Three whole chapters this week…you up for the challenge? We know you are.
Ok, first of all…verse 6 might be our new favorite scripture. “Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.” Same, Jesus, Same. We feel seen. Even Jesus gets tired from exercise. We aren’t alone.
Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman. What a rich, deep portion of scripture. We could probably spend all season just gleaning from these verses, but we’ll do our best to keep in short. However, we encourage you to read through this chapter multiple times this week. We guarantee that the Holy Spirit will reveal something new to you each time. The first important observation is the ever-expanding, radically-inclusive kingdom of God. Jesus’ interaction with a WOMAN who didn’t look like Jesus, act like Jesus, worship like Jesus, is invited to drink the living water and be a part of the kingdom. This kingdom, which started with one family (Abraham) has always been expanding and including more and more types of people. This has always been God’s plan, his heart, and his objective. Jesus broke all sorts of social constructs in order to share his message with this woman…because the Kingdom of God has expanded to include people from all races, genders, ages, and locations. It’s a vastly diverse kingdom where all are welcomed. Who have you, perhaps accidentally, been excluding from the kingdom of God? Have you allowed your personal biases to build up walls between you and those who don’t look or think like you? Well, it’s time to get your sledgehammer out. Let’s tear down some walls so we can build some bigger tables and invite all to feast on the living water of Jesus!
Jesus takes one look at this woman and sees DIRECTLY into her soul. Yikes. If you met Jesus while sitting at your favorite coffee shop, what would he say to you? What might he point out in you that you thought was well hidden? It is interesting that while Jesus does point out her sin, he still treats her with immense dignity and compassion, calling her “dear woman”. Jesus looks at you the same way. While he might bring to light the things you’d rather stayed in darkness, he still treats you with kindness, and lovingly offers you another (better) way. Also, after pointing out the areas she’s fallen short, Jesus doesn’t offer her 5 simple steps to get her life back on track. No, he simply offers her himself, living water. That’s because (as we learned from good buddy, Nicodemus last chapter) Jesus isn’t simply about behavior modification. He knows that once you are connected to the source of living water all that behavior transformation will happen through the power of the Holy Spirit. Take a few minutes to drink in the living water. Fill yourself up to the brim with his presence. Allow his forgiveness, his compassion, and his love to wash over you. Allow Jesus a peak into your soul. Open yourself up to the one who sees anyway and who loves you despite the things he sees. Reconnect with the source of light and hope and joy and love. Take as much time as you need. We’ll be right here, waiting for you. (yes, that’s a Richard Marx reference)
Look at all that takes place because of this woman and her encounter with Jesus (verses 39-42). Many Samaritans saw for themselves and came to believe her message about Jesus. This Samaritan WOMAN, full of baggage, whom Jesus himself said knew very little about the things of God, helped to radically transform her village. Not only that, one could argue this one interaction opened up the kingdom of God to those outside the Jewish tradition. Jesus radically blew through that long-standing law. All because this woman didn’t stay quiet. She didn’t allow her sin or her lack of experience or biblical knowledge to disqualify her from ministry. Have you counted yourself out? Guess what? God is not done with you and you are not done with ministry either. This is why God wants his kingdom to be so diverse? Who better to reach a village full of Samaritans than a Samaritan woman who’s had her life and her heart radically transformed? The kingdom needs you…uniquely you…to reach and serve those that God has uniquely put in your path. Who are your people? Who has God put in your path (classmates, sports teams, co-workers, instagram followers, etc) that you can also invite to taste this living water. The world is thirsty. Offer them a drink.
A healing. Another signpost pointing toward Jesus being the Messiah, the promised one, the living God. Do you believe yet?
“Will you never believe in me unless you see miraculous signs and wonders?” (verse 48) Jesus knew from the beginning that human nature would cause people to desire and seek after the miracles…the blessings…rather than the person himself. We are all guilty of it. However, even though this government official came seeking a physical miracle rather than a heart-transforming encounter with Jesus, he got both. You see, even though Jesus knows we are tempted to only seek out the earthly things he can give us, he doesn’t withhold his blessings. Why? Because Jesus is awesome. Also, because he wants you to believe and have life (ie John’s whole purpose of writing his gospel). So seek Jesus first…but also don’t miss the signs and wonders, they are given so that you will believe.
Here we see Jesus ask a strange question (typical Jesus) to a man who’s been sick for THIRTY-EIGHT years. “Would you like to get well?” Ummm….DUH. However, while on the surface this might seem like a dumb question with an obvious answer, Jesus sees beneath the surface (Jesus goggles). So Jesus asks the same to you. “Do you want to be well?” Do you actually WANT freedom from the habits you’ve been accustomed to? Or have you become so comfortable in your less-than-ideal situation that actual, real, lasting life-change seems scary? Really think about it. When you’ve really decided that you want to see change, Jesus is ready to tell you to pick up your mat.
It is also interesting that there are crowds of people in search of healing all huddled around this one pool, while the true source of life and miracles walks among them, virtually undetected. Jesus could have picked this guy up (maybe Jedi-style) and dropped him in the pool, or even made the water bubble up at that precise moment. But he didn’t. Why? He wanted to show this man (and anyone else who was paying attention) that HE was the true healing pool of Bethesda. What sources have you been huddled around, looking for healing, or happiness, or life-change? Sorry to break it to you, but they are cheap imitations that will never provide lasting satisfaction. Money? Nope. Attention, recognition? Not a chance. Jesus is the source. The sooner you recognize that the sooner you’ll pick up your mat and walk.
Right after Jesus heals this man, we see him do one of his signature moves: Aggravate, frustrate, and enrage those in power…specifically the religious elite who gained their power by enforcing the rules and holding a corner on the God-market. You see, Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, a big no-no. However, Jesus points out (rather bluntly) that they have completely and utterly missed the point. They claim to LOVE the word of God, and yet here they have the WORD in flesh, standing before them and they are completely missing it. Too afraid to let go of their comfort, their rights, their privileges in order to embrace GREATER things, ETERNAL LIFE! Let’s learn from their example. Let’s NOT miss it. Jesus is making huge claims and extravagant promises. Let’s throw off our comforts and power in order to grab a hold of these amazing promises Jesus has for us. You can’t hang on to both.
Let’s talk a minute about eternal life. Jesus says in verse 24, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have ALREADY passed from death to life” (emphasis added). This is what John is all about. Believe and have life! If you are in Christ Jesus you have ALREADY passed from death to life. ALREADY! Eternal life isn’t something that starts the day you take you last breath on earth. It has already started! Don’t miss it waiting around for Jesus to take you home. When John says “eternal life” he means a NEW type of life, a life infused with God’s love. A life where you are tuned in to your purpose, your worth, and the beauty of his creation. This is what we mean when we say we want you to live FULLY ALIVE in Jesus. It’s living in such a way as to bring the kingdom of heaven here to earth and it starts now! Have you been living fully alive or have you been merely surviving, going through the motions, waiting around for heaven? Have you, like the religious leaders, been so focused on doing the right things that you’ve been missing out on the fun, abundant, love-infused life that God wants for you? If you’re looking for a place to start, we’ve made a Fully Alive Summer Bucket List on the back of the John bookmark. Check something off today!
A huge crowd that Jesus can’t quite shake. A willing little boy and his small lunch. Thousands of satisfied bellies. Chances are we’ve heard of this miracle before.
Jesus uses the physical (hunger and food) to teach us about the spiritual (hunger and food). Jesus fed these vast amounts of people to show them that God’s kingdom is one of UNLIMITED resources. It’s abundant, enough for everyone. If God has set out to accomplish something, he’s going to get it done. Even if all he has is the willingness of one little boy to give up his lunch. While we might KNOW these things in our head, we sometimes (all the time) struggle to allow it to change the way we live. We have a tendency as humans and Americans (eek.) to see what’s ours as OURS. We’ve earned it. We deserve it. If I give it away then that means there’s less for me. Because, well, math. However, that is not how math works in God’s kingdom. 5 loaves – 5,000 men = plenty left over. Where can you practice a bit of radical generosity this week? Not because you have to. Not because someone else necessarily deserves it, but simply as a testimony to God’s abundant kingdom. We are never going to experience the FULLNESS of eternal life here and now when we are gripping so tightly to the false comforts of the things of this world.
The very next day, the crowds continue to grow but Jesus seems like he’d rather just be alone or with his 12 disciples. Maybe it’s because he’s seen into their hearts and he knows where this is headed. He says, “You only want to be with me because I fed you” (relatable) “not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.” If that’s not some serious life advice, we don’t know what is. Spend your energy on the things that will last an eternity. Spoiler alert…the only thing that fits this criteria is the human soul (yours and others). Let’s remember the big picture and the things that really matter. People + the kingdom of God. What has been your motivation for coming to Jesus? To be fed? To see some miracles? To see some physical needs met? While none of those things are necessarily wrong, let’s not confuse the blessings of Jesus for the person of Jesus. Jesus is enough. Together, let’s chase after the person of Jesus and cultivate that relationship first and foremost. The rest is just icing…and a whole bunch of icing by itself will make you sick. Just ask my 3 year old niece after her birthday party last weekend.
Next, Jesus starts on a WHOLE speech about bread. (Jesus loves carbs.) But like so many who came before and who will come after…they just didn’t get it. Much like the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus tells this crowd that he is the source of bread that will never run out. It will satisfy completely and forever. To which they respond. “Sounds awesome, give it to us.” To which Jesus says, “ok, you’ve got to eat my flesh.” Wait. What?! This was too much for so many people. They were so focused on the physical that they couldn’t wrap their heads around the spiritual truths Jesus was dropping on them. Rather than stick around to unpack what Jesus meant and to see more of the eternal life Jesus was offering, they bailed. What about you? Are you going to bail when you reach a truth about Jesus that you can’t quite understand? We can guarantee there will be times in your faith journey where things won’t make sense. Your experience isn’t going to match up with the words of scripture. You will inevitably be tempted to trust your own understanding over the wisdom of God. When those moments come, don’t run away. Lean in! Ask God the hard questions. Unpack your faith, but don’t leave it behind strewn about the room. Explore the heart of God and repack it. What are you going to do when things get tough? Walk away like the crowds? Or will you answer like Peter? Where else will I go? You, Lord, are the source of life.
You know, Jesus doesn’t seem too concerned that so many people are deserting him. If it were me, I’d probably walk back all that flesh talk and tell the people what they wanted to hear. This is why I am not the savior of the world (phew). No, while Jesus may switch up his approach based on the crowd or individual, his message is always the same. Believe in me (not just with your head, but with your soul) and you will find Life…life with a capital L. So we come back to John’s ultimate question. Who do you say that Jesus is? Have you allowed him to be Lord and King of your life this week?