaritan violence was common.

This story is about salvation.

In twenty verses, John’s story moves from male stranger meets woman at well to the specter of racism to a question over national and religious identity, to finally end with the village of Sychar believing that Jesus is “Saviour of the world.”

Lets now look at the encounter.

John4:5-6(a)

5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar,

First, John mentions the Samaritan town named Sychar. It is not clear if Sychar was a village very near Shechem or Shechem itself is in view.

near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.6 Jacob’s well was there,

John calls the reader’s attention to the presence of a silent witness to this encounter – the bones of Joseph. This is how the book of Joshua talks about that event:

Joshua 24:32

Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons.

It was at the foot of Mt. Gerizim. Apart from the tombs purchased in Genesis 23, this land was the first bit of the promised land owned by Abraham’s family. But by Jesus’ day, it was part of Samaria, inhabited by Samaritans. Moreover, the Samaritans had built their temple on Mt. Gerizim, looming over the city.

The well in John 4 symbolizes contested space – a legitimacy about who are the true believers and keepers of the law. That can be a very volatile issue.

The reason for this reference to Joseph perhaps implies that the Samaritan woman suffered in her life in a manner similar to Joseph. If this reading of the story is correct, than just as in Joseph’s life, unexplained suffering was endured for the purpose of bringing salvation to Israel, so the Samaritan woman’s suffering in her life led to the salvation of the Israelite Samaritans in that locale.

John4:6(b) -19

and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

Jesus is thirsty, and a woman comes along with a bucket.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’

A Jew asking an unclean woman to give him a drink from her unclean bucket.

8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

That is also remarkable in itself if it means buying food off unclean Samaritans or perhaps they went to a clean Jewish village.

9 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.)

Jesus and the nameless Samaritan woman were from two different and historically adversarial people, each of whom considered the other to have deviated drastically from the ancient faith of Israel.  In short, their families were social, religious and political enemies. This was not because they were so different, but precisely because they were very much alike.

According to the traditional perspective, the Samaritan woman probably recognized that Jesus was Jewish by his distinctive Jewish traditional clothing. Jesus would have most certainly worn ritual fringes in obedience to the Law of Moses. Since Samaritan men observed the Mosaic Law too, it is likely that the Samaritan woman’s former husbands and other men in her village also wore the ritual fringed garment.

The Samaritans’ observance of the Mosaic Law (remember Samaritans means the “keepers” of the Law and not the people that lived in Samaria) was according to their own interpretation and differed from the Jewish view on some issues, but it is important to remember that they were more like rival siblings to the Israelite Jewish community than like unrelated strangers.

Jesus has smashed the wall that divided Jew and Samaritan by his own behaviour. He is about a more important thing.

10 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.’
11 ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep.

She is thinking on a physical plane.

Where can you get this living water?

He began in the simplest possible way: He asked the woman for a drink. He was thirsty, but he had nothing to draw water with — but she did. He had a need, she had a means of fulfilling it, so he asked her for help. She was surprised that a Jew would actually drink from a Samaritan water pot — most Jews considered such a vessel ritually unclean. And then Jesus said: I have something a lot better than water, if you want it. I am willing to ask you for a drink of water — are you willing to ask me for something that’s better?

Jesus was using a play on words — the phrase “living water” usually meant moving water, flowing water. The woman knew quite well that the only water in Sychar was in that well, and there was no flowing water nearby. And he doesn’t have a bucket. So she asked Jesus what he was talking about.

12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’

She senses some kind of claim to superiority here. Is Jesus greater than Jacob? Do you think you are greater? Why?

13 Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’

“Yes, Ma’am, I am superior to Jacob. And my gift is superior. And my water is superior. And my well is superior. And my sons and daughters are superior — they never die.”

Jesus says five things about the water that he gives :
1. It’s the gift of God
2. It’s living water
3. If you drink it, you never thirst again — that is, it’s always there to satisfy you when your longing soul is thirsty
4. This water becomes a spring — a well of water . That’s why you never get thirsty again — not because one drink is enough, but because one true drink produces a well for an eternity of drinks.
5. This water gives eternal life.

He said he was talking about something that would lead to eternal life. He was talking about religious ideas Would the woman be willing to listen to spiritual truth from a religious enemy? Would she drink Jewish waters?

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