Monthly Archives: December 2013

Food And Water For The Soul

FOOD AND WATER FOR THE SOUL 

“Just then His disciples returned and were surprised to see Him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’

“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’

“Meanwhile His disciples urged Him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’

“But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ Then His disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought Him food?’ ‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.'” John 4:27-34 (NIV).

Samaritan or Jew, there was a startling similarity between the woman and the disciples. They lived in the environment of the natural and viewed life from the same perspective.

When Jesus began to talk to the woman about living water, she didn’t get it because she thought no further than water for her body. When He told His disciples that He had food to eat that they did not know about, they didn’t get it either because they thought He meant food for His body.

Jesus was so excited about the outcome of His conversation with the woman that it sustained and strengthened Him more than food. To do His Father’s will was what nourished His spirit and kept Him going. On one occasion, when He was criticized by the Pharisees for eating with the riff-raff, He told them that He had come to seek and save the lost, not those who thought they didn’t need saving.

When the woman arrived at the well, she was a lost soul. She had left the path that would take her to the Father, ignored the landmarks of His Word that would keep her on track and wandered in the wilderness of sin, alone and afraid. Jesus showed her the way back and she gladly responded.

She rushed back to the town, her burden of guilt and shame gone, to share the good news with the townspeople from whom she had escaped only a short while before by going to draw water in the heat of the day. ‘I think I have found the Messiah. Come and check it out for yourselves.’ Why was she so sure that the man at the well was the Messiah? How did He know such intimate details about her without divine revelation?

Not only that but His disclosure of her sinful life brought her release from guilt, not condemnation. She felt light and clean as she hurried back to share her joy with the people who despised her. Now that’s a transformation! Again it’s this inward thing that mere religion cannot produce; freedom from guilt and an inner peace that was evidence that God had no issues with her. She was forgiven and she had the witness in her spirit that she was clean and new inside.

No one can explain what happens when a person believes in Jesus. There is a supernatural transaction that takes place in the inner being. All guilt is removed, shame and fear go, and are replaced with an inexplicable peace. This is the result of something that takes place in the mind.

Until that moment the woman did not know that God loved her and had provided forgiveness and cleansing from her sin. She believed that she was worthless and the belief produced her feelings of guilt, shame and fear. When the truth dawned on her that she was beloved and that the Father wanted her to worship Him, the lie was gone and with it her destructive emotions, and in their place she experienced God’s peace.

To see a person set free from condemnation and reconciled to the Father who loved her was much better than a delicious meal, no matter how hungry Jesus might have been. Did He ever get His drink of water? We will never know! His thirst might not have been quenched at that moment but He had satisfied a far deeper thirst with the water that became a perennial spring in her soul.

Are you still thirsty? Jesus has water for you that will satisfy you forever.

The Real Thing!

THE REAL THING! 

“‘Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’ The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.’

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you — I am He.'” John 4:23-26 (NIV).

Her curiosity was aroused!

At first she was afraid, getting ready to run if Jesus came too close, but now, like an inquisitive animal she crept nearer. Her secret was out and she was no longer afraid of being found out. Jesus knew it all but, instead of judging her, He diagnosed the cause of her pain — she had no Father, no-one to turn to; no-one to give her an identity; no-one to worship who would accept her and receive her and make her feel secure.

‘God the Father is looking for true worshippers, people who will open up their entire being to Him and become one with Him through the Holy Spirit,’ Jesus explained. Something came alive inside her. Her cold, dead heart was awakened. Somewhere she had heard that the Messiah was coming and He would make it all plain.

Wistfully, she voiced her longing. ‘Isn’t there someone who can tell me what this means? I know that Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will make it clear. But He’s not here, and how am I supposed to understand?’

Jesus did something He had never done in any other company — He told her straight out that He was the Messiah! She had inadvertently expressed her longing for Him, now that her interest and desire to know the truth had been aroused. It was time to disclose His identity so that her awakened heart could open up and receive the truth He was offering her.

In a short space of time she had come a long way from being a brassy and hardened loose woman to an interested enquirer after the truth. How did Jesus do that? There was something about Him that she could not fathom but that drew her to Him. He was not the run-of-the-mill man who was lured by her “charms” and wanted what she shamelessly flaunted.

He was friendly, warm, gentle even when He disclosed her sin, and genuinely interested in her. He understood her; He knew who she was behind her hard exterior.   She was not the person she projected to the world. She lived in a prison of loneliness, shame and fear, feeling worthless, used and unwanted. She was an orphan. She had no Father.

Slowly He coaxed her out of her shell. When He dropped His bombshell by revealing His intimate knowledge of her lifestyle, she was ready to listen and not to run away. It was His role to introduce her to the Father and to reconnect her to Him so that she, too, could take her place in His family as a beloved daughter.

Her way of life was a poor substitute for what her heart longed for. She knew there was something missing but she could not put her finger on it until she met Him, and then it all fell into place. It was not only His words that unlocked her imprisoned heart. It was the presence of Jesus Himself that finally set her free. He exuded the very presence of God, the real God, not the substitute god she knew about and to whom she possibly even paid lip service.

She did not know then, but she would learn that she was standing in the presence of, and being spoken to by the Son of God, in the presence of pure Love, a love she had never experienced before. It was a love that engulfed her like a warm blanket, making her feel alive, clean and completely accepted in spite of everything she had done. This was the real thing and she knew it!

Nailed!

NAILED! 

“He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’

‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.'” John 4:16-20 (NIV).

O-oh! This conversation is getting a bit uncomfortable. How did Jesus know that?

If this woman was to admit her thirst and come clean, she had to open up the cupboard and get all the skeletons out. Jesus didn’t pussyfoot around. He could read her like a book. Why did He expose her, just like that?

First of all, they were alone at the well. There was no-one around to eavesdrop on her private life. Jesus would never have exposed her in front of His disciples. It was not His intention to shame or embarrass her but to open up the lines of communication between them so that He could speak to her heart.

Secondly, as long as she kept secrets, there would be a wall between them. He knew and she knew but, until she knew that He knew, she would not hear Him or receive what He was offering her. He told her that He knew exactly what was going on, not to accuse but to show her that her lifestyle was a symptom of her real thirst. She thought she needed a man to love her but what she really need was to reconnect with the God who loved her unconditionally for who she was.

She did what every person does when faced with having to own up to what they are doing — she became religious. ‘This is scary. You must be a prophet. We Samaritans go to this church, but you Jews insist that your church is the right one. So which one is the right one?’ A convenient “red herring” to take the heat off her!

But, whether she liked it or not, her interest was aroused. This was not just a casual conversation — small talk at the well while she was getting water; this man was getting very personal and she had to change direction before He embarrassed her even more. Let’s talk religion. That’s safe ground, so she thought.

 

But her question got Jesus even more fired up. This exchange was going somewhere and He was nudging it on. “‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is of the Jews.”’  John 4: 21, 22 (NIV).

‘It’s not about where you worship, but who you worship. It’s not about this church or that denomination. It’s about worshipping the Father.’ That must have startled her. Her religion was a hotchpotch of religions, man-made and futile because it was not the truth. Her problem began with a false idea about God. She had no foundation upon which to build her life and so she was doing what Adam did — making her own rules which didn’t work and left her heart empty and thirsty.

Jesus gently took her back to basics. ‘Who are you worshipping? There is only one God and He is your Father, the source of your life. All other gods are products of someone’s imagination, and worthless substitutes for the true God.’

She had to learn that God was neither an intrusion nor an add-on to her life but the source and foundation of everything that would provide peace and wholeness. Her life was in tatters because she had no Father to give her identity and stability, no one to worship and honour, to follow and obey and to be the authority in her life. Like a captain-less ship she was trying to navigate life without knowing who she was, where she was going and who was in charge. And it wasn’t working for her.

Only the Creator knows how His creation should function. Without Him, nothing works. You have to get reconnected. Have you?

A Drink Of Water

A DRINK OF WATER 

“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have giving you living water.’

“‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock?'” John 4:10-12 (NIV).

What an intriguing response!

The woman had asked Jesus a simple question, ‘How can you, a Jewish man, be asking me, a Samaritan woman for a drink?’ but it revealed a whole lot about what she thought about herself. In His reply Jesus used the imagery of water to introduce her to something much better than well water.

He asked her for water because He was thirsty but her visit to the well in the middle of the day opened up a pathway to her thirst which could not be quenched by what she could get from the well. Why did she come out in the heat? All the other women of the village drew water in the early morning or late in the afternoon. Was she avoiding them because she was an outcast?

Why was she an outcast? As the story unfolds, we learn of her unsavoury lifestyle. Did she want to be a promiscuous woman? I don’t think so. She was desperately thirsty for love. Her story can be retold today. Many millions of women and young girls sell themselves, their chastity, dignity and self-respect for empty promises to men who use them and throw them away.

One wonders why she continued this conversation with Jesus. Did she see in Him another prospect? And yet she instinctively knew that He was different from other men. He was open, friendly and polite, and didn’t look at her with lust or undress her with His eyes. Instead, His eyes were full of understanding and compassion.

Jesus saw beyond her brassy facade, her emptiness, her loneliness and her tear-stained heart and reached out to offer her what no human being could give her — living water. To a person in Jesus’ day, “living” water was the clean, fresh water from a flowing stream, not stagnant water from a well, but what He offered was far better than that!

Her thoughts didn’t connect with Jesus’ thoughts. She was so imprisoned in her way of thinking and in her lifestyle that it did not occur to her that it could be different. To her, Jacob’s well was a very important water source. In fact, it was a bit of a miracle. Jacob and his family and animals had used this well centuries before and it was still providing water for the village now. What could Jesus offer her that was greater than that?

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.'” John 4:13-15 (NIV).

There you have it! Jesus was not talking about the stuff you need to drink; He was taking about another kind of “water” which satisfies the thirst that water cannot reach. Every human being is thirsty for the kind of love that does not use and abuse but that unconditionally loves us for who we are. No human love can quench that thirst, not even the best love a human can offer. There is the element of selfishness in human love, even at its best.

This woman had been the object of lust, but she had never been loved. Jesus looked past her sordid life and saw an empty, thirsty heart and offered her the love that only God can give.

But imagine her confusion! What a relief it would be if this man, by some miraculous means could save her from having to face the burning sun every day to come out here for water. She snatched at the opportunity to get some of this “magic” water, having no clue as to where and what it was.

Jesus still sees the empty, weeping heart today. He is the source of a love that never gives up, never runs dry and never betrays the one who trusts Him. He proved it by laying down His life for you.

Don’t Talk To Me, God!

DON’T TALK TO ME, GOD!

“Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that He was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John — although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but His disciples. So He left Judea and went once more to Galilee. Now He had to go through Samaria. So He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.” John 4:1-6 (NIV).

Quite a detailed introduction to his story, isn’t it?

John sets the scene for us — Jesus, gaining so much popularity that the Pharisees were starting to take notice, left Judea and returned to Galilee. Instead of the usual route through Transjordan to avoid any contact with Samaritans, He went through Samaria.

Why did the Jews take the trouble to avoid travelling through Samaria? They would have had to buy food and possibly accept hospitality from Samaritans and that was an absolute no-no to a Jew. They were so prejudiced against Samaritans because they were a mixed race that to have any contact with them was abhorrent.

To add insult to injury, the Samaritans occupied territory that was significant to the Jews. Their revered ancestors’ footprints were all over this ground. Jacob, Joseph — these were the great patriarchs of their nation but the land was now polluted with half-breeds. They were so bigoted that they would not even put their feet on the land occupied by these intruders.

What was the origin of these hated Samaritans? When the Assyrians overran the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, they took the best of the Israelites captive to Assyria and repopulated the land with people from other conquered nations. These immigrants intermarried with the poorest of the Israelites who were left behind, resulting in the mixed race the Jews despised. The religion of the Samaritans was a mixture of Judaism and the religion of the non-Israelites imported to populate the land.

But Jesus, unlike His compatriots, wasn’t eaten up with racial prejudice.

He was hot and tired. When He reached the town of Sychar, He stopped to rest beside the town’s well in the middle of the day. The disciples left Him to buy food in the town. Was He just resting or was He hoping that someone would come to the well and give Him water? Did He have some sort of foreknowledge that a woman who needed Him would come there to draw water or was it just a coincidence that she arrived while He was sitting there?

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food). The Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).” John 4:7-9 (NIV).

Jesus’ question startled the woman. She was expecting either to be ignored or insulted by this well-dressed Jew. His friendly manner and simple request took her by surprise. Her reaction was to protest. ‘What’s it with you?’ she asked. ‘How can you, a Jewish man ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water? Don’t you know that you will be polluted by touching my water jar? How can you even talk to me? Don’t you know who I am?’

This woman obviously knew her place. Her lifestyle and reputation as well as her status as a Samaritan woman had caused her to build a wall around herself. She expected to be treated badly because that was what she deserved. Any kindness, especially from a man, was foreign to her and almost offended her. Abuse cemented and justified her opinion of herself.

This woman’s reaction to Jesus reflects the typical human way of evaluating ourselves and our fellow humans. We use our behaviour as the measure of our worth. Take the way we treat our children, for example. Performance is the standard. Children are branded “naughty” when they misbehave, “stupid” when they act foolishly or produce poor grades at school or “useless” when they reveal their immaturity, and they live up to the image projected onto them.

Jesus never responded to people according to their behaviour. Their behaviour was a reflection of what they thought of themselves, not of what He thought of them. He valued them as children of God created in His image. He treated them with dignity and respect and influenced them to become who they really were, sons and daughters of God who were created to reflect Him.

That how He sees you. It’s okay! You can talk to Him.