The Gospel of John: Tell Them!

“So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.” (John 4:28-30)

In John 4:27-42, the Apostle John provides five proofs supporting his overall theme (John 20:30-31) that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. The first one is found in vs. 27. It is the proof that Jesus was in immediate control of His immediate circumstances. He did not allow circumstances to control Him.

The second is found in vs. 28-30. It is the impact Jesus had upon the Woman at the Well. Remember, the woman came to the well to draw physical water. Upon encountering Jesus, she received living water. Jesus made the astonishing claim that He is not only the source of spiritual life, but also that He is God. She left her water jar and went to share what had happened to her. She had to tell somebody. Everybody!

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “The woman was so eager to bear witness to Jesus that she even left her water jar behind (v. 28). Ordinarily, women in that culture would not leave such things at the well, but this woman could not wait to tell others about Christ and would not even pause for a second to retrieve her possession. This is understandable, Augustine of Hippo comments in his sermon on today’s passage, for “having received Christ the Lord into her heart, what could she do but now leave her water-pot, and run to preach the gospel?”

As another commentator explains, “As a result of His ministry the Spirit is given to all who come to the one true God—the God of Israel—through Him. In turn, the spiritual blessing we receive is so great that living water flows out from Christ through us to other people. In other words, the Savior’s work in and through us is one of the means by which God extends His kingdom. We minister the gospel to other people according to the Word of God and in the power of the Spirit, and our Father saves His elect and equips them for ministry. By the Spirit, our service to others imparts life.”

This is what the woman did. She went back to her town, presumably Sychar, and told everyone she met that she had encountered the Messiah. Remember, she had probably been ostracized by the town due to her lifestyle of immorality. However, she did not care what people would think. All she could think to do was tell them the exciting news that she was forgiven.

I remember when I was first converted and began to tell my friends what had happened to me. A few listened, even fewer were excited for me, but most dismissed what I had to say and did not want to hear anything about it. Sure, it hurt to be rejected but nothing could suppress the joy of knowing Jesus as my Savior.

One of the earliest gospel songs I remember identifying with was Andrae Crouch’s Tell Them.

Tell them
Even if they don’t believe you
Just tell them
Even if they don’t receive you
Oh, tell them for me
Tell them for me please
Please, tell them for me
Tell them that I love them
And I came to let them know

What about you? Do you know the joy of Jesus as your Savior and Lord? Have you told somebody about the living water only He provides?

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: Jesus is in Control.

“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?” (John 4:27).

In John 4:27-42, the Apostle John provides five proofs supporting his overall theme (John 20:30-31) that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. The first one is found in vs. 27. It is the proof that Jesus was in complete control of His immediate circumstances. He did not allow circumstances to control Him.

Nothing took Jesus by surprise. No one caught Him unawares.  Instead, He looked beyond the social prejudices of His day and ministered the truth of the Gospel.

Contrast this attitude with the one held by the disciples. They were surprised. Shocked! They were continually astonished and surprised by Jesus’ behavior. He was talking with a woman. A Samaritan woman!

Dr. Don Carson explains, “As a result of the disciples’ return from their errand to buy food, the woman departed to the town (vs. 28). John comments on the disciples’ surprise that Jesus was talking with a woman, which reflects the general Jewish prejudice (vs. 27). Jewish rabbis were not permitted to speak to women in the street and considered any conversation with women to be a hindrance to the study of the Torah. The reluctance of the disciples to ask questions show how embarrassed they were over Jesus’ actions.”

Yet Jesus was not embarrassed. He was not uncomfortable sharing the Gospel to one who was in so desperate a need of the “living water” which only He could supply.

This evidence of Jesus’ Messianic identity by His sovereignty over the circumstances of life which He encountered would be further revealed in His death on the cross. In John 10:17-18 Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

We may not be in control of our lives, but Jesus is. We can rest in this comforting truth.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: Jesus’ Testimony of Himself.

“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.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26).

As Jesus and the woman at the well engaged in their dialogue, Jesus continued to reveal more to her about Himself. He not only revealed to her particulars of her personal life that He would not otherwise know unless He was God, but He also revealed to her the true nature of worship. Finally, He revealed to her His true identity.

There are many people who deny that Jesus ever identified Himself as God. While they will admit, because the biblical evidence in the New Testament is overwhelming, that others claimed Jesus to be God (e.g. Romans 9:1-6) they deny that Jesus ever explicitly said as such. However, John 4:25-26 proves otherwise.

The woman, following the discussion about worship, says that she understands that the Messiah is coming. The word Messiah means the Christ or the Anointed One of God. The Samaritans believed that He would personally come as God’s special Chosen One to redeem sinners. It would be He who would reveal and announce all things, such as the location and form of true worship.

Jesus’ response to her is emphatic: “I who speak to you am he.” In these seven words we have an independent clause along with a dependent clause contained in one sentence. Let me first begin by explaining that an independent clause in a sentence is a series of words which can stand on their own. They form a complete thought containing a subject, a verb and a direct object. The independent clause in vs. 26 is “I … am He.”

However, we also see a dependent clause, which means just that. It is a series of words which are dependent upon the independent clause in the sentence for meaning and clarification. The dependent clause in vs. 26 is “who speak to you.” It is also true that the dependent clause can be placed in the sentence for emphasis.

This is what we see in John 4:26. Jesus emphatically tells the woman He has met at the well that the Messiah who she speaks of is the person who is speaking directly to her. In saying so, Jesus identifies Himself as Yahweh.

Dr. John MacArthur explains, “Twenty-three times in all we find our Lord’s meaningful “I am” (ego eimi, Greek) in the Greek text of this Gospel (John 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 18, 24, 28, 58; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 13:19; 14:6; 15:1, 5; 18:5, 6, 8). In several of these, he joins his “I am” with seven tremendous metaphors, which are expressive of his saving relationship toward the world.

Those seven metaphors include the following. (1) “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51); (2) “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12); (3) “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7, 9); (4) “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14); (5) “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25); (6) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6); and (7) “I am the true vine” (John 15:1, 5).

Dr. R.C. Sproul comments, Jesus was forthright with the Samaritan woman about His messianic identity when He usually did not make such direct claims to be the promised Son of David. This reticence is best explained by the fact that for first-century Jews, the title “Messiah” frequently had military connotations. The Jews thought the Messiah would be the one to overthrow the Romans and establish a new, politically independent Jewish state. If Jesus were to have announced His messianic office so plainly to the Jews, they would have likely been incited to revolt against Rome. Because the Messiah was not a political or military figure for the Samaritans, Jesus could speak of His messianic office more straightforwardly. That Jesus was unafraid to have gentiles tell others about Him (Luke 8:26–39) would seem to confirm that Jesus refrained from calling Himself the Messiah among Jews lest it cause problems for His ministry.”

Jesus’ invoking the title “I am” (ego eimi) is a specific claim of deity. It reminds us of Exodus 3 and God’s self-disclosure to Moses. Jesus was not willing to only accept the woman’s speculation that He was a prophet. Rather, He identified Himself as God. In doing so, He satisfied her thirst.

What about your thirst? Have you received the living water of salvation which is only available by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone?

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: True Worship.

“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:20-24)

When I have engaged people with the Gospel, sometimes in the conversations they endeavor to change the subject when they begin to get uncomfortable. They want to discuss another subject other than what is really the subject we need to discuss: their need for Christ.

This was the case with the woman Jesus encountered at the well. When He confronted her about her immorality and sin, she wanted to discuss the worship of God. How ironic that she wanted to discuss worship when her life was such a mess. Only when she repents of her sin and receives God’s forgiveness and righteousness, can she really become a true worshiper of God.

She wanted to debate where the appropriate place of worship really was. The Samaritans believed it to be at Shechem. The Jews observed their worship in Jerusalem. Who was correct she asked?

Pastor John MacArthur explains, “Both Jews and Samaritans recognized that God had commanded their forefathers to identify a special place for worshiping him (Deut. 12:5). The Jews, recognizing the entire Hebrew canon, chose Jerusalem (2 Sam. 7:5–132 Chron. 6:6). The Samaritans, recognizing only the Pentateuch, noted that the first place Abraham built an altar to God was at Shechem (Gen. 12:6–7), which was overlooked by Mount Gerizim, where the Israelites had shouted the blessings promised by God before they entered the Promised Land ((Deut. 11:29–30). As a result, they chose Mount Gerizim for the place of their temple.”

However, Jesus instructed the woman that soon such specific places of worship would be obsolete for both the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus’ purpose in coming to the earth was not only to bring a new covenant of salvation, but also with it a proper understanding of worship. John 4:24 gives us the classic statement of not only the nature of God but also the nature of worship: in spirit and in truth.

Dr. MacArthur continues by saying, “This verse represents the classical statement on the nature of God as Spirit. The phrase means that God is invisible (Col. 1:151 Tim. 1:17Heb. 11:27) as opposed to the physical or material nature of man (John 1:18; 3:6). The word order of this phrase puts an emphasis on “spirit,” and the statement is essentially emphatic. Man could never comprehend the invisible God unless he revealed himself, as he did in Scripture and the incarnation. The word “spirit” does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to the human spirit. Jesus’ point here is that a person must worship not simply by external conformity to religious rituals and places (outwardly) but inwardly (“in spirit”) with the proper heart attitude. The reference to “truth” refers to worship of God consistent with the revealed Scripture and centered on the “Word made flesh” who ultimately revealed his Father (14:6)”

How often do we actually worship in spirit and in truth? Both elements of worship present a delicate balance which is often difficult to achieve, but not impossible. It takes effort on our part but also a dependence upon the Holy Spirit to keep both aspects in view. Otherwise, we either have emotion based entertainment substituting for worship, or cold, dead orthodoxy with no heart in which people go through the motions replacing worship. Both are extremes which must be avoided.

Take time to truly evaluate your personal, along with your corporate weekly, worship at church. See if they contain both spirit and truth. You may be surprised by what you find. Consciously strive to worship God in both your spirit and His truth.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Heart and Soul of the Matter.

“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” (John 4:16-19).

Jesus directs or guides His conversation with the Woman at the Well much as He did with Nicodemas. In order for her to understand that the “living water’ of which He spoke is greater and more significant than the water in Jacob’s Well of which she spoke, He commands her to (1) go; (2) call her husband; and (3) have him also come here to the well.

The woman responded that she had no husband. Jesus, revealing His omniscience particular to her life situation, answered, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

At this point we make the following conclusions regarding the woman. First, she had known her share of heartache. She had been married five times and each marriage ended. We presume they did not end with her previous husband’s death but rather by divorce. Either way, she had known the pain of failed relationships, or at least relationships which had ended.

This leads us to our second conclusion: she had given up on finding true happiness in marriage and decided to rather live immorally with a man. She may have recognized the Patriarch Jacob, but she was disobeying God’s seventh commandment of not committing adultery or sexual sin outside of marriage (Exodus 20:14).

Thirdly, her current life situation would explain why she came to the well at the hour she did and alone as she did. We may presume the other women of the town ostracized her as being a man-chaser. They would want nothing to do with her, perhaps concluding she would also be after their husbands.

Pastor John MacArthur explains, “Since the woman failed to understand the nature of the living water he offered (v. 15), Jesus abruptly turned the dialogue to focus sharply on her real spiritual need for conversion and cleansing from sin. His intimate knowledge of her morally depraved life not only indicated his supernatural ability, but also focused on her spiritual condition.”

Another commentator states, The woman’s misunderstanding explains why Jesus changed the subject with her, as we see in today’s passage (vv. 16–18). She could not understand the spiritual nature of the water Jesus offered unless she first saw her desperate need of soul renewal, so Jesus directed the conversation to her sin. Our Lord asked her about her husband, drawing from her a confession that she had no husband, and then He displayed supernatural insight into her sordid past. The Samaritan woman was living with a man who was not her husband after having had five husbands who had died or had divorced her. On the surface, her comment that she had no husband was correct, but it hid the fact that she was living in sin. Jesus, being God incarnate, exposed her sin to draw her attention to her need of the Savior.”

She responded by saying, ““Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” Certainly, Jesus was at the very least a prophet, even as Nicodemas concluded that Jesus was also a teacher sent from God. Dr. R. C. Sproul comments that, “Even people who do not believe in Jesus usually are willing to grant Him the status of a good moral teacher or maybe even a prophet.”

However, Jesus is God and in this continuing dialogue with the woman He will acknowledge to her this truth. Do you acknowledge that Jesus, more than a prophet, priest, king or good moral teacher, is God Incarnate? Remember, this is the whole point of John’s Gospel (John 20:30-31). In fact, John says that those who do not acknowledge Jesus is God Incarnate belong to the spirit of the antichrist (I John 4:1-6).

The heart and soul of the matter between us and God is that we are sinners in need of salvation and Jesus Christ is the eternal God/Man who is the only one who is willing and able to save us from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin in our lives. Trust and receive His righteousness today.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Drinking at the Springs of Living Water.

“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? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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.” 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.” (John 4:11-15)

As the narrative continues between Jesus and his encounter with a Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well, there are parallels between this dialogue and the one Jesus previously had with others. Nicodemas thought of the new birth strictly in the physical sense (John 3:3-10). This was also the case with the Jewish leaders and Jesus’ remark of destroying the temple of His body and in three days He would rise again (John 2:19-21). They thought Jesus was referring to the actual temple building.

The woman regarded Jesus’ reference to living water only in the physical sense. This is proven by her response to Jesus and the phrase living water. She replied, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?”

There are three things we may observe in her statement. One, Jesus did not have any utensil with which to draw water supporting our earlier claim. Two, the well was a deep well and therefore productive but accessible with only the proper utensils. Third, she was curious and wanted to know how Jesus would manage to get that living water of which He spoke.

She then compared Jesus, in a rather condescending way, to the well’s namesake: Jacob. She rhetorically asked, “Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” What she speculated was an answer with an obvious “no” reply was in effect a series of questions in which the answers were an obvious “yes.” Yes, Jesus is greater than Jacob for He is the God of Jacob. He is the One who led Jacob to the well and who gave the patriarch not only his physical riches but also eternal life. The very same eternal life this woman needs, as do we.

Much like with Nicodemas, Jesus explains what He means to the woman. “Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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.”

There are several observations in Jesus’ statement that we must not overlook. First, He does reference the physical water found in the well, but the thirst it quenches is temporary. On the contrary, the living water Jesus specifically gives results in a quenched thirst that will never return. In fact, the individual will possess within them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

It is at this point I remember the wonderful hymn Springs of Living Water by John W. Peterson.

I thirsted in the barren land of sin and shame,                                                                           And nothing satisfying there I found;                                                                                           But to the blessed cross of Christ one day I came,                                                                 Where springs of living water did abound.

Chorus:

Drinking at the springs of living water,                                                                                      Happy now am I, my soul they satisfy;                                                                                      Drinking at the springs of living water,                                                                                              O wonderful and bountiful supply.

The woman’s reply to Jesus is 2/3 accurate in its understanding. 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.”

She wants the living water which Jesus says He will give her. She does not want to be thirsty again. However, her last statement reveals that she is still thinking solely in physical terms when she says, “or have to come here to draw water.”

She wants what Jesus possesses, but only on her terms with respect to life right here and now. She is more concerned about relief from temporal problems and struggles, such as the physical toil of having to draw water. She still does not understand that Jesus possesses a “living water” which will truly satisfy her soul. Her’s is a soul which is in deep longing for an eternal and lasting relationship with God which she does not have, and has been looking for in all the wrong places.

What about you? In the words of the hymn writer, have you been thirsting in the barren land of sin and shame? Only Jesus can truly satisfy your soul.

Repent of your sin and receive Jesus and God the Father will declare you righteous, or justified, by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.  See Romans 3: 21-26.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: Living Water.

“A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 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.) 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.” (John 4:7-10).

One of the truths which John 4 brings to light is that Jesus, as a human, experienced fatigue and thirst. John 4:6 says, “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.

It is Noon. It is presumably hot and sunny. Jesus is sitting beside the well by Himself. The area where what is known as Jacob’s Well is a desert and arid region. Jesus has nothing with which to draw water from the well. His humanity is also in view in that His disciples had gone to Sychar in order to buy food.

John Calvin explains, “And Jesus, fatigued by the journey. He did not pretend weariness, but was actually fatigued; for in order that he might be better prepared for the exercise of sympathy and compassion towards us, He took upon Him our weaknesses, as the Apostle shows that ‘we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities,’(Hebrews 4:15).”

Then along comes a woman from Sychar. Notice again that it is the Noon hour. Perhaps the hottest time of the day. The sun is at its peak. Yet this woman comes to the well to draw water at this time. She also comes alone. Normally, the women would draw water in the morning, or in the evening, in the cool of the oncoming or concluding portion of the day. It would also be a social gathering for them. Yet, this woman is alone. Why? At this point in the narrative, we are left to wonder but you get the sense that she is an outcast. John 4:16-18 will verify this speculation that her community had rejected her.

One commentator explains, “This helps explain why she was so surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink, for she was an immoral woman, and one would not ordinarily converse with a known immoral person in that culture. Furthermore, He had no bucket with which to draw water, so He would have had to drink from hers, but Jews and Samaritans did not ordinarily share the same vessels for food and drink (vv. 8–9, 11). But Jesus did not press her on her reluctance to serve Him water; rather, He took the opportunity to teach her something about Himself.”

Dr. John MacArthur explains, “For a Jewish man to speak to a woman in public—let alone to ask from her, a Samaritan, a drink—was a definite breach of rigid social custom as well as a marked departure from the social animosity that existed between the two groups. Further, a “rabbi” and religious leader did not hold conversations with women of ill repute (v. 18).

However, Jesus and the woman still had something in common. They were physically thirsty and needing water. Yet she was in need of something more. The phrase “living water” has a definitive Old Testament meaning regarding the identity of God. Jesus uses it figuratively to identify Himself as God.

Jeremiah 2:13 says, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Zechariah 14:7-8 says, “And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.”

The Old Testament describes God as being likened to “living waters.” This is synonymous with the source of life in a desert region. Water was a source of refreshment and sustenance. What was true in the physical sense in relationship to one’s life in Palestine pictures truth in a spiritual sense in relationship to one’s life with God.

Dr. MacArthur states, “The OT is the background for this term, which has important metaphorical significance. In Jeremiah 2:13, Yahweh decries the disobedient Jews for rejecting him, the “fountain of living waters.” The OT prophets looked forward to a time when “living waters will flow out of Jerusalem” (Ezekiel 47:9Zechariah 14:8). The OT metaphor spoke of the knowledge of God and his grace, which provides cleansing, spiritual life, and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Isaiah 1:16–18; 12:3; 44:3Ezekiel 36:25–27). John applies these themes to Jesus Christ as the living water, which is symbolic of eternal life mediated by the Holy Spirit from him (cf. John 4:14; 6:35; 7:37–39). Jesus used the woman’s need for physical water to sustain life in this arid region in order to serve as an object lesson for her need for spiritual transformation.”

Dr. R.C. Sproul writes, “The water of life Jesus provides meets not just a need of the moment but a need for all eternity. If we trust anyone else for spiritual life, we will continue to thirst. But if we come to Him alone for salvation, we will be satisfied now and forever. Let us seek the only living water and its only Provider—Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Have you personally received Jesus Christ, the living water? Only He can truly satisfy the thirst within your soul. Receive Him today and never be thirsty again.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of John: The Woman at the Well.

“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 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” (John 4:1-6).

When I was an adjunct professor at Grace College, I taught a class entitled Scripture & Interpretation. I covered the basics, with some 50 freshmen students, of the proper principles of interpreting the Scriptures. The class began at 8:00 a.m. For me, what a glorious way to begin the day. I’m not so sure my students felt the same. Most of them wanted to be sleeping in their dorm room. Several continued sleeping in the classroom.

Included in this course were four basic rules of not only knowing what the Bible says, but also what it means and how it may therefore be applied. The four basic rules, or more accurately questions, were: (1) What did the text mean to the biblical audience; (2) What are the differences between the biblical audience and us; (3) What theological principle(s) or truth is in the particular text; and (4) How is the particular text to be applied in believer’s lives today? With these principles in mind, let us begin examining John 4 and Jesus’ encounter with a woman at a well.

Regarding the first question of what did the text mean to the biblical audience, John 4 reveals the various levels of hatred and prejudice which existed in first century Israel. Let’s begin to unpack the text.

There was already a growing animosity by the religious leaders toward Jesus (John 2:18-22), along with Jesus’ reticence to reveal too much about himself to the people (John 2:23-25). There was also Nicodemas’ visit by night in John 3. One of the reasons he may have chosen that time of the day was because he did not want any of his fellow Pharisees to know he visited Jesus. This is why, with the growing animosity that Jesus decided to return to the friendlier region of Galilee (John 4:1-3).

However, John 4:4 says that “And he had to pass through Samaria.” What may appear to be a rather insignificant statement is instead revealing. For you see, aside from the growing hated towards Jesus, there also existed an historical hatred by the Jews towards the Samaritans. One commentary provides us with some valuable insight.

“In order to get to Galilee, Jesus and the disciples passed through Samaria, the region between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north (v. 4). Samaria had been part of the northern kingdom of Israel, which fell to the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:7–41). Per Assyrian custom, the Assyrians took most of the Israelites away from their land and into exile, leaving only a few of them behind. Then, they resettled the northern kingdom with peoples from other lands that they had conquered. The Israelites who were left behind intermarried with these pagan peoples and adopted many of their religious practices.”

“By the first century AD, the Samaritans were a people of mixed Jewish-Gentile ancestry who followed a compromised form of the Old Testament religion. Consequently, first-century Jews considered them unclean. The Jews who interpreted the ceremonial purity laws in the strictest fashion viewed the region and its people as so defiling that they would take a circuitous route around Samaria as they traveled to Galilee instead of the straight road through the area. Jesus and the disciples, however, took the straight and shortest road through Samaria, resting in the town of Sychar at about the sixth hour, that is, noon (John 4:4–6).”

Why, you may ask, did Jesus decide to do this? It was providentially because Jesus would engage in a conversation with a woman as unlike the Jewish religious leader Nicodemas as you could find. Nicodemas was a man. The unnamed woman was a degraded woman. Nicodemas was respected. The woman, as we will see, was an outcast. Neither one had a thing in common. Except, their need for Jesus.

Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God the Father (John 14:1-6). It does not matter what social class position you presently possess. It does not matter how many friends you have or how much money and property you own. We are all beggars in need of God’s grace (Matthew 5:3).

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

The Gospel of John: The Testimony of John the Baptist.

“He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. or he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:31-36)

As we have previously noted, a discussion arose among John the Baptist’s disciples about the growing popularity of Jesus of Nazareth. They were concerned that John was becoming less popular. John then made several statements about himself reflecting his proper understanding of not only who he was before God but also concerning his ministry before the people (John 3:25-30).

In John 3:31-35, John the Baptist continues speaking to his disciples. However, instead of talking about himself he makes several statements regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ.

First, John acknowledges that Jesus Christ is God. “He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all” (3:31).

John says that Jesus comes from above, or comes from heaven. That is because Jesus is the Lord of heaven and earth. Unlike other men, who are of the earth, Jesus is eternal God (John 1:1-14). This is not only because Jesus comes from heaven, but also because He and He alone is above all or is superior over all.

Second, John acknowledges that Jesus Christ gives a truthful testimony to what He not only understands about Himself, but also what He understands about mankind. “He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony” (3:32). Mankind is sinful and this is the reason it rejects not only Jesus but also His message.

The Gospel of John testifies that the Jewish nation, and for that matter the world, is neither ready to receive Jesus nor His gospel (John 1:10-13). This is because fallen, sinful mankind is dead in their trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1-3) and are spiritually blind (John 1:5).

Third, John testifies that Jesus Christ will save God’s elect. God has always had a remnant. God has always had a people. John speaks of the believing remnant in vs. 33. “Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.” While the world in general continues to reject the light of the Gospel, there are those who the Father is giving to the Son (John 6:35-66). These are they who are accepting the Gospel with their entire being. They testify to the truth of the Gospel of God and the character of God.

Fourth, John also declares that Jesus Christ speaks the very words of God. “or he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34). Additionally, John acknowledges the biblical reality of the Trinity by referring to all three members of the Godhead. Jesus utters the words of God for He is the Living Word of God (See Hebrews 1:1-4).

Fifth, the Father loves the Son and has therefore entrusted all things to the Son. “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). One of the responsibilities the Father has given to the Son is the power and authority to give life (See John 5:21-26) and to judge (John 5:22; 27-29).

Sixth, the Son alone is the source of eternal life. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Tied to the truth of believing, which is trust, commitment, dependence and worship, is the idea of obedience. Those who obey the Son are those who truly believe in the Son. Faith leads to obedience. Therefore, a lack of obedience reveals a lack of faith. (See John 15 and I John 2:1-6).

The foreboding conclusion by John is that those who do not obey the Son will not experience eternal life, but rather God the Father’s eternal wrath. See Hebrews 3:18-19; James 2:14-26.

Are you secure in knowing that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior? Have you received His righteousness as your own? If so, rejoice in the Lord today. If not, then repent of your sins and receive, by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life and the forgiveness of your sins.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

The Gospel of John: He Must Increase; I Must Decrease.

“After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison). Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:22-30).

Envy is the silent companion for many ministers and pastors when they get together with their fellow ministers and pastors. Aside from the usual conversations about families, sports and health there is the inevitable discussion about so-called “success” in the ministry. Comparisons are made, fairly or unfairly, to super successful ministries (i.e. those running large numbers) that many pastors wish they could experience, but who would never say such things out loud. When leaving a conference, meeting or breakfast, one wonders how many leave thinking “if only.”

This tendency to envy others, or other ministries, is not restricted to just pastors either. There are those who gladly trumpet their “mega-church” and insistently or relentlessly pursue others to join the church where things are really happening. It is hard to compete and to justify attending a small rural church of 25 when just a few miles up the road is a city church running close to 2,500 with programs for every age group and ministries for every want and need.

One could come away from all of this with the sense that there are just some ministries and churches the Lord blesses and others that He does not. It’s just the way it is. There are the haves and the have nots.

In today’s text from the Gospel of John, there arose some discussion about how Jesus was attracting more people and followers than John the Baptist. Some of John’s disciples were notably concerned about what he thought about this. After all, John had come along the Judean scene well before Jesus. It would only be natural for him to become jealous or envious of Jesus’ rising popularity, at the expense of his own.

However, John was amazingly wise and prudent in his response. He said, ““A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John made four observations about his ministry. It would be well for us to keep these in mind regarding what we do for the Lord and how we evaluate the “success” of our own ministry, or any other church.

First, John understood that any ministry is sovereignly given by God. It is a trust. It is a stewardship. It is eventually the Lord’s prerogative to entrust some people with greater responsibilities than others. It is ultimately His call. This therefore means that a church of 2,500 is not necessarily any more blessed by God than say a church of 25. The most important thing to note is whether both are preaching and teaching biblical truth and the people are faithful (I Corinthians 4:1-2).

Second, the focus and attention of any church and ministry must be placed upon the Lord and not upon anyone else. No ministry and no church is the sole property of any one human being. When the focus shifts to the human leader, rather than to God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then a cult-like atmosphere has begun to take hold. John repeatedly stated that he was not the Christ. He understood who he was and who Jesus is.

Third, anyone who serves the Lord is compared to a best man at the wedding. This is how John viewed himself. He was not the groom. Therefore, the attention was not upon him but rather upon the one who was getting married. Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is the bride. It would be wise for all us to remember that it is not about how much notoriety we receive, or for that matter the church we attend, but rather how much praise Jesus receives.

Fourth, Jesus Christ is to be increasingly seen in our personal lives along with the corporate congregation to which we belong. John succinctly explain it this way: “He must increase and I must decrease.” If our pastors and churches would be more focused on Jesus’ increasing notoriety, and not their own, a whole lot of conflicts within the church would end and the only conflicts the church would encounter would be from the outside fallen world.

The Apostle Paul explained it this way in I Corinthians 3:1-5: “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

John the Baptist understood his place. So too did the Apostle Paul. It would be wise for us as well.

Therefore, next time you want to praise your own church and pastor, and criticize another, it would be wise to remember a similar discussion that occurred some 2,000 years ago in the Judean wilderness. Some things never change.

Soli deo Gloria!