Fear Leads To Spiritual Darkness

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John 12: 37 – 43

37 Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

 “Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

 40 “He has blinded their eyes
and deadened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn–and I would heal them.”

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41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

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The passage in John given above is extremely difficult to understand, especially if we are not familiar with the book of Isaiah and the history of the Jews.  John quotes from two passages in Isaiah, and he was very familiar with the history of his people, and how it was necessary for God to punish, or discipline them for their overt disobedience.

Let us look first at what John is saying in verse 37 and 38.  At this point in John’s Gospel, Jesus had been ministering throughout Galilee and Judea for about 3 1/2 years, teaching about the Kingdom of God, and showing the power of God through the mighty miracles He had been performing.  And yet despite how obvious it was that Jesus had come from God and spoke for God, many of the people, especially the religious leaders were unwilling to put their faith in Him.  Out of jealousy and fear of Roman retaliation, they would rather kill Jesus, than believe in Him.

The quotation from verse 38 comes from the first verse of Isaiah chapter 53, which happens to be one of the clearest Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah and how this Saviour would be rejected and brutally mistreated and finally killed.  This “Suffering Servant” would die in order to free us from our sin and guilt before God and heal our spiritual wounds.  Just as many Jews would not listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah concerning the Messiah to come, so many Jews would not listen to Jesus, who was the Messiah that had finally come for His people.

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This brings us to the next prophecy of Isaiah.  Verse 40 above comes from verse 10 of Isaiah 6, which is considered to be the first vision that Isaiah had from the Lord.  In this vision, the Lord God Almighty, who is all powerful and glorious to behold and completely holy, meaning that there is no sin whatsoever to be found within the nature of God.  And this Holy God called out to Isaiah to prophesy against the nation of Israel which had been very unfaithful and disobedient towards Him, as they had worshipped and trusted in all the false gods of the land.  Instead of being a holy people, they had been a blatantly idolatrous people.

So God could no longer endure such God-less people, and told Isaiah to say in Isaiah 6:9, “You will listen and listen, but never understand.  You will look and look, but never see.”  Then Isaiah went on to say what we have quoted above in John 12:40.  Taken out of context, this verse can almost seem that the spiritual darkness of people is the result of what God has purposefully done to them, as if it is His fault that they are sinners and will be spiritually lost forever.

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I want to challenge this thought this way.  All people have been given free will, and so the choice to follow after God or to sin and reject God is really the decision of the individual.  When God pronounces judgment upon a sinner, it is really God declaring the natural outcome that the person had chosen for themselves.

Jesus gave a powerful parable about a farmer who sowed seed on four different kinds of soil.  You can read this parable in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8.  There are many applications to this parable.  What I need to point out here is that there are four kinds of soil, each one representing a different kind of person.  The hard soil is the person under the control of Satan; the soil with shallow ground is the person who may appear to have faith in God, but under pressure will give up their faith.  The soil among the thorns is the one who believes in God but lets the things of life drag them down; the good soil is the person who has an open heart to receive the truths of God.

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This article is being posted on the Internet just a few days after Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  These are the most significant days in a year (after Christmas Day).  People long ago rejected Jesus and killed Him, but three days later He rose from the grave.  Some of the people back then refused to believe in Jesus, while some believed but were afraid to declare this out of fear of what the leaders would do to them.

What about you?  Do you let your fears of what others think hold you back from receiving Jesus into your heart and free you from spiritual darkness and the guilt of sin?  Do you have faith in Jesus, but are still afraid of what others might say or do to you?  Remember this: the power that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power that resides within us who believe in Him.  In Christ, you will always be able to overcome the forces of spiritual darkness.  We are children of the King, and children of Light.  Amen!

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Jesus A Mere Man, Claimed To Be God!

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John 10:31 – 42

31 Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. 32 Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?” 33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ 35 And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ 36 why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. 

37 Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. 38 But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”

39 Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them. 40 He went beyond the Jordan River near the place where John was first baptizing and stayed there awhile. 41 And many followed him. “John didn’t perform miraculous signs,” they remarked to one another, “but everything he said about this man has come true.” 42 And many who were there believed in Jesus.

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This is a very difficult passage to understand as there is so much going on here that is tied in together with the history and the theology of the Jewish people.  Take for example the reaction of the crowd in verse 31.  What in the world had Jesus done that prompted the people to pick up stones and want to kill him?  And we are not talking little pebbles here, but large stones as big as a grapefruit.  It wouldn’t take many of these to hit a man and kill him.

We must look back at the previous verse, where Jesus said in verse 30, “I and the Father are One.”  It was quickly understood by the Jews that Jesus was not talking about sharing the same purpose of God, but rather the very identity or being of God.  And that would go against one of their most sacred Scriptures of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear O Israel, the LORD of God, the LORD is one,” and the First Commandment of Exodus 20:2, “You shall have no other gods besides Me.”

Now if we look at the history of Israel after they came out of Egypt in the book of Exodus, we see that they were not very good about keeping these commandments, for they fell so easily into worshipping the many Canaanite gods when they took over the land of Palestine.  They eventually suffered deportation to Babylon and slavery for their polytheistic practices.

    

When they came back from the Exile seventy years later though, they became (for the most) a very devout, even fanatical, monotheistic people.  They had recognized that their worship of false gods had brought about their captivity.  So they would have been greatly opposed to anyone suggesting that any other person other than YHWH (the LORD) could be His equal and worthy of worship and obedience.

The people there had finally caught clearly what Jesus had been alluding to for some time, namely that He was talking about Himself as if He were in fact God.  That’s why they wanted to kill him.  Jesus quickly pointed out again, just like in our last passage, that the miracles that He had been doing should have been enough testimony to His divinity, or at least that God had sent Him to earth as His representative.

    

The people did not accept this though, so Jesus did something that was very Jewish in nature.  He used the Old Testament Scriptures to back up His claim.  This is explained well in “The Translator’s Handbook”:

to assume that Jesus is doing no more than claiming an equal status with the people addressed in that Psalm is to miss the entire point of the passage.  Jesus’ argument is, in fact, a typically rabbinical one by which the speaker argues from the lesser to the greater.

According to the rabbis, Psalm 82 was addressed to Israel when they received the Law at Mount Sinai.  Jesus’ argument proceeds in this way. If those persons who received God’s Law on Mount Sinai could be spoken of as “gods,” how much more can the one whom the Father has chosen and sent into the world claim to be “the Son of God.”

    

I believe that Jesus’ argument for his divinity is logically sound.  But we have to realize that a belief in Jesus as being an equal partner in the Godhead, such that He can say, “the Father is in Me and I am in the Father,” has to accepted at a faith level, and not just at an intellectual level.  There is so much about God, and His nature, that we will never really understand.  At least not until we get to eternity beyond this life.

The question is whether we can accept what Jesus claimed about Himself, or if we dismiss it from the beginning as impossible.  If we are open to consider His claims, then the rest of the story about Jesus’ life, His recorded miracles, the idea of being resurrected back from the dead, also become possible to us.

It is my belief that there is enough corroborating testimony and evidence that what Jesus claimed that He could and would do actually did happen as recorded in the Gospels.  And if He could perform acts (like the miracles, and especially His resurrection) that speak of divine powers, then I can accept His testimony about Himself, that He is in fact Divine.  What do you think?

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What Should We Put Our Faith In?

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John 9:35 – 41

35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he went and found the man. Then Jesus asked, “Do you have faith in the Son of Man?” 36 He replied, “Sir, if you will tell me who he is, I will put my faith in him.” 37 “You have already seen him,” Jesus answered, “and right now he is talking with you.” 38 The man said, “Lord, I put my faith in you!” Then he worshiped Jesus.

39 Jesus told him, “I came to judge the people of this world. I am here to give sight to the blind and to make blind everyone who can see.” 40 When the Pharisees heard Jesus say this, they asked, “Are we blind?” 41 Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you claim to see, you will keep on being guilty.”

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We now reach the climax of the story about  when Jesus healed a man who had been blind since birth.  There have been four stages to this story.  First, there was the healing event as recorded in vv. 1-12.  Next, we see the confusion of the Jewish leaders as they wrestled with the miracle which had been performed on the Jewish Sabbath day.  Some leaders were amazed by the miracle, but others who held tightly to their religious ritualism could not accept the idea that Jesus was a man sent by God.

In the third part of the story, the religious leaders questioned the man intently, to find out for sure that he had in fact been blind to begin with, and then to find out what the man thought concerning Jesus.  At this point, the man boldly proclaimed that Jesus must come from God, for never before had this kind of miracle been done among them.  Only a man of God could do such a thing.

It was at this point that the religious leaders “threw him out of the synagogue”.  Now they didn’t literally throw him out of the building.  What this means is that they were cutting him off, excommunicating him, from ever being able to enter back into the synagogue.  That might not mean much to us today, but for that period back then, it was a huge thing.  Let me explain.

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In the Jewish culture of the 1st century, the synagogue was the very center of a person’s life.  It was a wonderful thing when a Jew was able to travel up to the Temple in Jerusalem for one of the main festivals during any given year.  But week by week, Jews would gather on the Sabbath at the local synagogue to worship God, to hear the Word of God (Old Testament) spoken, and then to hear an explanation or teaching on the passage.

The local synagogue was much more though than just a place to gather for weekly worship.  Young children would be educated in the Torah (the five books of Moses), the other parts of Scripture, as well as practical knowledge for every day living.  The synagogues were the educational system of the Jewish people.

And more than that, every important event in a person’s life would most likely have occurred at one’s local synagogue.  For both boys (Bar Mitzvah) and for girls (Bat Mitzvah) there was a public ceremony celebrating the passage of life from childhood to adulthood.  Later, there would be marriage ceremonies and finally funeral events, and many other social activities that would be held at the local synagogue.

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For this young man to then be excommunicated from the synagogue by the religious leaders was to cut him off from every important social and religious event of life.  He would become both socially and religiously an orphan within the community.  No wonder that Jesus went to see him immediately after he had heard that the leaders had cast him out of the synagogue.

And Jesus’ question then holds much more importance in light of all this.  We don’t know how old this man was, but probably he was a young adult of about 20 years or more.  For all of his life, he had put his faith in the religious Jewish system.  But that system had cast him aside.  Now what was he to do about the spiritual needs of his life.

Jesus then asked him such a crucial question: “Do you have faith in the Son of Man?” (This was Jesus’ favorite title for himself.  It speaks of his humanity and his divinity at the same time.)  When this young man fully realized that Jesus, the Son of Man, was the One who had healed him, he knew that he had found the one person in life in whom he could fully put his trust and faith.

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What about you my friend?  Have you been putting your trust in human rituals and human institutions?  At the end of this whole passage, Jesus said that he came “to judge people”.  Within the context, what this means is that he came to reveal to people where they stood.  The message of the Gospel is that we are all guilty of sin in our lives.  But what do we do about that now that we know that or can “see the truth” of that.

Either we can try to hide from that truth, yet still be found guilty of our sins in God’s eyes?  Or we can own up to them, and come to Jesus, the only One who has the authority and right to forgive sins based on the sacrifice of his life upon the Cross.  The religious leaders would not accept that and will be held accountable for that.  We have the chance though to come to Jesus and put our faith in him like the young man.  Only He can heal our bodies and our souls for all eternity.

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What Should We Say About Jesus?

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John 9:13 – 23

13 Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, 14 because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. 15 The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

17 Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?” The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.” 18 The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?”

20 His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind,21 but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue.23 That’s why they said, “He is old enough. Ask him.”

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Imagine what it what it would have been like for this young man who had been blind from birth to suddenly be able to see again.  We do not know exactly how old he was, but according to verse 21, he was no longer a child.  In fact, the Greek here implies that he was a young man for he was “of age” or “mature” now.

What happened to this young man was stunning to say the least.  And it left the Pharisees in a huge quandary.  How could they explain what happened?  What were they to do?  What were they to say about this man, Jesus?  Some said that Jesus was not from God, for He broke the Sabbath law handed done by God prohibitting work on the Sabbath day.  Yet others were unsure that such a miracle could be done by anyone unless God were with him.

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For us who live two millennia later and in another culture, it is difficult to see why the Pharisees had such a difficult time with this miracle that Jesus did.  I think it would be good then for to consider the historical and religious background of the whole situation.  To start with, we need to look at the regulations regarding the Sabbath which God spoke to Moses upon Mount Sinai.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”  Exodus 20:8-11

Most people are familiar with the “Ten Commandments” that God gave to Moses and the Israelite people.  Keeping the Sabbath holy for the Lord is Law #4.  The intent of this law was that God’s people (and all household members, servants and animals) would rest from their work (a practical issue) and set aside time to worship their Creator God (a theological issue).  All of this was good.

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But the Jewish people seemed to always get it backwards somehow.  In the Old Testament period, from the time of Moses until the time of the Exile hundreds of years later, the people couldn’t get the idea straight that God was their one and only God and King (theocratic monarchy).  And because of their polytheism (worshiping multiple gods), the LORD God sent them into Exile to disciple them for this sin.

Amazingly, when the Jews came back less than a century later, they were from that point on a completely monotheistic people.  The problem is they were so fanatical about their desire not to offend God, that they created hundreds of laws to regulate every day living and created ritualistic legalism, and forgot the importance of having a living and dynamic relationship with God.

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And so the control of the Pharisees became almost tyrannical in nature, even though they really believed they were helping the people to be in right relationship with God.  When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, they could not see the miracle (or the Man behind the miracle) because of their over inflated importance of keeping their “religious rituals” intact.

You know, there is an important application for us here for today.  When you get to the real root of the practices of the Pharisees, they believed that it was utterly important what you did in order to be acceptable in God’s sight.  And we have this tendency among people today.  It is still believed that “if I am a good person and do the right things, then I will be accepted by God and will enter Heaven.”

My friend, there is so much more to faith than rules and regulations.  Ultimately, all of us will also have to decide what we will do with Jesus and what we will say about Him.  Follow along in the next two Bible study articles on John 9 to see the progression of faith in this young man and learn from him.  My prayer is that you will see Jesus for who He really is.

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Jesus Is The Great “I AM”

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John 8:48 – 59

48 The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?” 49 “No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. 50 And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the true judge. 51 I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”

52 The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 but you don’t even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know him and obey him. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

57 The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” 59 At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.

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It’s clear that the conversation Jesus had with the Jewish people throughout John chapter eight continued to go from bad to worse.  Even though these people possessed the first seeds of faith (see verse 30), it becomes apparent as the chapter goes on that these people were still depending upon their Jewish heritage and religious practices to be the basis of their relationship with God.

It got to the point that Jesus accused them not only with the charge that they do not know or belong to God the Father, but that in fact they are really followers of Satan himself.  No wonder the people reacted with such hostility towards Jesus in verse 48.  They doubly insulted Jesus by saying that He was a “Samaritan devil” and was possessed by a demon.

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To appreciate the force of the first insult, it is helpful to know the historical background of the Samaritans.  Going back to the time of Solomon, we read of the breakup of the Kingdom of Israel.  When Solomon’s son Rehoboam took the throne, he tried to impose harsher labor policies over the people and the ten northern tribes broke away to form the Northern Kingdom (Israel) while Judah and Benjamin became the Southern Kingdom (Judah).

The rebel leader, Jeroboam, not only set up a northern kingdom in opposition to Rehoboam, but he also set up a substitute religion. In this northern region, also known as Samaria, King Jeroboam set up golden calves for people to worship at rather than risk that they go back to worship God at the Temple in Jerusalem.  He ordained common people rather than Levites to be the priests, and he set up pagan shrines and substitute festivals to keep people from returning to Jerusalem.

This began the institution of idolatry among the Jewish people of the north.  Then when the Northern Kingdom was captured by Assyria in 722 B.C., the Assyrians polluted the Jewish blood line by scattering many of them among the provinces of Assyria and also by bringing in outside people into the land of Samaria so that there was a lot of intermixed marriages which led to further idolatrous worship.

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So for the Jewish people to call Jesus a “Samaritan devil”, they were accusing Him of being an idolator and a religiously impure person.  And if that was not bad enough, they then said that He was possessed by a demon, which would mean that Jesus was being accused of being under the control of Satan and everything He taught and did was of satanic origin.

How backwards could it get?  The truth was the exact opposite of what the people were saying.  They were the ones who were blindly following the path of religious ritualism, which does not allow room for a living relationship with God.  They were the ones who had “hearts of stone” as Isaiah prophesied, and were not walking on the path of “righteousness by faith” as Abraham demonstrated.

And it was this very faith of Abraham which looked forward and saw that ultimately there would come a day when there would be the One who would finally deal with the problem of human sin through the giving of His life to pay the penalty of sin on behalf of all people who would put their trust in Him.

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If we can accept the fact that Jesus is one Person of the divine Godhead who came to earth to help bring people back to God, then it should not be hard to believe that through the eyes of faith, Abraham knew of the Savior who was to come.  And Jesus makes this claim to be such a One when he stated that “before Abraham was even born, I AM”, meaning that Jesus existed even before the time of Abraham.

The people who were so blind to the truth of who Jesus was, did at least catch the implications of what He was saying.  Jesus finally used the personal name of God (see Exodus 6:2-3) to explain His eternal nature as God.  They could not accept that truth and would rather have killed Jesus by stoning Him, than to change their views and beliefs.  I pray that you, my reader, would not be blind as well to this truth that Jesus always exists as the ever-present “I AM”.

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Jesus, Giver of Living Water

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John 4:1 – 15

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman – Pt. 1

4 1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 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.” 

11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

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The event of Jesus and his conversation with the woman from Samaria is perhaps one of the richest stories in the Gospel of John, and one of my own personal favourites.  There are so many interesting details just in the background to this story, in addition to the deep spiritual truths that come out in this dialog.  To paraphrase a saying, “So much story, and so little space to write about it.”

The complete details of this event are given to us in verses 1-42 of chapter four.  But there are four distinct subsections to this story.  Three of the sections deal with Jesus and the woman from Sychar in the District of Samaria.  The fourth section consists of a dialog between Jesus and his disciples and interrupts the story of the woman.  We will look at that last in these four articles.  Now let’s see what we learn from verses 1-15.

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What We Do Know

A careful examination of the text will reveal a number of important details about Jesus, the Samaritan woman, and where the event takes place.  We learn such things as:

  • there is a hint of growing antagonism between Jesus and the Pharisees.
  • Jesus continues to travel to find people who are open to hear spiritual truths.
  • Jesus experienced normal human needs like thirst and the need for rest.
  • there must be significant differences between being a Jew and being a Samaritan.
  • the woman misunderstands that Jesus is not talking about natural water.

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What We Need To Know

There are many obvious details that we can learn from the story, such as outlined above.  But there are a number of important things we need to know that may not be as obvious.  This is where it is important to know the Old Testament stories which provide the background to the New Testament.  In addition, it is also often quite helpful to read resources which provide insights into the culture and history of the Jewish people and other nations of their time.   Let me highlight a few important background issues:

  • It was customary for a Jew who was travelling from the south province of Judea going to the north province of Galilee to either follow the Jordan River along its western bank, or to cross over the Jordan and travel up through the eastern regions to get to Galilee.  This was to avoid the possibility of travelling through the middle province of Samaria.  Thus, we can probably discern that Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman was no accident, but a divine appointment.
  • Jacob was one of the earliest ancestors of the Jewish people.  Called the Patriarchs, Abraham was the father of Isaac, who was the father of Jacob (whom God also called Israel), who was the father of Joseph.  As travelling desert nomads, these Patriarchs overcame great difficulties in claiming the land of Canaan, which included digging and protecting important wells.  So was Jesus greater than the Jewish Patriarchs?  We know the answer is “Yes!”
  • Jews and Samaritans would have nothing to do with each other, publically or privately.  When the Assyrians conquered Samaria and the Northern Kingdom in 721 B.C., they imported a large number of non-Jewish people to live among and intermarry with the people and they became known as the “Samaritans”.  In other words, they were viewed as “cursed half-breed Jews” and association with them would make a Jew unclean in God’s eyes.  But Jesus saw this woman through eyes of love and as a person who needed to hear about God.
  • Finally, note that the woman went out of town to get water at “the sixth hour”.  Starting with the Roman/Jewish reckoning of 6 a.m. as the start of the day, she was getting water at noon, the hottest part of the day.  And why?  Probably because she was a social outcast as we will see in the next article.

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Stay tuned for more articles about Jesus and his talk with the Samaritan woman.

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Miraculous Signs & Belief

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Sceptics & Thrill Seekers

John 2:18 – 25

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

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Earlier in Chapter 2 of John, we read about Jesus’ first miracle at Cana, when He turned the water into wine.  Up to that point, Jesus had been choosing and collecting disciples around Him, men who would follow Him where He went, listen to His teachings, and witness the miracles He did.  It was all done in a relatively quiet manner, with hardly anyone noticing Jesus or what He was doing.

All of this changed rather dramatically when Jesus came to Jerusalem to participate in the annual Jewish Passover celebration.  (Read the article, “What Is Wrong With This Picture”.)  Jesus burst onto the scene in a very public way when He drove out all the people from the Temple area who were selling animals for sacrifice and turned over the tables of the money changers.

This undoubtedly enraged the Jewish authorities (whom John often simply called “The Jews”).  These leaders, who most likely consisted of the Sadducees, the priests and the Levites, controlled just about every aspect of religious life and regulations for the people, along with the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the Jewish synagogues) and the Scribes (those who were the experts in the Mosaic and Rabbinic laws.)

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When Jesus cleared everyone out of the Temple area, it must have been quite a shock at first for these religious leaders.  Such as act could only have been done by a madman, or by ….. well, someone who had divine authority to do such a bold and brazen act in the Temple of God.  But that didn’t make sense to them, for Jesus was not a crazy lunatic on the one hand, but on the other hand, there had been no evidence beforehand of God granting His divine authority to this man.

So instead of arresting Jesus for HIs actions of property damage and personal assault, “The Jews” come to Jesus and ask Him to perform a sign, some miraculous deed, to give some evidence that He was in fact a man whom God had approved to do such an action.  For the religious leaders, this question made perfect sense; if God had in fact sent Jesus with authority to cleanse the Temple, then He must also possess God’s divine power to do a miracle.

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Fundamentally though, there is a serious problem with the request of the leaders.  In their “holier-than-thou” attitude back then, they had already reasoned in their hearts that if someone was not a member of their established religious order, then there is no way that that person could be a man sent from God and so it would be highly doubtful that he could perform any miracle.

These leaders were sceptics from the beginning.  In asking their question for Jesus to show them a sign, they had already made the conclusion that Jesus was not from God.  And when Jesus gave them a spiritual answer, their minds were stuck upon the physical realm only.  How sad that these religious leaders were so spiritually blind.

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On the opposite side of the spectrum, there were some people in Jerusalem at that time that were ready to accept Jesus and put their faith in Him that He was a “miracle worker”.  It may seem strange at first that Jesus does not appear to be happy about this.  It would seem from the text that Jesus knew that His miracles were simply interesting attractions for them.

Could it be that these people, like many people today, were those who simply followed the latest fad or fashion of the day?  There were in fact many so called prophets and “messiahs” before Jesus who came along and claimed divine power and authority, and even performed some miraculous looking deeds.  But when they failed to perform further miracles, or been arrested, or just faded away, so too did the crowds disperse and stop following them.

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So what can we take away from today’s lesson?  We see that God worked through Jesus in miraculous ways and this was an obstacle for those steeped in religious ritual to truly believe in Him, and it was a problem for those who were just seeking the next spiritually exciting event to follow after.  In both cases, neither the sceptics nor the thrill seekers were prepared to establish a personal relationship with Jesus.  They both looked for the amazing “signs” of Jesus, instead of looking at Jesus.

Now we have to ask ourselves, are we much different from these two kinds of people?  Do we get so caught up in our religious rituals that we fail to nurture our relationship with Jesus and the Father?  Do we get “spiritually bored” at times in our Christian walk and we look for the speakers and events that are more exciting?  Either of these extremes can be harmful to our spiritual well being.