Last week in the post “Into Samaria,” we left off with Jesus and the Samaritan woman conversing at the well near the town of Sychar. She had just told this no ordinary Jewish man that she knew the Messiah would be coming and he would tell them everything, to which Jesus replied, ““I, the one speaking to you—I am he” (John 4:25,26).
The disciples return and are surprised to find him talking with her. Their reaction is significant as well. John 4:27: But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The disciples are learning, as well, how to confront their culture. Then leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town, excitedly telling the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:28, 29)
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I were one of the townspeople I might be a bit skeptical. This low standing woman, a harlot in their eyes, comes excitedly telling them she may have met the Messiah! Her exuberance, perhaps the change in her demeanor, must have led them on and the townspeople went to meet Jesus. Or, perhaps, the people were curious as to how this could be good news, curious as to how this Jewish man could accept her. For the Samaritan woman, this may have been the first time in her life that she felt accepted and not condemned. It is what happens when we drink of the living water, we are filled with Joy, and the Spirit who comes to dwell in us, fills us to over flowing! We all thirst for belonging, security, love. Only the Living God can fill the emptiness that dwells in us all. Only he can fill us with “living water” that quenches all our thirst, so that we will not seek to fill ourselves with the things of this world, the ways of the culture, consumerism, or whatever else.
So why did Jesus have to go through Samaria?
As Greg Boyd so insightfully points out (in the sermon “Through Samaria“) it is because He had to come against the culture of that day that dominated women, the poor; against ungodly sexism, racism, classism, judgmental religion, the pious hierarchy of that culture; against all forms of violence. These fallen tendencies are manifestations of the ways in which the culture of that day was seeking to fill itself. Jesus was manifesting the true character of God, so he had to confront all that was inconsistent with the Father’s character, which meant he had to go through Samaria and not around it as was likely the custom of the southern Jews at that time, avoiding the conflict they had with their northern relatives.
In Ephesians 2:14-16 we read:
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
Even his death was a revolt. He tears down walls that divide people (“Jew” and “Gentile” now becomes paradigm for all other divisions; when these are destroyed the other divisions are, too).
As his followers, our call is to manifest everything that Jesus did to divulge the character of the Father. We follow Christ’s example (1 Cor 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21; Eph 5:1,2). We, too, have to go through the Samaria of our day. Jesus was confronting the cultural and social norms of that day. It is our job to follow Jesus’ example and to confront the cultural and social norms of our day.
We have to tear down walls that divide us. We must cultivate relationships with others that are different from ourselves. We are reconcilers. We revolt against all hostility and violence by being peace makers. We come up against and take back that which has been virtually destroyed over the centuries – our relationship (a living, delicate binding together of us as like creatures under the same God) as overseers of the earth and animal kingdom. We confront the cultural and societal norms (many of which still exist in some degree as they did in Jesus’ day, though the manifestation of them takes on different forms) of racism, classism, judgmental religious systems, church culture that has married the societal norms of individualism and consumerism (see this earlier post on consumerism).
We were not called to be comfortable. We are called to be faithful representatives of the Father’s character, just as Jesus was. Particularly here in the West, our culture embraces a vacation mindset in every day living. America leads the way in the line of thinking that individualism and consumerism is a God given right, that living a life of comfort and convenience is first and foremost. The church, in large part, has become a commodity driven institution along with all the rest of the industries that now control our way of life. From the production of food, clothing, other need items, and a whole lot we don’t need, America leads the way in forming a production system model that is raping the planet of it’s natural resources and beauty. This system reduces the animal kingdom to property, products, and utilities as though they are here entirely for our needs, entertainment and purposes. It is virtually destroying the planet’s ability to sustain life – that first of the animal kingdom, as we destroy their home/habitat for our consumption, and pollute the entire planet – land, lake, and sea – for our way of life.
This is NOT the model of God’s Kingdom. And we are called to revolt against anything and ALL things that are normal to our culture but that are not God’s normal. Governments are ordained by God to keep order, not to rule over us in the corrupt ways they do. Growing food for sustenance is ordained by God, but not in the gluttonous, destructive ways we farm. Using the planet’s natural resources for sustaining our lives is ordained by God not as commodities at our disposal, but as the renewable and precious living creation that it is, here for us to protect, sustain and guard against abuse and destruction.
Jesus rejects the common sense logic of fallen mankind that he who rules is greater than those he rules over. He reverses this logic. For us as his followers, part of that which we should reject in our culture and societies today, is the way our species rules over the animal kingdom. Our view of and relationship with the animal kingdom is one of the “all things” Jesus died to reconcile. The covenant promises God made with humans, he also made with animals. Thinking on this, in reading in Exodus, as God is leading Moses and Aaron to insist Pharaoh let them leave Egypt, every time that God decides to allow hardship, plagues, and disaster to fall on the Egyptian people because of Pharaoh’s hard heart, he includes the animal kingdom in that which will be affected. This, among many other things throughout the Bible, tells us the animal kingdom is important to God. It is also a prime example of what happens when we do not act in accordance with God’s design for all creation. When we do not reign in harmony with God’s purposes, all of creation originally given to us in Eden to protect and ty over suffers greatly.
The story which we began last week of the Samaritan woman and Jesus at the well is an example of what Jesus came to accomplish, and what kind of legacy so to speak he wanted to leave for us to follow. He confronted the cultural, societal, and social norms of our ancestors day. He is still confronting these norms in all the forms they take in our own day. His incarnation, life, death and resurrection served the purpose of not only saving us from our separation from the Father (sins) and defeating the devils work, but served to denote the Father’s character and to provide an example of how we are to revolt against the Satanic regime that holds all of his creation hostage.
He left with us a well of power through the Holy Spirit to accomplish this revolt against any and all that does not display the Father’s character. With the Holy Spirit as our guide we take our place as children of the Living God in the battle for the manifestation of the redemption of all creation. We are to be light and salt to a dark world, putting on display the Father’s love – for each other and his animal kingdom. This means we consider carefully what we partake in as consumers. Our lives should reflect a peaceful revolt against all that does not look like Jesus.
A Quote from Greg Boyd:
The rule of God is established wherever God’s will is obeyed and God’s character is manifested. These are, in fact, two facets of the same reality, for God’s will is that his character, his “name,” or his glory be manifested (Jn 12:28), which is all about displaying God’s unsurpassable love (1 Jn 4:8-9).
The character of God is manifested when instead of employing violence against enemies to crush them, Jesus loves his enemies in order to redeem them. The kingdom is revealed when instead of protecting himself, Jesus allows himself to be murdered. God’s love is marvelously put on display when instead of clinging to his perfect holiness, Jesus puts himself in the place of sinners. And the nature of the rule of God shines radiantly in Jesus’ final prayer for the forgiveness of those who moments earlier mocked him, spit on him, whipped him, and crucified him (Luke 23:34).
This is simply who God is and what God is up to in the world, and so living consistent with God’s character, reflected by the cross and the teachings of Jesus, is simply what it means to submit to God’s reign. In sharp contrast to the kingdom-of-the-world thinking, therefore, disciples of Jesus aren’t to act first and foremost on the basis of what seems practical or effective at securing a good outcome. We are to act on the basis of what is faithful to the character and reign of God, trusting that, however things may appear in the short term, in the long run God will redeem the world with such acts of faithfulness. (See more here)
Thank you for reading and following our blog! Your comments are always welcome. We hope this blesses you greatly. ~Kathy