Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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A Chapter of Surprises

August 16th, 2009 by Vic

John 4

Many surprises come because we don’t listen.  We don’t listen well.  Selfishness has taught us how to selectively listen.  Everyone’s listening can be improved.

Stop and think about yourself.  How do you listen?  When do you listen?  Who do you listen to?

Jesus listened to the woman at the well and she was changed.  John 4 is a chapter of surprises that show how well Jesus listened and how poorly some others listened.

This chapter ends with a second sign in Cana.  On the third day he arrived in Cana (43).  The glory of God was again revealed.  Many believe.

4:1-2  Some people were keeping score.  Jesus has been baptizing more than John.  Some were making them rivals not co laborers.  The writer clarifies that it was the disciples who were baptizing, not Jesus.  They were already participating in Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of Jesus was exploding.  As more and more disciples baptized, more and more people follow Jesus.  The Pharisees were surprised at this and getting concerned.  Living with Jesus is full of surprises.  Jesus decided He should leave the area, but not because of the opposition.

4:3  Instead of going to Jerusalem to become a celebrity he goes back home.  Now would be the time to join the Sanhedrin, get a few influential friends and take Jerusalem by popular vote.  Surprise!  Jesus leaves town.  He does not want to be known as another baptizer.

4:4  Another surprise!  The only reason any Jew had to go through Samaria was because he was in a hurry.  It was not the safest way for a Jew to travel.  Jesus did not have a mission strategy to evangelize Samaria.  He did not have a speaking tour or a tent meeting lined up.  He just felt compelled by God to go this way.  Divine discontent maybe?  Divine necessity.

4:5-6  Surprise!  Jesus never got tired in the middle of the day.  But God was building a bridge of witness that Jesus would not have seen if He had kept walking.  This is the land and the well that Jacob gave to Joseph.  It had been a gift of water.  This is a place of refreshment.

4:7  This was an Arab stronghold.  The disciples were probably grumbling because Jesus had sent them into town to do the dirty work.  Judas could have done it by himself.  Nobody liked buying food from Samaritans.  The disciples were probably not too pleased that Jesus stayed by the well and rested.  He did not have to send all of them.  They were grumpy.  They probably did not make a lot of friends in town while buying lunch.  Their bad attitudes were probably obvious to everyone.  Later that day when the town people came out to see Jesus, the disciples were sure that the mob had come out to get them.

John 4:7  Surprise!  This is a Jew telling a half Jew or an Arab in an Arab stronghold to give him a drink.  This woman could have been knocked over with a feather.

4:8-9  She was surprised.  She gave a snarly answer.  She wasn’t listening because He was a Jew.  She knew the world of the Jew was different than the world of the Samaritan.

4:10  Jesus then surprised her with a sober, simple answer.  He did not answer through his emotions or prejudices.  He did not answer like an arrogant Jew.  He just says, “If you would take the time to know the real gift of God and who I am, you would not have regarded my request of you as unusual just because I am a Jew.  There are other reasons that make my request unusual, but not the reasons you see.”

He surprises her with an idea.  He is giving her an opportunity to listen, to really want to know Him as a person and not just as a Jew.

4:11-12  She is still a little cantankerous and sarcastic.  She sees Him as a Jewish man.  She sees the “living water” as a well or spring.  She can’t imagine that Jesus really cares for her.  But she now shows a little respect and addresses him as ‘Sir’.

4:13-14  Jesus declares a future gift of water that provides eternal life.  She does not hear the eternal life part.

4:15 Now she gets curious.  But she is trying to understand the promise of Jesus from the perspective of this well, this place, this water, and her physical thirst.  She did not hear what Jesus said.  She is puzzled but not hostile.

4:16  Jesus has been observing this woman.  She does not think too highly of herself.  She probably does not have a husband.  She does not trust men, especially Jesus.  She had come to the well in the heat of the day when travelers might see her.  Most people from the village would not come for water this time of day.  Maybe she enjoyed visiting with travelers.

4:17  By the social standards of that day without a husband, she had no status, no competency, no authority.  Jesus had found the reason for her snarly attitude.

4:18  Jesus complements her for her integrity.  Then he deepens the discussion.  He saw in her attitude and her appearance a hurting woman and He cared for her.  He does not overwhelm her with philosophy or by telling her her thoughts.  He was not trying to impress her.  He loved and cared for her.  He cared enough to listen to everything she was telling Him.

Here is an important lesson.  Everyone has a desire to be understood.  We all need someone who will listen to us.  Jesus commanded us to love one another as He loved us.  One of the ways that Jesus showed His love was listening.  He cared enough to listen closely.

4:19 Jesus commands her to go, call, and come.  Notice what is not said here.  She does not say that Jesus was totally accurate, but He was close enough.

Jesus had cared enough to listen.  By listening He could let this woman know he cared for her.

Every person or group of people is wearing enough data on the outside to give us clues on how to show them God’s love.  If you show an unusual interest in people they will show an interest in you.  People are fascinated when we have a capacity to pay attention, when we take the time to care, when we make an effort to listen to them.

If you live a different life, if you really care about me, if you are really real, if you really listen, then I’d like to know a little about your God.

Now what did Jesus see that caused Him to think this woman had five husbands and she was now living with another man?  He saw the names on the water pot.  Maybe that’s why John mentioned the water pot in this story?  Maybe John was just telling us that the woman was planning to return.

Ted Ward from World Vision was telling about a lecture series that he was giving in a city where his daughter was attending medical school.  After a lecture he was going up to his room and was the last one to step into the crowded elevator.  As he turned to face the closing door, he briefly noted the young man standing behind him.  He saw the stress on his face and the books in his arms.  He knew there was a medical seminar also being held in the hotel.

On the next floor he got out to let others get out and when he stepped back on again.  He was in front of this young man and this time as he turned to face the door, he said, “Mr. Johnson I hope you do well on your medical exams tomorrow.”

When he got off on the next floor, this young man was right behind him.  He quickly asked, “How did you know my name?  How did you know I have medical exams tomorrow?  Are you a psychic?”

Dr. Ward explained the few observations he had made and said that he really was concerned for him and wanted him to do well on his exams.  He explained that his daughter was taking the same class.  She had the same texts that he was carrying and his name was written on the spine of his books.  He knew he had been studying because he had seen him earlier in the lobby.  This young man talked to Dr. Ward like a long lost friend.

Here was a person who had listened close enough to express love.

Some people are carrying water pots around.  Others are carrying books.  Are you seeing and listening?  You don’t have to be a superman to read water pots and count scratches, but you need love.  You will need to commit yourself to take time.  A self-centered person neither sees nor listens. (Mk 8:18)

4:20  She calls Jesus a prophet and wants to have some answers.  She drops the discussion about her marital status.

4:21 Jesus says she is asking the wrong questions.  The real question should be, “Who are You?”

4:23 Jesus speaks of a new time and new place.  Worship is an orientation of our lives to the Father, often the act of bending low.  God has taken the initiative for men to worship.  God is not a mountain, a place, or a sanctuary.  The declaration of the “I Am” announces that in Jesus God is revealed.  The time has come when acceptable worship is the total orientation of one’s life and action toward the Father and the gift He is giving.  Worship now is!  But she ignores that thought.

4:26  The “I Am” has always referred to the living presence of God who makes Himself known.  The identity of Jesus is more than her expectations of a Messiah.  She does not understand.

4:27-30  The disciples are shocked and dumbfounded that Jesus was speaking to this woman.  They are wondering ‘who is this man?’  The woman flees, but she plans to come back.

4:29  This woman had a 2-piece message.  1) Jesus really loves me and cares for me.  2) Could this man be what you need in your life?

She says nothing about real worship, the gift of water, and eternal life.  She has a partial belief like Nicodemus with no hostility.  Her understanding was limited by her history, religion, and culture.  Notice the people believe the words of the woman, but they become followers when they believe the words of Jesus.

4:31  Meanwhile the disciples return with lunch, but events do not occur as the disciples expected they should.  Jesus should not have been talking with a woman.

4:33  They muttered some more.  He would not eat this woman’s food would He?  They were angry because they could not process all the data.  All the surprises made them edgy.  Life with Jesus is not predictable.  His ways are not our ways.

4:34  Jesus says there is a whole different dimension going on here.  There is another kind of food.  Jesus gets his nourishment from obedience to the Father.  This is why he had to go through Samaria.

4:35-36  “The problem with you guys is that, based on physical realities, you would be willing to argue with me, the Lord of the Universe, the Creator of all things, that there are 4 more months till harvest.  I’m telling you there is a harvest now, but you trust your mind more than Me.  You are so smart that you are not willing to listen.  You are depending on your own brilliance, your own understanding.”  You think you have to be educated to tell people about Jesus.  You think you need to attract them or convince them.  You just have to care.  Can you live in such a way that they will know that God loves them?  Will you listen?

This verse is not a missionary mandate to go and harvest, but to trust Jesus.  This verse talks about the evangelist problem not the missionary mandate.  The problem has to do with our expectations and the predictability we all like to live in.

Your expectations are based on your reasoning.  If I asked you to go out and harvest today, you would refuse to obey because you see them planting seeds.  You would rely on your own reason rather than trusting Me.

Human understanding and God’s unfolding plan are contrasts that surprise us in this chapter.  We need to be careful of our over-planning.  All our flow charts, gaant charts, pert charts, agenda harmony, and project managers that leave little room for the Holy Spirit.  If Jesus says, “Go!” will you trust Him or your sequential strategies.  Would you argue and give Him all the reasons why it will not work?  Will you lean on your own understanding?  (Prov 3:5)  Jesus invites us to become reapers of a harvest we did not sow.  He invites us to enjoy the other kind of food.

4:39-42  Many believed the woman’s distorted witness.  They wanted to know more.  True belief looks beyond the signs of someone telling you everything you ever did.

The disciples must have realized that they were in trouble when they saw the people coming toward them from out of the city.  They were surprised at the friendly attitudes.  They were surprised that they were ignored.  They had seen some of these people in town.  They had not thought about inviting these people to come to Jesus.  They had not thought that Samaritans could ever desire godly things.

The woman invited them to Jesus.  Then they invited Jesus to stay overnight.  The disciples expected Jesus to say no, because they were in a hurry to get out of Samaria.  “No thanks.  We are in a hurry.”

4:41  Many believed because of His word.  Notice the two motivations to believe.  Some believed because of the words of a woman.  Others believed because of the word of Jesus and confess that He is the Savior of the world.  Their openness to the word of Jesus transforms them.

4:43-54 The simple word of Jesus is again received in a non-Jewish world.  It is not the presence of Jesus that causes the healing of the child.  Neither did the child’s faith heal him.

Can you feel what the father was feeling?  He has probably tried all the best physicians.  Everyone would like to have been invited to this official’s home.  He had never invited a common carpenter before.  He had come 20 miles to escort Jesus personally to Capernaum.  He could have sent men to bring Jesus to his home.  How often have you seen government officials begging from a carpenter?  Nothing was important to this father now except the life of his son.  His reputation, his fancy clothes, his hillside home in Tibereas meant nothing now.  He was willing to die for his son.  And he was convinced that his son would die unless Jesus came.  Apparently several doctors had told him there was no hope.  But Jesus…  If only Jesus would come.  If only Jesus would care.

So the father spoke plainly, 4:49 “Lord you are my last hope.  If you do not come, my son will die.  There is no time for any philosophical discussion.  Please hurry.”

Somehow the divine nonchalance of Jesus gave authority to His words.  The father is obviously frantic.  Maybe he was waving his arms, weeping and pleading.  But the quiet Spirit of Jesus had all power and authority.  The majesty of His peace threw an oil of trust over the scene.

It was not easy to turn away and go home.  Obedience is often hard.  The reports he had heard and researched were that miracles happen when Jesus is physically present.  But just spending a few moments in the presence of Jesus, his faith grew enough to just trust His word.  It is the same for you.  The more you know Jesus, the more you will trust Him.  Read His word. Learn more about Him.  Spend time in His presence.

This father had to obey.  He really had no other options.  He was clutching to the words of Jesus.  Jesus spoke.  It had to be true.

The father believed the word (50).  He knows the healing authority of the word (53).

The NIV says (50), ‘Your son will live.”  But it is present tense.  At the word of Jesus, “Your son is living.”

The word of Jesus is Life.  Trust and Obey.  In Jesus you are living.  Surprise!

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