In John chapter four, we read a very interesting conversation between Jesus and a woman from Samaria. Besides the obvious dissension between Jewish people and Samaritans, there are some glaring points we can take from this story.
It opens with Jesus asking the woman for a drink. The woman was apparently taken aback since Jesus, a Jewish man, was asking her, a Samaritan woman, for a drink. So, Jesus tries to clarify to her who he really is. He told her that she would ask him for a drink if she knew who he was. Still not understanding, the woman explains Jesus’ limitations and his inability to help her.
So, Jesus ups his offer by telling the woman that the water he offers will cause her to never thirst again. The woman realizes the value of not having to go to the well every day to haul water, so she asks for this “living water.” In reply, Jesus tells the woman to go get her husband. She tells Jesus that she does not have a husband. Jesus calls her out on this, and tells her that he knows; she has had five husbands and is not married to the man she is now living with.
She recognizes that this man must be a prophet if he could tell her these things about herself, so she changes the subject and asks about technicalities concerning the worship of God and where it should take place. Jesus patiently explains to her that worshiping God needs to come from the heart and not by legalistic technicalities.
The woman, apparently not satisfied with this answer, says that when the Messiah comes, he will explain everything. Jesus replies, “I AM the Messiah.” This finally got her attention and she ran to tell all her friends to come meet this man who might possibly be the Messiah.
What can we get out of this little exchange? I have heard this used to explain “evangelism,” how we need to tell the lost people about “living water,” and help them to realize their need for a Savior. But, if that is all we take away, I think we are missing some important applications.
It seems that most of us could identify with the woman. We go about our regular, daily routine, and somewhere along the way we encounter Jesus. At first we are a bit surprised that Jesus would take the time to talk to us. Then, when Jesus explains that he can help us by saying something like, “take my yoke upon you…learn from me…my burden is light,” we explain that we don’t really need his help; or we tell him why he is not really able to understand our burden. We think that there is no way that he could actually help us.
So, Jesus explains further that he can help us and that he can get us through our troubles. Then we turn selfish. We think of all of the ways Jesus’ help will benefit our physical life. We think, “Nice, we don’t have to go to the well every day! That would be great!” So, we readily accept Jesus’ help.
At this point, I can picture Jesus sighing as he puts his palm to his face. In an attempt to get us to understand that we are looking at his offer in the wrong way, he calls us out on our selfish attitude. He might point out a particular struggle or an issue that we are facing. He does not do this to throw it in our face, but to challenge us in our selfishness.
That is when we start over-spiritualizing things. We get contemplative and theological. We start using big words that only learned scholars of seminary understand, and we theorize about idealistic moralism. Jesus replies with simplicity: “You are missing the heart of the matter. The spirit of worshiping God is not limited by place, posture, or platitude. What matters is your love for God and your love for others.”
Yeah, we get that. We have seen every church say that they “love God and others” or “serve God through serving others.” We might even think it is sad that Christianity and evangelism have been reduced to something you might see on a social media meme. We think, “Won’t it be nice if we had someone to explain all of this to us?”
Again, Jesus shakes his head and exhales deeply, “I am trying to explain it to you! You are just not listening. I AM here to help you.” This does get our attention, and we do start telling other people about Jesus. But we do it in a way that comes across as convincing as the woman at the well: “Come listen to this guy. He might be right. He may be onto something.”
It took a lot of convincing for the woman to finally see what Jesus was trying to do. But, admittedly, it is a hard thing to put our defenses down. We often do not allow Jesus to have full access to our life. We tend to only let him in to certain areas.
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