Welling Up

John 4:22-38

Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well;

“‘You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’ And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He had been speaking with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why do You speak with her?’ So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’ They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. In the meanwhile the disciples were requesting Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ The disciples therefore were saying to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?’ Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?” Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, “One sows, and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.‘”

Second Chronicles 7:14 may have superceded John 3:16 as America’s favorite verse. It reads; “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” But what was the context? When, where, why, and to whom did the Lord make this statement? And most notably, where is the “if?”

Consider the context which was after the dedication of Solomon’s temple. “Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king’s palace, and successfully completed all that ahe had planned on doing in the house of the LORD and in his palace. Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.'”

Is this a timelessness truth or a situational sentiment? What was the greater context? Why did the Lord make this statement to Solomon? It was actually an answer to Solomon’s solemn prayer found in Second Chronicles 6. Yes, previous chapters are part of the continuing context because the Bible was neither written in chapter or verse, nor like the owner’s manual to a 2015 Chevy Malibu. To those who have read most of my missives, obviously, my wife bought a new-to-her car. Back story: I am a bit of a hypocrite because I do write about what I see out my window. When attempting to explain how the Bible is not written like an owner’s manual, I looked out my window and saw my wife’s 2006 Toyota Corolla but now as I look out the my window I see a 2015 Chevy Malibu. Unlike the owner’s manual to a car, which we only read in times of trouble, the Bible is multiple books yet one, complete composition written over a thousand years by many authors, with multiple genres yet woven together with a sublime string and that string is Jesus.

We should look for Jesus in the Old Testament and we should look for Jesus in the new. We should look for Jesus in the life of Jesus and look for the Old Testament in Jesus as well. But we must also understand what the woman at the well understood, partially, that the Messiah would come and declare all things. In her case, where to worship. In Second Chronicles, Solomon built a place to worship and dedicated it with a prayer. And since we live on the right side of the cross, and I have beaten the dead horse of Jesus being YHWH, because we are early in the book of John, we know that it was Jesus who responded to Solomon’s prayer. But not only the prayer but the sacrifices. Look at a little more context.

Then [after he prayed] the king and all the people offered sacrifice before the LORD. And King Solomon offered a sacrifice of 22,000 oxen, and 120,000 sheep. Thus the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.”

Yet to the woman at the well, Jesus said, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father.”

I promise, we are going somewhere with this. In John’s gospel account, Jesus flees from Jerusalem to return to Galilee because the Pharisees heard that Jesus was baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist. We have also seen that this particular baptism was preparatory for repentance– it is not the same baptism we have today which is a baptism of identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The people on this planet when Jesus physically walked the earth lived during the end of the Old Covenant and inauguration of the New Covenant. The woman at the well is proof. Her discussion with Jesus is evidence of a transfer based upon a better transaction than that of Solomon’s 22,000 oxen. Let’s examine the exchange between Jesus and the woman at the well. Let’s look for taught traditions and teachings, presuppositions and beliefs based upon these things. At the same time, we will watch Jesus. For time’s sake, we won’t examine the entire exchange as we have seen it before. Nevertheless we will examine the majority of the text, remembering the continuing context of John’s gospel account.

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ She said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?'”

Notice that Jesus offers something new and unheard of to the woman– “living water.” Imagine being this outcasted, Samaritan woman at the well around noon. Steeped not only in sin but in taught traditions, she saw a Jewish man, he talked to her and offered her living water– it’s unheard of on many levels. It’s possible, due to her preconceived notions that she thought Jesus to be a lunatic. Try to see the scenario with her eyes– figuratively of course and not literally. Place aside your preconceived notions and place yourself in her shoes, figuratively. It’s a strange situation. John tells us, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” By the woman’s own words we can empathize with her.

“Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?”

A little history lesson is in order. In Genesis 33, we see Jacob living in the land of his father’s father Abraham; “Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. And he bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar, and called it bEl-Elohe-Israel.” Then Jacob moved south and his elder sons sold his son Joseph into slavery and they all eventually went to Egypt because of a famine, where Joseph had become a powerful man. But, “a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply and in the event of war, they also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us, and depart from the land.’ So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor.”

But God saw the affliction on these 12 tribes of Israel (Jacob) and sent them Moses, and eventually they escaped back to the land of their fathers, after being given the Law and wandering the wilderness. At first they had Judges ruling and then kings. First, Saul, then David and then Solomon, who built the temple. But after Solomon died, the northern tribes seperated and formed the kingdom of Israel in Samaria and Galilee, while the southern tribes formed the kingdom of Judah in the south, surrounding Jerusalem.

A few quick references: 1 Kings 12:20; “And it came about when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, that they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. None but the tribe of Judah followed the house of David.” Jesus was Jewish from the tribe of Judah and the Davidic line– “salvation is from the Jews.”

1 Kings 15:9 and 16; “So in the twentieth year of Jeroboam the king of Israel, Asa began to reign as king of Judah. And he reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. Now there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.”

Even before the exiles of Israel and then Judah, we see the animosity between Judah and Israel. Then Israel is sacked by Assyria and the people commingle with them. But even before this, we read of a hopeful reunion and reconciliation requested but rejected from Hezekiah. “Now Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the LORD God of Israel.”

Watch how Israel responded; “So the couriers passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them.” Much more is written about the animosity between Israel and Judah but what we have read should suffice for us to see some of the reasons for the woman’s apprehension to Jesus. One more thing though, that often gets overlooked. Solomon’s son was wicked and not long after the temple was constructed in Jerusalem, God encouraged Israel to secede from Judah. The problem was that they didn’t follow the Lord after this.

Notice that the Samaritan woman points to the fathers, in mentioning the well and asking Jesus if he is greater than Jacob. She talks about traditions as well. She speaks of Jacob and his sons, the fathers of Israel the nation. Jesus talks differently.

“You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

While the woman talks of taught traditions and the fathers, Jesus informs her that she is worshipping not by knowledge but by what she was taught. He also changes the focus from the fathers to The Father. He switches the focus from her ignorance to the truth. Salvation is from the Jews, that is Judah and Jesus is from this tribe and Jesus is salvation. According to John, Jesus announces his anointment first, to the woman at the well.

“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.'”

We need to see the shift. The woman spoke of traditions and the fathers, where to worship and regular water. Jesus spoke of truth, His Father, Spirit and living water. Jesus was not only destroying her religion but all religions, in favor of spiritual worship, in truth. Jesus was nullifying both Samaritan worship and Jewish worship, in favor of true worship. Most importantly Jesus proclaimed himself as the Messiah to this woman at the well. Jesus is not making a parenthetical statement concerning worship. Rather he is establishing an eternal way of worshipping the father. Jesus doesn’t say, “a time is coming and now is, for 2000 years or so, when true worshipers will worship in Spirit and truth, but then I will take those worshippers away and will reestablish temple worship in Jerusalem.”

Far from it, he is actually abolishing, for all eternity, temple worship. But not only temple worship but every other worship other than worshipping in Spirit and truth. As I have stated, I don’t want to be overly dogmatic or legalistic as to what “truth” is when it comes to worship. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” may not be exact truth but I don’t think God hates the song. Nevertheless, modern prophecy and modern speaking in tongues doesn’t fit the Biblical sniff test, neither does the return to temple worship.

Jesus brought a seismic shift when he condescended to his creation, though it was progressive, hence the preparatory baptism of John the Baptist. Not only this, but in the life and ministry of Jesus we see it unfold. We also see it in his discourse with his words to the woman at the well– “an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth.” It is progressive and overlaps the Old. The New Covenant didn’t drop overnight and the Old Covenant was not abolished in an instant, as one worked it’s way in, the other worked it’s way out. Nevertheless, the Old has disappeared and the New is in effect for all eternity. This is the book of Revelation.

John wrote today’s text and the book of Revelation, both were inspired by the Spirit and both are truth, it is no wonder that we see similarities. One of the similarities is the phrase or form of the phrase, “I am.” John uses a form of this phrase multiple times in both his gospel account and in Revelation. Of course, everytime he uses it, he is quoting Jesus. Today’s text is the first time we see a variant of this phrase. “The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.'” It looses something in translation but it’s clearly there.

We see the symbolism in this statement but do we see the symbolism of the well and water? Do we see the symbolism of Jesus being alone with the woman. Beyond the traditions and fathers, which Jesus subtly switches to truth and the Father, the Lord uses the objects of this encounter as spiritual lessons. The water from the well only provides temporary relief from thirst but Jesus offers living water and and a well which is eternal. Jesus meets the woman alone, rather than in a large convocation and directly confronts her sin. Again, a seismic shift is implored by the imagery. The story continues with this type of imagery.

“And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He had been speaking with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why do You speak with her?’ So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’ They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. In the meanwhile the disciples were requesting Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ The disciples therefore were saying to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?’ Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?” Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, “One sows, and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.'”

Excited, apparently, because she left her water pot, the woman runs back to town to tell about Jesus– interesting. Lord willing we will consider this next time. For now let’s look again into the imagery. But first, another one of my stupid stories.

As a youth director, I would try to teach teenagers, as much as I was permitted to by parents, away from the church building. God created the world and therefore the world is full of lessons. Unfortunately I didn’t come up with this idea myself, I stole it from Jesus. Look at this chapter alone. A woman is at a well therefore Jesus uses the well as an analogy. The disciples offer Jesus food and Jesus turns it into a lesson of truth. I would take the teenagers to the mall where Asian Americans, African Americans, Jewish people and other ethnic groups would gather and tell them that this is what heaven looks like. Of course they thought I was talking about the tile floors, neon signs, shopping bags and the food court. I would tell them, “no, but it is full of people from every tribe, tongue and nation, just like the mall.”

Similarly but supremely better, Jesus used what was in front of him to teach people truth–even so, it was divinely placed–in the case of the well, all the way back to Genesis. Also similarly, the disciples were as dull as teenagers. Most likely, some of them were teenagers at the time. Therefore when Jesus said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about,” it is not any wonder that they wondered.

Nevertheless while how Jesus taught is very important it is not as important as what Jesus taught. What then did Jesus teach his disciples using the imagery of food? Sorry, I have resorted to treating you like teenagers. One more stupid story.

While teaching teenagers how to consider the context I would often give pop quizzes, sometimes even while in the middle of reading a passage at Bible study. The following is an example: reading in First Corinthians, “I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I would ask, “why did Paul thank God and pray for the church in Corinth?” I would point to the text as the crickets chirped– still nothing. Impatient, I read the text again, “so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Many times the answer is in front of us if we would only slow down and truly consider the context and let the Bible interpret the Bible, seeing the sublime string and explanation of the imagery. Other time we have to dig as deep as Jacob’s well. We will do this next time. Today we set the stage by seeing the juxtaposition between the Old Covenant and sacrifices and rituals and the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus. Solomon was under the Old Covenant which needed blood of bulls and goats. We’re under a New Covenant with a different way of worshipping and working, through Spirit and truth.

The question remains, if we humble ourselves and seek God’s face, will he come and heal our land? Consider the context.

I’ll give Jesus the last words for today, Lord willing, picking up on it next time. “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?” Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, “One sows, and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

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