John 4:39-42

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 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 NIV)

I love this story.

John continues with the narrative as it unfolds before Jesus and His disciples.  As the woman hurried back to town to tell everyone about meeting Messiah, Jesus uses this teachable moment as an object lesson for His disciples.  As the crowd draws near, Jesus gets excited about what is about to happen, when many will believe in Him.  The harvest is now and is about to happen before their very eyes.

The Samaritans came to see Jesus because of the woman’s testimony of what Jesus had said to her.  They all knew her checkered past; who was this Jewish stranger that would not only converse with her but could tell her life story?  The woman went for water and came back a changed person.  The woman’s change was both immediate and dramatic and was worth dropping everything and investigating, even in the heat of the day.

After spending time with Jesus, the town people not only accepted the woman’s testimony but believed on their own from hearing and meeting Messiah in person.  The Samaritans were so engaged and taken with Jesus that they invited Him to stay with them.  And Jesus willingly remained with them for two days.

John goes into great detail to describe these events in Samaria.  John’s account was in contrast to Luke’s account of Samaria when a village refused to let Jesus and His disciples stay in their village because they were headed to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-56).

John’s recounting of this story parallels God’s redemption of humanity on so many levels:

  • the Samaritan woman, with all the mess of her life and relationships and pride
  • the town folks, with their traditions and beliefs
  • the city of Samaria itself, with its history of sin, rebellion, and animosity toward God
  • the region of Samaria, considered by many as unclean and to be avoided at all costs

Just as Jesus provided redemption for this woman, He longs to redeem us as well.  Our sin, our brokenness, our rebellion, our pride are no match for His grace, mercy, and love.

Like the Samaritan woman and the town folks, may we lay our brokenness and pride and self-sufficiency aside and let Jesus tell us our story, not to shame us, but to redeem us and transform us as only He can.

We will never be the same.  Because of Christ, we are forever changed.

While the details are different, her tale is just like mine and yours.  But our Redeemer is one and the same – Jesus, Messiah – crucified, risen, and coming again.

I love this story.

What is stopping you from making it your story?

Blessings,
~kevin

John 4:27-38

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

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

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?”

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

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
(John 4:25-38 NIV)

While we are focused on verses 27 through 38, I added verses 25 and 26 for the context of today’s passage.

The Samaritan woman and Jesus were in conversation.  The woman knew that Jesus was a holy man of some sort, as He had revealed her sordid past, not to condemn her, but to show her compassion.

As she tried to regain a bit of her pride, she looked for an “exit ramp” from the conversation.  She pointed forward to the long-awaited Messiah and told Jesus that when Messiah comes, He would sort out this debate and teach them both.  Her thought was that Messiah would not come during their lifetime, or even if He did, she and this stranger would not cross paths again when Messiah showed up.  She was calling a draw to the conversation, giving herself the way out.

What happened next took her breath away.  Jesus revealed Himself as Messiah.  She immediately set her water pot down and hurried back to town.  The same woman who came out in the scorching noon heat to draw her water and avoid the other town folks and their self-righteous condemnation of her was now unconcerned about who saw or heard her – she had a message to tell everyone who would hear:  “Is this man the Messiah?”

Just as the woman was hurrying back to town, Jesus’ disciples returned from buying food in town.  John records that they were surprised that Jesus was talking to this woman, a Samaritan woman at that.  What was going on here?  But no one dared to ask.

The disciples offered Jesus food, but He turned them down.  They didn’t understand – they had left Jesus tired, hungry, and thirsty.  Now Jesus was energized and ready to go.  What happened while they were gone?  Had this woman given Jesus food?  But yet, when they looked in her water pot, it was bone dry.  What was going on?

Jesus’ hunger was spiritual, and His food was obedience to His Father.  He was living out the truth of His forefathers, which He had already used to Satan during His temptation, that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4)

As the crowds from town made their way back to Jesus, He used this time as a teachable moment with His disciples.  He quotes an old farming proverb about patience, about waiting for the right time to harvest.  Jesus quotes this old proverb, not to enforce it, but to contrast their current situation against it.  Jesus’ energy and enthusiasm match the woman’s joy and energy as she shares the news that Messiah has arrived.  Harvest time is here and now!

What is our reaction when Jesus reveals a part of our life that we don’t want to be exposed?  Do we see Him, or only our brokenness?  Do we let Jesus heal our hurts and shame?  Is our reaction like that of the Samaritan woman, sharing the great news about Messiah with anyone who will listen?

May our healing and joy be full today as we celebrate Messiah with us.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 4:16-26

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

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

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

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

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
(John 4:16-26 NIV)

As the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman continues, Jesus has told her that He can provide a spring of living water that will never run dry.  The woman lets her defenses down and asks Jesus to give her that living water, thinking that the conversation is still about water.

Jesus seemingly ignores her request and asks her to leave and bring back her husband. Asking the woman to retrieve her husband was an appropriate request from Jesus, in both the Samaritan and Jewish cultures.   The woman, with her defenses down, quietly admits that she does not have a husband.  Jesus replies that He knows; in fact, he tells her that she has had five husbands and is living with a sixth man now.

The bitter reality of her personal life is now out in the open.  Her marital status is why she is at Jacob’s well in the heat of the day – to retrieve her daily supply of water when no one else was there and avoid all the looks and stares and mean-spirited comments from the other women in the community.  The heat of their looks and comments are far more painful than the scorching sun overhead.

If there were a “three strikes, you’re out” social stigma in their conversation, the woman’s marital status would be the final strike.  Being a Samaritan, being a woman, and now her sordid marital history would be grounds for Jesus to walk away, or somehow shame her and abruptly end the conversation.

Notice that Jesus does not call her out for her failure to keep a husband, or the fact that she is currently living in sin with a man that does not respect her enough to marry her.  Jesus told her about her past, not with loud anger or judgment in His voice, but with softness, quietness, compassion, deep breath and a sigh as if to say, “I know.”

The woman, likely shocked and a bit scared and yet still intrigued, puts up her guard again but still stays engaged in the conversation.  Her intuition tells her that this is a holy man of some sort, a prophet that has been given insight into others’ lives, even her own.  She goes back and revisits the religious differences conversation they had begun earlier.  She brings up the geographic location of their worship of God as a defense.   While the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem, the Samaritans worshiped on Mount Gerizim as God had commanded them in Deuteronomy 11:29.  After all, this is where God told the Israelites to go to receive their blessing!

Once more, Jesus does not engage in the debate.  He changes the paradigm completely and says worship of God is not a geographic location, but rather a state of the heart where people worship in spirit and in truth.

The woman, not wanting to concede the argument, but knowing she is debating with a holy man, looks for her exit ramp to end the conversation.  She essentially says to Jesus, “We will have to agree to disagree for now.  When Messiah comes, He will sort this out and tell us the truth.”  With that comment, she has restored what is left of her pride; her snark factor is back.

Jesus then puts an end to the debate by revealing Himself as Messiah.  “I, the one speaking to you – I am He.”

What conditions or constraints do we put on our worship?  Is worship limited to a physical location like a church?  Is praising God restricted to a particular form such as music?

May we let our defenses down, lay aside our pride, and worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, for His glory and not our own.  As we confess our brokenness, may we experience God’s forgiveness and restored relationship as we commune with Messiah, and He reveals Himself to us.

And may we treat others likewise as we cross paths today.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 4:7-15

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.)

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. Where can you get this living water? 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?”

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.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
(John 4:7-15 NIV)

In yesterday’s post, the Apostle John provided the narrative backdrop for the story that unfolds today – Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

Jesus and His disciples arrive at the well around noon, and they stop for a break in their travels.  John parenthetically notes that Jesus’ disciples had gone to the nearby town to buy something to eat.  Jesus was hanging out by the well and was likely tired and thirsty.  It was the middle of the day, when the sun was bearing down, and nearly everyone was inside or under a shade or shelter to avoid the intensity of the sun.

Out of nowhere,  a Samaritan woman comes to draw water.  Jesus asks her for a drink of water – a seemingly reasonable request from a weary traveler on a hot day.  The woman’s reply is both short and snarky.  The pain of the blatant hatred between Jews and Samaritans, of the typical second-class treatment of women by most men, all came pouring out in her reply.  Her defenses were up, and she was guarding against the oncoming ridicule that she sensed was about to take place.  Again, John provides a contextual note to help us understand her reply (v. 9).

Jesus does not respond in kind to the woman.  Instead, He makes an offer of eternal life to her that she misunderstands as a vague religious reference to gathering water at a spring.  She still thinks this conversation is about Jesus asking for a drink of water.

The woman replies, showing a little more respect than before, but still not understanding Jesus’ answer and offer.  She reminds Jesus that He possesses no bucket to draw water for Himself, and the well is deep.  This well is not a spring where water is bubbling up from the ground; it is a cavernous hole in the ground that someone must go down into to obtain the water.  The woman also throws in a religious barb about Jacob being her relative (implying that Jacob was a full relative of the Samaritans, and only a half-relative of the Jews, whereas the Jews considered Samaritans half-breeds and not full relatives and recipients of God’s promises as the Jews were).

Jesus ignores the racist comments and extends the offer of eternal life again.  He refers to a spring of living water that is He is making available to her via Himself.  She still thinks this conversation is about a better source of water.  Once again, Jesus is misunderstood, but the woman is engaged and invested in the conversation.  Her defenses are coming down, and she is asking for His help.

How many times do we, like the Samaritan woman, stumble over and misunderstand what Jesus is saying to us?  How many times do we return a snarky “thank you, captain obvious!” to the Lord, not realizing that He is talking about something of infinitely more value and worth than what appears on the surface?

May we see with our hearts and hear with our souls what the Lord is saying to us today.  May we let our woundedness and defenses down, and Let Him speak to the hurts and needs in our lives as no one else can do.  And may His springs of living water wash over us, to heal and restore and refresh us and bring us joy.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 4:1-6

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

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 to 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 noon.
(John 4:1-6 NIV)

As we begin chapter 4 of John’s Gospel, John provides the narrative and transition between the previous and present vignettes of Jesus’ life.

In the last scene, Jesus and John the Baptizer were in the same region, and some of John the Baptizer’s disciples had deserted him and gone to follow Jesus.  John the Baptizer knew his role and told his remaining disciples that Jesus must increase while he must decrease.  John knew the larger story was about Jesus, not about him.  John the Baptizer was celebrating of Jesus’ ministry success, not bemoaning it.

Jesus and His disciples were somewhere in the southern part of Israel, in the Judean wilderness.  As the Apostle John unfolds today’s story, we see Jesus moving on when He hears that the Pharisees are watching Him again.  Jesus knew that the Pharisees misunderstood who John the Baptizer was, and they certainly had no clue who Jesus was.  The Pharisees were a jealous bunch, and they wanted to control anything and everything around them.  Jesus knew that His time on earth was not finished, so He avoided the controversy with the Pharisees and headed back north to Galilee (v. 3)

It is important to note that the Apostle John points out that Jesus’ disciples were the ones baptizing others, and not Jesus Himself (v. 2).  John the Baptizer and Jesus’ disciples baptized with water; Jesus would ultimately baptize all believers with the Holy Spirit (Jesus’ words in Acts 1:5).

Jesus’ journey from Judea to Galilee took Him through Samaria, an area despised by most Judeans.  In fact, some Judeans would go completely out of their way to avoid setting foot in Samaria.  Jesus, however, did not have those same self-righteous hangups and took the shortest path from Judea to Galilee, which led straight through the middle of Samaria.

Jesus and His disciples stopped about noon at a well-known landmark, Jacob’s well.  And thus the backdrop for the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, which we will begin tomorrow.

As we look at the Apostle John’s record of Jesus’ ministry, may we learn and practice much from this brief but compelling narrative.

Let us not compete in ministry, but complement and encourage one another as we all serve Christ.  Remember, it’s not about us, but about Him.

May we not be self-righteous about who we do or don’t interact with, but instead, share the good news of Jesus and show His love to all who cross our path, even the “Samaritans” in our life.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 3:31-36

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
(John 3:31-36 NIV)

In today’s passage, the Apostle John switches from narrator to preacher again. Starting in verse 31, John once again provides a clear distinction between Jesus as Messiah/bridegroom and John the Baptizer as the herald of Messiah/best man.
The Apostle John begins this mini-sermon with a contrast between the origins of Jesus and John the Baptizer. John is pointing out the superiority and authority of Christ (coming from above/heaven) over John the Baptizer (coming from the earth). The Apostle John reaches all the way back to the beginning of chapter 1 to bring this summary together, reminding us of everything he has written thus far.
In verse 32, John tells us of the gulf of misunderstanding that existed between Jesus and those around him. Even though Jesus humbled Himself to become human, the little glimpses of Heaven that Jesus has shared were too unbelievable to His hearers. John tells us that no one accepted Jesus’ testimony, again going back to chapters 1 through 3 and reminding us that the “no one” that John was referring to were the religious leaders of their day.
In verse 33, John tells us that some (like Jesus’ disciples and Nicodemus) did believe, and now bear witness of Messiah’s life as truth. From a human perspective, Jesus’ words are too amazing to be true, or they fly in the face of everything we know and have been taught by our parents and mentors.
So what do we do when confronted with the truth of Jesus and God’s Word? Is this a “fight or flight” moment? Do we fight for the traditions that we have learned? Do we run away from God and abandon our faith altogether? Or do we humble ourselves, first “un-learning” what we have learned, and then re-learning the truth from God’s Word and Spirit?
John reminds us in verse 34 that the words that Jesus spoke were true because Jesus was given them from the Father. Also, John says that we can believe Jesus’ words are true because they have been affirmed by the Holy Spirit.
In verse 35, John tells us that the God the Father loves Jesus the Son and has put all matters in Jesus’ hands. In other words, God the Father trusts His Son Jesus implicitly and has turned over everything to Jesus.
Verse 36 reminds us that eternal life is grounded in faith, believing that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God. Salvation and eternal life are not based on what we do, nor on what we believe, but on Whom we believe. To believe in anything or anyone other than Jesus as Messiah is to incur God’s wrath.
So what do we do with John’s mini-sermon? If we have already put our trust in Christ as Messiah, then worship is one excellent response, and sharing this good news with others is another. If anyone has not put their confidence in Christ, believing what God has said is true, then the first step is to take that step of faith and believe that Jesus is Messiah, that He has come to make eternal life with God possible. Why did God send His Son to die for us? He sent His Son because He loves us and wants fellowship and community with us again and forever.
If you have not made that choice to believe in Jesus as Messiah, are you ready to make that choice? If you have already made that choice, will you join me in the worship of our Lord? He who gave His all for us is worthy of all praise and honor and glory both now and forever.
Blessings,
~kevin

John 3:22-30

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.)25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
(John 3:22-30 NIV)

The Apostle John ends his sermon and goes back to a narrative mode in today’s passage.  John recalls another interaction between Jesus and John the Baptizer.  While John records the name of the place, historians are not sure of its location.   Aenon was likely an oasis in the desert with enough water for baptisms.

John inserts one of his parenthetical comments into the story (v. 24), helping us align these timeframes and events into the overall chronology of Jesus’ ministry.  Remember that the Apostle John wrote his Gospel many years after these events took place.

John outlines the incident in verses 25 and 26.  Some of John the Baptizer’s followers were abandoning him and following Jesus.  John the Baptizer’s other disciples came and expressed concern to John, letting him know that these men were not loyal, and he was losing his followers to Jesus.  No doubt John the Baptizer’s loyal followers had confronted these men who were abandoning John, but were not able to convince them to stay.

John the Baptizer’s followers expected John to be upset, and that John would talk to his disciples and tell them to be loyal to their master.  Notice that John’s followers called him “Rabbi” in verse 26.  While John the Baptizer was not a traditional “teacher”, he did act as their leader and provide many leadership functions and rabbinical duties for his followers.

While John the Baptizer was not a typical rabbi, he did respond as a teacher and answered their concerns with an engaging story, a parable.

John the Baptizer reminds his followers that he has openly stated that he is not the Messiah, but was sent ahead of Messiah to prepare the hearts of the people for Messiah.  John the Baptizer uses a wedding analogy to explain his role with Jesus.  John says that Jesus is the “bridegroom,” the focus of life and the situation at hand, and he (John the Baptizer) is the “best man,” an entrusted friend who is there to support and take care of whatever the bridegroom needs.

To help explain this parable in its historical significance, let’s review the role of the best man in Jesus’ day.  One of the duties of the best man was to protect and guard the bride after the wedding ceremony until the bridegroom returned from the marriage feast.  After the marriage ceremony, the bride would return to her bridal chambers, and the bridegroom would host the wedding feast.  The best man was a trusted friend of the bridegroom who would stand guard and prevent anyone from stealing the bride or otherwise attempting to harm her.  When the bridegroom returned, the best man would know his voice even in the dark, and would allow him to enter the bridal chambers.  When the bridegroom entered the bridal chambers, the best man’s job was complete, and he was free to go on his way.

John the Baptizer said as best man, he had heard the bridegroom’s (Jesus’) voice, and that his role as best man was now complete (v. 29).  John concludes to his followers that Jesus must increase and that he must decrease.  In other words, John the Baptizer is saying that it’s all about Jesus and not about him (John).

Can we say, like John the Baptizer, that all the glory and honor and focus goes to Jesus, that He must increase, and we must decrease?

May that be our heart’s prayer today and every day.

Blessings,
~kevin