No Reproof from Disciples

John 4:27. “And upon this came His disciples, and marvelled that He talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest Thou? or, Why talkest Thou with her?”

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Keeping in mind that this event occurred fairly early in Jesus’ ministry, it would be easy to assume that these new followers of Christ were shocked, full of disapproval at Jesus’ breach of the rules of Jewish behavior toward Samaritans, and toward women.

However, we are told that not one of them questioned Him. Not one of them reproved Him. Not one of them upbraided the woman and tried to chase her off.

What they had already learned was that Jesus always had a reason for doing whatever He did. He did not always abide by the cultural habits of the rabbis; He went His own way, and His disciples had learned that He always knew what was right and acceptable not to the Jewish leaders, but to God.

Later, in Acts 5:29. Peter, one of the earliest disciples, declared simply, “We must obey God rather than man.” He learned it early, and carried it with him to his own execution. Did he ever deviate from that path? Yes. He was only human, and sometimes we humans are consumed by fear. But he grew stronger the longer he stayed close to the Lord.

So can we. The days are coming, I am sure, when our refusal as Christians to bend to the will of a godless government will take us to dangerous and frightening places. The temptation to escape from danger by simple conformity will be strong. We in America, especially, have not truly been put to the test, but there is more momentum all the time to insist that we bow to that which we find biblically wrong.

If we are to stay strong, we’d do well to stay in prayer; to know from God’s Word why we stand where we stand, and to be willing to suffer for it if that is where God leads.

I AM!

John 4: 25-26.

The woman saith unto Him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things.

Unchecked Copy Box Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He.

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It seems that the woman tried to side-step Jesus’ words when she said, “Well, when Messiah comes He will explain everything.”

Jesus responded to her in plain words: “I AM!”

The King James translators often added words here and there for clarification. Those words are in italics. In verse 26, the italicized word is He. Which, if you omit it, takes us back to God’s statement in Exodus 3:14, the first time we see the words God used to identify Himself.

Moses, at the burning bush, was commissioned by God to go to the Israelites and declare that he has been sent to rescue them from Egypt. When he asks, “Whom shall I say has sent me?” God replies, “Tell them that I AM has sent you!”

God is the great I AM. He simply IS. No beginning, no end, He is the eternal Spirit come to earth in human form, and He is now speaking face to face with the Samaritan woman. This is an amazing moment in the history of God with mankind. He declares Himself in plain words that no one else can use, because He is the only I AM. Anyone else who tries to identify that way is a fraud.

God is a Spirit

John 4:22-24.

Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

Unchecked Copy Box But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

Unchecked Copy Box God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

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Jesus speaks to both the woman of Samaria, and to all her people, when He says they really don’t know who/what they worship. They have parts of Judaism, parts of pagan idolatry, and it’s a confusing mix. The Samaritans honored only the first five books of the Bible, and rejected the rest. No wonder the woman had never heard of the Living Water!

Then Jesus clarifies the difference between the Jews, with whom He clearly identifies, and the Samaritans. “We know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews.”

This was one reason why Samaritans weren’t particularly fond of the Jews. How arrogant of them to claim to be the source of salvation! Who did they think they were, anyway? But there was no arrogance in Jesus. If there were, He would never have spoken to the woman; He would have ignored her, removed Himself from her. Instead, He was offering her something she had never heard before.

His claim that salvation is of the Jews is all through Old Testament prophecy, and especially in Isaiah 9 and 53. He was not bragging. He was simply telling the truth.

He went on to say that the time is very near when the place of worship will not matter; rather the heart and spirit of the worshippers will be uppermost as God seeks those who worship Him in spirit and in truth, for He is Spirit, and He is Truth.

The success of the gospel in Samaria is detailed in Act 8: 1-26.

To worship in spirit means that you are concerned with spiritual realities, not outward shows of place and appearance, sacrifices and ceremony.

To worship in truth is to pay attention to the whole counsel of God’s Word, especially because of the doctrinal teachings of the New Testament. The New Testament Bereans gathered daily in their hunger and thirst to know the scriptures, and to know God.

It also means that you come to God in truth, not for outward show and appearance of spirituality, but in humility of spirit.

Believe Me!

John 4:21. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.”

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In this verse, as in the passage in which Jesus called His mother Woman, there is no disrespect. In our day, He would have said, “Ma’am.” He was not looking at this woman as a prostitute, but as a soul that needed the living water that He offered.

By the way, a blogging friend of min, RJ Dawson, sent me a message saying that the prophet Jeremiah is the first one recorded to have used the term living water to refer to the Lord. The references are Jer. 2:13 and 17:13. I was not aware of this, so thanks, RJ, for the references 🙂

Believe Me: There was urgency in what Jesus was sharing with the woman. He could have said, “Listen!” or “Pay attention!” And I think she did listen. She was hearing new things that she’d never heard before, and don’t forget that Jesus spoke with all the authority of God.

The hour cometh: The following statement, that “neither in this mountain (Gerazim), nor at Jerusalem, will ye worship the Father” must have amazed her. The tradition of the Samaritans was that Moses had built an altar on Gerazim, the mount of blessing, thereby establishing that mount as the accepted place of worship. Keep in mind that there was no temple in Jerusalem in Moses’ day.

The problem, of course, was that they were trying to combine elements of the Hebrew faith with that of the false gods of the people in that area. It never works. We cannot adjust God’s way to suit our own surroundings or purposes. The moment untruth is introduced into God’s plan, it takes over the minds and hearts of those who want to follow the untruth, for whatever reason. Usually, the reason is to fit in with everyone else.

What Jesus was preparing this woman to hear, especially when He said, “Nor at Jerusalem,” was that worship does not require a specific place to make it valid.

Sunday Morning Coffee: First Snow

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This photo was taken near Washington, D.C, which is a couple of hours south of us. It looks about the same here. Not a lot of snow, and today it’s a typical clear blue day-after-the-snow sky.

January has been fairly mild so far, in spite of some quite severe storms in the Midwest that seemed to wear themselves out before they got to us. I’m thankful for the mild weather. I don’t deal as well with the cold and snow as I did years ago. But the snow does bring back memories.

We lived in Minneapolis until I was 10, when we moved to Portland, OR for five years while my dad attended seminary and started a new church. When I was 15, we moved to southern Minnesota, a little farm town called St. James. Those five years in Portland were like a time-out from the winters I was used to. Minneapolis was cold in the winter; and there was lots of wonderful snow for all the kids in the neighborhood to enjoy. Snowmen, snow forts, snowball fights, snow angels, sledding and sliding on whatever we could find that would move in the snow. Most of us didn’t have fancy snowsuits. We wore as many pairs of jeans as we could, zipped our boots over our shoes, found every pair of mittens and hats we could. Once we were soaked through, we trekked upstairs, peeled everything off and draped it all over the radiators that steamed and hissed under the load of wet clothes, and put them all back on again when they were dry. So much fun 🙂

I went to high school in St. James. We lived a long city block from the school, so I walked back and forth. Don’t misunderstand–this was not in the city. We lived across the road from a corn field. The winter winds blew unhindered across that field, finding every crevice in the old, uninsulated farmhouse we lived in. Brrrrr.

The winter of the year I graduated, in 1965, we had real prairie blizzards every single weekend in March. When it was finally over, you could quite literally walk from housetop to housetop on the drifts from the snow and wind.

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Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen snow like that, especially snow that just kept on coming. And coming. . .

It could be dangerous, but it was beautiful. When it was fresh, it sparkled in the sunlight and made sunglasses a necessity. It provided great entertainment for little kids, and snowmobiles were just making an entrance into winter activities.

And all this wandering down memory lane is bringing me to the book of Job.

Job 38:22 

22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?

Always, I have been fascinated by the idea that no two snowflakes are identical.

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There have been scientists who have replicated snowflakes in a lab, coming up with identical flakes. One scientist says he found two identical flakes in the same storm back in 1988. I couldn’t find a picture of that. The fact remains that there are zillions of snowflakes, and it is fascinating to see them enlarged like those above. The way the crystals develop depends on many different factors, and I don’t understand it all. Temperature, other particles in the atmosphere, and so on.

But look at those flakes! What a treasure, for example, for someone who likes to create jewelry. Or for some little kid with a stack of paper and a pair of scissors who is just learning to create his own snowflakes. It’s wonderful stuff. Provides nitrogen for the soil, and total joy for those who love to ski.

I think God has a wonderful time creating each snowfall, each snowflake. There is no end to His creativity.

Thou art a Prophet

John 4:19-20.

The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet.

Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and Ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

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When Jesus told the woman that she was truthful in saying she had no husband, He was taking an important step: He was pointing out her sin. Living together is not the same as marriage. It is not possible to win a person to Christ if they do not recognize their need of a Savior.

She was, I’m sure, amazed that He knew so much about her, and jumped to the obvious conclusion: “Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet!” It would have been better, of course, if she had perceived that she was a sinner.

I’m going to take a small detour here for just a moment. Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. …”

Our society is being turned upside down, so that what has always been biblically held as good or evil is now, for the sake of political correctness, being turned around. Truth has become the new hate speech. This is not new. The days of Noah were even worse than what we see today in a society that thinks the word “sin” is just ridiculous.

It becomes harder, as we near the end times, to help people see their need of a Savior, because sin is just relative. Mankind is good at heart, we just make poor choices sometimes. It’s not really sin. Sin is to preach against behaviors that all of society used to understand were anti-God. Christians are the problem in this upside down world. Holding to the standards of God’s Word becomes more and more difficult in a world that sees nothing should be forbidden.

The Samaritan woman went on to open a discussion about where people should worship. “Our ancestors say we should worship on this mountain; you Jews say Jerusalem is the only acceptable place of worship.”

Were you ever in a soul-winning conversation with someone who suddenly changes the subject and gets you off on a rabbit trail to nowhere? The Samaritan woman, I believe, was genuinely curious about these things, but she was also doing her best to get the light of truth shifted away from her own behavior.

Jesus, of course, had some amazing things to say to her in response.

I Have no Husband

John 4: 16-18.

Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:

For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

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Jesus was speaking at length with this woman, in a public place. It would be straining the limits of propriety for Him to continue much longer. That’s one reason He asked the woman to go find her husband and bring him back to the well.

The other reason, I believe, is that the woman did not yet clearly understand what He was offering. She was willing to accept the Living Water because she believed it would keep her from being thirsty, and she wouldn’t have to do these daily trips to the well. But she was drawn to Jesus, and she wanted to understand.

When Jesus asked her to bring her husband, she must have been startled and uncomfortable. She tried to avoid further questioning by saying, “I have no husband.”

Because He was God, Jesus knew her marital history. He commended her for speaking the truth, and told her that she’d had five husbands; and the man she was now with was not, in truth, her husband.

He said all this without judgment, without sweeping His garment out of the way lest she touch it; without turning His back on her and dismissing her from His presence. Here’s what Charles Haddon Spurgeon said about this passage:

“Christ has different doors for entering into different people’s souls. Into some, He enters by the understanding; into many, by the affections. To some, He comes by the way of fear; to another, by that of hope; and to this woman He came by way of her conscience.” (Spurgeon)

Even in Samaria, this woman had crossed the line of what was culturally acceptable behavior. She knew it; Jesus knew it. Yet He did not upbraid her, but commended her for telling Him the truth. He pricked the shell of her conscience.