The Power Of A Testimony

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John 4:28 – 30, 39 – 45

28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.

                                

This is the third and final section in John chapter four that highlights the Samaritan woman, with whom Jesus had spoken.  In the earlier section of this story, Jesus had shown to the woman his omniscience by describing in detail the true nature of her relationships with multiple husbands.  That prompted the woman to consider Jesus to be a prophet.

But as Jesus and the woman talked further about the true nature of worshipping God, an even greater aspect of His nature became clear to the woman.  In her desire to worship the true God, the woman mentioned the promise of God that an anointed man, the Messiah, would be sent by God to teach all people about God.  Jesus responded by saying basically, “I am that Man.”  (Read the earlier article here.)

    

Now recall how this woman had come to the well in the heat of the day to draw water.  (We drew attention in the first article to the idea that this suggests that she was an outcast from the nearby town since the practice would have been for the ladies of the town to go together in the cool of the morning to draw water.)  But now in the excitement of the moment, this woman dropped her jar and ran back to town to testify to the town’s folk that just perhaps she had met the promised Messiah, the Christ who would come to lead God’s people.

If we are seeing this event as it really happened, that was quite a bold move by that woman.  If she had been a social outcast, having been married to five men, and now living with a sixth man, then it would be highly doubtful that the town’s folk would stop to listen to anything this woman had to say.  But she was so excited and so hopeful and so insistent on what she had experienced, that the people really had to come out to meet Jesus and find out for themselves.

    

In fact, this woman’s testimony concerning the nature of who Jesus was and what He had done was so powerful that it says, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him…”  That is a pretty strong testimony, wouldn’t you say?  So the people ask Jesus to stay with them a few more days, and as they too came to see the real Jesus, they too put their trust in Him as God’s anointed Messiah, the “Savior of the world.”

This would be a good spot for us all to stop and reflect on our own faith in Jesus.  Especially for those of us who have believed in Jesus for many years.  Do we still have the desire to tell others about Jesus with great excitement and energy?  Did we have that kind of excitement when we first accepted Jesus into our lives?  Perhaps we need to reflect a bit more on the amazing freedom and salvation from sin that Jesus gave to us when we stepped out of darkness and into His light.

    

Our passage goes on, and we see Jesus is ready to leave the Province of Samaria.  But I wonder if He did it with a bit of a heavy heart.  No one is quite sure what John meant when he wrote in verse 44, “Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown”.  This clause is being used differently than how Matthew, Mark and Luke used it, when Jesus was not accepted in his home town of Nazareth.

It is possible that Jesus was thinking of how his own people in general, the Jews, were not very receptive to Him, which stands in strong contrast with how the Samaritans believed in Him.  Or it might refer to Jerusalem where He had just come from.  And how awfully sad it is that the Holy City, where the Temple of the Living God stood, was the very place that Jesus, the Son of God was most rejected.

    

And yet, there was still an openness and acceptance that Jesus found among the Galileans.  Perhaps it really is true that God can be found better by those who live more simple and down-to-earth lives.  It seems to me that the hustle and bustle of the “big cities”, and also the highly institutionalized religious centers, are not the places where the lowly and humble Jesus can be found.

And what about you my friend?  Has the busyness and distractions of life, and even “religion”, kept you away from having a deep personal talk with the Lord, such as this Samaritan woman had?  Open your eyes, and your heart, and let the testimony of this changed woman also help change your life.

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A Spiritual Harvest Stands Ready

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John 4:27, 31 – 38

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 

35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

                                

In the middle of the story about the conversation Jesus has with the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4, we see the disciples have returned from buying food in the nearby city.  Their entrance on to the scene interrupts the conversation, but the woman has come to understand enough about who Jesus is that she runs off back to town to tell her friends about Him.

It is not unusual for anyone to be a bit confused as to what is really going on when that person comes into the middle or end of a conversation between other people.  Our passage here though says that the disciples “marvelled” when they saw Jesus talking with the woman.  It is doubtful they marvelled because Jesus was talking to a woman, for He had done that on previous occasions.  Rather, as Jews, they would have been very surprised that Jesus was talking to a Samaritan.

(Read “Jesus, Giver of Living Water” to understand the negative attitude that existed between Jews and Samaritans in the time of Jesus.)

    

Now that the disciples have come back with food, they urge Jesus to eat some.  We know from chapter four that Jesus and the disciples are weary from their long journey walking from the Judean countryside to the Province of Samaria.  But Jesus confounds them when He says he has food to eat of which they do not know.

The disciples wrongly assume that someone has come and given Jesus some physical food to eat.  But as is so often true with Jesus, He is talking about spiritual food.  What He is really saying is that doing the will of God, or obeying whatever God has said to do, is so rewarding that it is just as if He had been filled and satisfied with physical bread.

I would venture to say that this concept would be very hard for any one of us to understand.  We are all so caught up and bound by our physical world and attachment to it, that we can hardly see how doing God’s will can satisfy us physically.  But there really is a great connection between the physical and the spiritual realms.  I can say from my own experiences after preaching a powerful sermon, or sharing intently the Good News of Jesus with another person, that I find I lose track of time and I feel little need or craving for food at that time.  God really is enough in these kinds of situations.

    

Going on to verses 35 – 38, Jesus presents at least a couple more spiritual truths that I want to make sure that we do not miss.  I do find it amazing how Jesus can use so many ordinary day-to-day events and make spiritual applications out of them.  In these final verses of this passage, Jesus uses the normal activity of sowing and harvesting of a crop to teach us important truths.

The first thing that we can learn from this analogy is that there is a natural process that we should expect from sowing and reaping.  Just as a farmer will expect a harvest in his field to appear after four months of working and waiting, so we too should expect after a time that all the spiritual work that we have been doing should at some point produce a spiritual harvest.

Now some of us may be the actual spiritual sowers who plant the Word of God into the hearts and lives of others, or we may be those who tend and care for spiritually that which has been sown either in our lives or in someone else’s life.  The reward will ultimately be eternal life for those who have believed.  And those who sowed the seed of Life, and those who nurture that seed and see it grow, will both rejoice when that soul is ushered one day into the great eternal City of God.

    

But there is one more spiritual truth here that goes beyond the natural order of life.  A farmer may have to wait four months for his harvest.  But Jesus implies that the spiritual seed which is sown could produce even at that very moment a new spiritual birth.  What a wonderful hope and promise, that we may be privileged to see God’s Word take root right away with positive eternal consequences.

This is what we will see in the next article as we pick up the story again of the Samaritan woman.  Let us have the same kind of work ethic and faith as Jesus had.  Serving God is real nourishment for our bodies and our souls.  And if we do God’s work and will, we may even see the fruit of our labours happen right in front of our eyes.

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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.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

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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* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.