Spiritual Life Comes From The Holy Spirit

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John 7:37 – 44

37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

40 When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” 43 So the crowd was divided about him. 44 Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.

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In this short passage, four things jump right out and ask us to look into them more closely.  What is this Festival that Jesus was at, and how important is it to what he says?  What is it that Jesus is actually offering to people who come to Him?  Why did the people think that Jesus might be the great Prophet they had been waiting for?  And why are they confused about Jesus’ identity?

Let’s start with this day of celebration in Jerusalem.  This was the annual Festival of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Booths.  This was the time when the Jews would remember the years of wandering in the desert and had to live in tents until they finally crossed the Jordan River and could live in houses.  At this Festival, thousands of Jews would come to Jerusalem and pitch a tent, or a covered booth, and remember God’s protection and provision to them in the past.

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On the very last day of the Festival, there was to be extra rejoicing as the end of the week commemorated their forefathers entry into the promised land of Canaan, the land which “flowed with milk and honey”.  At this climactic moment, Jesus stood up and boldly proclaimed, “Come to me whoever is thirsty.”  And to whoever would put their trust in Him, He promised them, “rivers of living water”.

Think about the picture of the ancient Israelites who wandered the barren deserts for forty years.  Their greatest need was to find water.  They found out very quickly that they had to trust God to supply their daily needs.  The most dramatic example of this is when God told Moses to “strike the rock, and water shall flow from it.” (Read Exodus 17:1-7)

What Jesus was saying to the people was that just like God Himself through Moses provided natural water to sustain their bodies in the desert, so now Jesus was by analogy saying that He was like God and could provide sustaining water to the people there in Jerusalem.  But not just natural water, but spiritual water that could refresh the hearts and souls of those who would put their trust in Him.

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No wonder the people began to say, “This must be the great Prophet,” which alludes to Deuteronomy 18:18 where God promised Moses that another great Prophet like him would one day come to help the people of Israel.  Some people went even further and declared that Jesus must be the Messiah, the specially anointed One whom God would send to save Israel.

And yet, when the people are so close to the truth about who Jesus was, and is, they became confused.  They had been taught that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem of Judea.  They had heard that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee.  They could not reconcile the rumours with their teachings.  What is sad is that both of these statements were true, for Jesus was in fact born in Bethlehem, but then raised up in Nazareth.

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I believe that the situation today is not much different from that day long ago.  So many people are still wandering around in spiritually dry waste lands.  Many seek to fill this spiritual void in their lives, but they are looking in the wrong places.  Jesus is still standing before us all and saying, “Come to Me, and I will quench your spiritual thirst.”

When Jesus died on the cross, He opened the flood gates of God’s compassion and forgiveness for our sins.  That is, to whomever will accept Jesus as the One who paid the penalty for sin for them.  And when Jesus was raised from the dead and returned to Heaven, He was then able to release the power and the life of the Holy Spirit into all of our lives.

That is what is meant above about the Spirit not having been given yet.  While Jesus was on earth, He ministered directly to those who were immediately there before Him.  Remember that God is really three Persons-in-One, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  And God chose to limit His involvement with mankind as one Person at a time.  We all had to wait for Christ to ascend before the Holy Spirit could descend and empower and fill each one of God’s children.

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Consider what has been said here and ask yourself this: “Is my life spiritually dead and dry?”  Then I invite you to turn to Jesus who can forgive you of your sins and release the power of the Holy Spirit into your life.  And don’t be like some of those Jews who thought they knew who Jesus was and where He came from.  Read the Bible and find out for yourself.  God bless you on your journey for Truth and Life.

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Jesus, More Than A Prophet

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John 4:16 – 26

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman – Pt. 2

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

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In last week’s article about the conversation between Jesus and this Samaritan woman (read here), we learned some important things that show how unusual the conversation really was.  Culturally, it was not really proper for Jesus, a man, to have a social conversation with a woman in public.  Even more significant was the fact that there was a religious stigma attached to Samaritans, and so it was highly unusual for Jesus as a Jew to be talking with this woman.

Then we explored the idea that this woman may have even been a social outcast even in her own small town.  The hint we got from the previous verses was that she was coming down at noon in the heat of the day to get water from the well.  Normally, women would go down either in the cool of the morning or the evening to get their water and would socialize with each other.  But this woman did not appear to be accepted and for this reason came down at noon.  We can see from our passage above the reason for her being ostracized due to being a woman married to five husbands, and now sleeping with a sixth man.

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But Jesus looked past and cut through all these walls of social stigmas and saw a person of worth in front of him.  But how could he do this in a gentle and non-threatening way?  He used her need for daily water to attract her attention by offering to give her “living water”.  This did intrigue her and so the conversation began.  But Jesus also saw all the social and religious baggage that this woman carried and he had to lovingly go slow to bring her to the point of wanting to accept and believe in Him who was the true Living Water.

Jesus began then by asking the woman about her home.  His question seems so simple and innocent, “Go call your husband.”  I believe that Jesus was testing the woman to see if she would be honest with him that she was not actually married to the man she was currently sleeping with.  She does tell the truth, opens up herself on one level, and Jesus takes this opportunity to let her know that in fact Jesus knew all about her home life situation.

Seeing this kind of perception, the woman naturally thought that Jesus must be some kind of prophet.  She is not quite ready to open her heart up further yet, so she counters Jesus with a side topic of worship, pointing out that Jews worship in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans had the religious habit or worshiping God up on Mount Gerazim in the Province of Samaria.  (Was she perhaps trying to impress Jesus that she was a religious person?)

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 But Jesus cuts through that statement to make the bold statement that worship is not to be defined by a specific ritual done in a specific place, whether that was in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerazim.  For as Jesus goes on to explain, true worship of God occurs within a person’s heart.  You see, real worship is based off of a relationship with God and a heart attitude of love, adoration and obedience.  Worship should never be limited to our physical posture and place of gathering.  No, we can worship God anywhere and at any time from out of our heart to God.

This is when the woman clearly sees the point, but deflects Jesus by saying that when the Messiah comes, the One whom God anointed to bring salvation to people, then He would explain things to her and she would be able to worship God in truth and in spirit.  Do you see how gently Jesus led this woman down deeper and deeper into spiritual truth to the point that she admitted her need for the Messiah in her life?  And then Jesus gives his grand statement to her, “I who speak to you am he [the Messiah].”

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What a wonderful passage this is.  And as we will see later, what a wonderful joy came to this woman who had discovered her Messiah.  But let me ask you this now in closing.  Where are you in your relationship with Jesus?  Have you let Him come in to affect positively your life at home?  Are your religious activities just routine habits?  Or have you accepted the face that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, the One whom God chose to bring salvation to the world.  Have you given your heart to Jesus?  Perhaps it is time to do just that.

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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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