11 March 2013

Encountering Jesus - Heading direct instead of heading out of the way... and what that led to!



Women, quite possibly on their way to or from the well.
All photos in this post by Jessica Neff

I first taught a ladies' Bible study on this passage four and one-half years ago. It is a very involved passage... and can say already I'll spend 2, probably three weeks looking at it.
The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back 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 the sixth hour. 
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.) 
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 given 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 the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” 
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I 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 won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 
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 fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 
Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, 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 from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in 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 who speak to you am he.”

As I read and study this portion of God's Word, again, I marvel at the multitude of messages woven throughout this Jesus encounter. I'm also finding that many of the same things that stood out as I first studied these words in detail a few years back continue to speak to my heart. So, without further ado... I'd like to share (slightly edited) part of what I wrote back in August of 2008: 

[That] statement that "He must needs pass through Samaria?" Why was Samaria such a big deal? I researched the relations between the Jews and the Samaritans, and here is a summary of what I found out:
  1. After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel divided into Judah and the 10 tribes of Israel.
  2. Those 10 northern tribes instituted their own system of worship and created their own places of worship, something that clearly went against what God had commanded them with the building of His temple in Jerusalem.
  3. The 10 northern tribes were ruled by a succession of evil kings, who did not seek after the Lord and who engaged in and encouraged the people in idolatry.
  4. As a punishment, God sent the nation of Assyria to conquer them and to remove them from their land.
  5. However, there was a small remnant who remained. The Assyrian king was worried about this remnant, so he sent several foreigners in to intermingle and intermarry with the remaining Israelites.
  6. This mixed group of people abandoned all faith in the Eternal, choosing to worship and adore idols.
  7. Troubled by savage lions, the people asked their then king (they were now ruled by Babylon) to send them a Jewish priest to instruct them in the law and the proper worship of God.
  8. The Babylonian king agreed, so they relearned some of what Moses had originally taught God's chosen people, but they also kept many idolatrous traditions and practices which they intermingled with remnants of Jewish faith and practice.
  9. The nation of Judah, which had also been led into captivity by the Babylonians, was allowed to return to their Promised Land.
  10. The mixed remnant of the northern tribes of Israel (or the Samaritans) offered to help in the reconstruction of Jerusalem, but the people of Judah refused, knowing of their idolatrous practices. This was the beginning of much animosity and anger between these two groups.
  11. It was the Samaritans, led by Sanballat and Tobiah, who were responsible for much of the attacks on Nehemiah and those rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
  12. Afterwards, the Samaritans decided to create their own temple on what they deemed the true holy mountain, and their own priesthood, totally separate from Jews.
  13. Their land, Samaria, became a place of refuge where religious and political refugees, as well as Jewish criminals, were welcomed. Thus the Samaritan population included many already disgruntled with the Jewish nation.
  14. The Samaritans refused to accept anything other than the 5 books of Moses (the Torah) as God's Holy Word.

With such animosity, it is easy to see why most Jewish travelers preferred the long route over traversing such a hostile land

It is also clear that there were long-standing, and often very valid, reasons that the Jews chose to keep themselves separate from the Samaritans. Among my Christian brothers and sisters, it is not unheard of to hear criticisms heading every direction:  "So and so spends too much time with people that do not love the Lord," or "That person shouldn't be seen frequenting that establishment," or.... Quite honestly, I must say that I am guilty of making such judgmental statements myself. 

If Jesus had held to tradition and the common practice of the "believing" conservative, careful, prudent and religious wise, the woman at the well would have never met Jesus... at least not that day. 

On the other hand, not every person is directed to enter those riskier... seedier... pick your own -er adjective... locales. And those who do can just as easily risk being critical and judgmental of those God has directed to travel a different, perhaps less edgy, path. Why can't we just appreciate the uniqueness of each Jesus follower and seek to encourage and exhort each other in our different walks?

In the King James version of the Bible, the phrase "had to go" is actually rendered as, "He must needs pass through Samaria." The phrase "must needs" says to me that Jesus felt He had no other choice. 

One thing that has always intrigued me about the 33 years that Christ walked this earth is the tension that exists regarding how Jesus could be fully God and fully man - at the SAME time! So I ask myself, "As God, did Jesus already know that this woman would come to Him at the well and that this meeting would lead to the belief of an entire city?" Or, did Jesus, as a man, choose to limit His foreknowledge, make Himself completely dependent on the leading of the Spirit, and He simply responded to a direction the Holy Spirit impressed deep within His heart. Could it be that Jesus, in His humanity, knew it was His Father's will to pass through Samaria, that the Father had an important job for Him there, but that He didn't have all of the specifics? Is this one example we can see where Jesus allowed Himself to be led step by step, as God by His Spirit, leads us?

I recently acquired the television series "Alias" - I think it is about 10 years old - and one thing I noticed is that each time agents were sent out on a dangerous assignment, there was always a "logistics and operations meeting." At those meetings, plans were hashed out and every piece of available information about the upcoming operation/scenario was discussed. Tools to help ensure the success of the mission was explained and their use demonstrated. Back-up plans in case of an emergency or unforeseen situation were also discussed.

Sometimes I think I wish it were like that when God sends us in a particular direction, but that isn't normally the case. Most of the time, it is just an impression that I'm supposed to do something or a direction to begin heading. It isn't concrete. It isn't listed out on paper as a sequence of tests or a flow chart with steps to follow if a particular circumstance occurs. It is more of a compelling to do or be something. I can think of several "must needs" moments in my life, where I've felt that compelling deep within to follow a certain path of behavior, say a specific thing. Sometimes I have; unfortunately, many other times I haven't... and I have regretted that choice to not listen for the Lord clearly showed me later that it was His voice. I missed out on the opportunity to obey.


Jesus was "wearied with His journey." What a wonderful glimpse of His humanity! Yet His weariness did not become an excuse to avoid ministry or intimate and profound interaction with another person. It is easy to claim weariness, to use that excuse to avoid ministry opportunities (and please don't think I'm saying that there is never a time to rest, to say "No..."), but in this world of self first, I think it is a careful balance to walk between being available for God's plans, even when we think we are too tired and it is more than what we want to do.

"There cometh a woman..." 

I sidetracked a bit here... Have you ever stopped to consider how many women met their bridegroom beside a well? It cannot be coincidence. Zipporah met Moses at a well. Rebekah met Isaac's representative. Rachel met Jacob. And this Samaritan women met the true Bridegroom. When we allow ourselves to be channels of Christ, the living water, we too can be like a well where lost people can meet the Bridegroom.





As you can see, there is much food for thought in this amazing portion of God's Word... and I've not really even started into the meat of this passage. 


****************************************************
Can you recall a "must needs" moment in your life that you'd be willing to share in the comments section?

Do you find it easy to criticize those who minister in ways different than your own? Ways that make you feel uncomfortable? How do you think you should respond in those circumstances?

Do you think it is coincidence that so many women met their bridegrooms at the well?  Why do you think that is true and what lesson does it impress in your heart?

-edited post from the archives;

this week's gratitude list
(#'s 3619 - 3641)

making lots of doughnuts on a Saturday morning with some great folks

handling the 110' heat remarkably well this year

Spring Break right around the corner

enjoying the conversations at A Life Overseas

invitations to travel and help some different conferences... even when I can't

the hope that one of these days, soon, I will be able to arrange it in my schedule

revisiting this Bible passage and the Spirit re-impressing certain truths in my heart, ones I'd forgotten for a bit

running into my friend that I'd not seen all week at the pool on Sunday afternoon

listening to my girl perform on the sax in front of others for the very first time

teen boys recording "Beautiful Things" at the studio on a Friday evening

Brendan's awesome senior pictures

trying to get back into the exercise routine

reading Zarafa and loving all of the history that I never knew before

finally using the ac at night to sleep

the thrill and the squeals with the electricity turns back on and the fans begin to turn again

dried bougainvailla flowers... so pretty in a bouquet collected by little girls

late night conversations with my senior

super sweet thank you notes that encourage my heart

still relative coolness of early mornings

finally able to do more than 20 legit sit-ups or crunches in a row... it has only been how many years???

needing a new pair of shoes - my "fit-flops" finally fell apart (after 2.5 years of almost continuous use) - I will be missing that pair of shoes.

keeping up with "The Mentalist," thanks to iTunes... and looking forward to watching this week's episode!

listening to my 2nd/3rd graders read through the play they've written for the first time



Ten most recent posts in this series:
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

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