Posts Tagged ‘unfaithfulness’

Friends, these verses are tough. I hope I have done well by them and not obscured the meaning. I have checked my understanding against a couple of commentaries and found that I am not un-orthodox in my interpretation. Nevertheless, I apologize if I have made this more difficult than it needs to be.–Jerry

 

John 4:11-26 

 

11″Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” 13Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but 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.” 15The 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.” 16He 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. 18The 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. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet 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. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” 25The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

 

I have read this story a hundred times (that is, a lot). Tonight, for the first time, I noticed something I have never noticed. Jesus said, “Go, call your husband and come back.” Why did Jesus say this to her? Was it a simple social courtesy? What was it for? Was he rude? Was he trying to make her feel bad because he knew the answer to the question? What was he hoping to accomplish with such an in-your-face demand?

 

She wanted the water, I think. But she also, at the outset, thoroughly misunderstood what Jesus was talking about. When she asks, “Are you greater than our father Jacob,” I wonder if she would have believed the answer. But Jesus was not talking about the sort of water that is comprised of two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms. Clearly this sort of water was in no way able to supply this woman with what Jesus was talking about; nevertheless, she was eager to have it. She did want it; at least she seems eager enough for something. Jesus clears matters up for her essentially saying, “I’m not talking about this water which could never satisfy you as completely as the water I am offering.” Everyone who drinks that water will indeed be thirsty again. The water Jesus offers is different in every way, “The water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” It satisfies more than the thirst; better than water; beyond this earth.

 

It is ‘living water’. It is ‘water that springs up to eternal life’. Still she did not quite get it: “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Translation? “I’m tired of making this daily trip. I’m tired of this work. I’m tired of all the complications of daily, redundant, life. Make it easier on me by filling my jars with water that never run empty.” Sometimes it’s true that this is the approach people take to Jesus. You know those ones who are convinced that Jesus’ goal is to make life easier, to eliminate all the stumbling blocks, to take out all the hurdles, to lower mountains and raise valleys. Well, who doesn’t want that sort of Jesus? “Peace, peace in our time.” That’s a nice, domesticated Jesus—at our beck and call, ready to serve when we ring our little bells. Maybe it’s the sort of Jesus who eliminates all the redundancy of life so that we can spend our time on our pursuits that certainly will not involve the everyday hard work of everyday hard work, and most likely will not include the demands of holiness.

 

If the woman had no idea what sort of water Jesus was talking about then I suspect that neither did she have any idea the sort of man she was speaking to. “I can see that you are a prophet.” Jesus will tell her that this is not enough that he is a prophet. Forsyth says that Jesus was here as more than a mere prophet, but in fact as the Creative King of the Kingdom. “And Christ went to His death in His function as King, not to become King” (Forsyth, The Justification of God, 176). She did not yet realize that Jesus was unfolding before her the identity of the God of the universe. So when he says to her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back…’ I don’t think Jesus was merely showing off his ability to know things about her that she had not told him—no, Jesus is more than Prophet; Prophet though He may be. I think he is sitting (he had sat down by the well, v 6) there by the well, talking with this woman, as King, Judge. His demand for her husband to be present was his demand that she confess her sin. I think it was his demand for her to acknowledge her un-holiness, an un-holiness that was more important to her than worship. Forsyth again, “We are all standing before the judgment-seat of Christ. And one day we shall know it. We end where we began—in Him” (The Justification of God, 187).

 

She did not want to talk about this aspect of her life. I agree with the NIV study note here, “His presence exposes sin and makes people squirm…” But squirming is not an end in itself. People can squirm, be very uncomfortable and never actually get to God. Jesus is getter her to God. That is, he has other designs for her confession. Bruce Milne notes, “The deeper point is that Jesus brought to her awareness the relational desert in which she was living” (John, BST, 84-85). And not just with men, but with God.

 

Yes she changes the subject and starts talking about Jesus’ status as a ‘prophet.’ Then she changes the subject again: “So, you are a prophet. Well, perhaps then you can tell me why you Jews say that the only place where anyone can worship is in Jerusalem.”  Remember the garden of Eden? “Uh, it was the serpent. He made me eat it.” “Uh, it was the woman, she gave it to me and I ate it.” “Uh, it’s everyone else’s fault.” “Uh, it’s you Jews that prevent me from worshiping.” Jesus had cut to the heart of the matter: This woman had no relationship with God whatsoever. “She…had been furtive and unwilling to open her heart to God” (Tenney, John, 56). The evidence of her unfaithfulness to God is found in her continued unfaithfulness in marriage (regardless of the reasons why the marriages hadn’t worked). Oh, I’m sure not all those husbands were gems. But five, plus one more?! Was she Liz Taylor? Here was a woman, for all her better qualities, who was simply an unfaithful person (and not merely in an allegorical sense). Jesus brings all this out and then says, “There is no excuse for you not to be worshiping the One True God. There is no reason, certainly not the Jews, for you to be flitting around from place to place, person to person, god to god.” She was blaming someone else’s argument about the place to worship for her pathetic attitude towards worship altogether; toward God. Jesus has opened up the entire history of this woman and confronted her with her real need: It is God she is lacking. It wasn’t water. It wasn’t good marriage. It wasn’t friendship with the other ladies in town (why was she at this well, at that time of day, alone if not because she was somewhat ostracized because of her lifestyle?). Jesus was pointing out to her that her life reflects a surprising lack of God-interestedness. That was her real problem in life.

 

It is in this context that Jesus makes his most startling announcement yet: “I who speak to you am he.”

 

This is the great need of our day too. People are flitting about, like bees going from flower to flower. They gofrom person to person, relationship to relationship, god to god trying in vain to find something or someone that satisfies them, trying to find some place to perch. In the process of doing so, they alienate all those around them and they end up alone by a well in the heat of the day. They end up godless, submitted to no god, irreverent towards any god; unfaithful in all cases. They end up blaming everyone on the planet for their problems and accusing everyone else for their lack of worship and reverence for God. You’ve heard them: “Well, I don’t go to church because I can’t stand hypocrite Christians. It’s their fault I don’t worship.” And are they sinless? I think not. (There’s even a new movement going around of churches being planted with this slogan: “A church for people who hate church.” This is a rather impolite way of condemning existing churches and the people who comprise them. And, in my judgment, blaming them for other people’s lack of God-interestedness.) They’ve been hurt, burned, tricked, manipulated and angered and they take it out on God. Jesus comes along, takes all that blame and says, “I am the One who changes all that.”  Jesus says, “In me, there are no more excuses. In me, there are no acceptable excuses for not worshiping God.”

 

But of all these verses teach us I’m settling on this: Jesus does not accept our excuses for not worshiping God. He points out that if this woman blamed Jews for their insistence on the place of worship, she herself is no less guilty of excluding herself because of her sin and flitty, flirty unfaithfulness. In other words, no one has a right to be in God’s presence, and all should be uncomfortable before Him; all are judged in Christ. Slowly, but surely, this awakening is dawning on this unnamed Samaritan woman with whom Jesus spoke that day. So if all are judged in Christ, all are also welcomed in Christ. If freedom to worship is what one looks for we have no excuses; instead, we have Jesus.

 

I hope this 14th Day is Blessed for you in the Lord.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Advertisements