You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2014.

I’ve been reading Ephesians lately.  It’s a pleasant change from Ezekiel.   Ezekiel was full of sin, disobedience, judgment casketand the wrath of God.  It contained strange visions and bizarre symbolic actions.  Some things were hard to understand and confusing.  When I read scripture in the morning I try to find a phrase or encouraging word that I can meditate on throughout the day.  Those words and phrases were few and far between in Ezekiel.  Thank God for Ephesians!

With Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, I find words or phrases that I can hang my spiritual hat on in almost every verse; certainly in each paragraph.  After a couple weeks of basking in the glory of chapter one, I came to the second chapter.  It starts out with the words, “As for you, you were dead”.

It’s unfortunate, in some ways, that there are chapters in the Bible.  It was not originally written with chapters. When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he did not separate his letter into six different chapters.  It was a unified whole. But when we read it, we see chapter division.  Each chapter is intricately connected with the chapter that came before and the chapter that follows.  Many times we miss that connection, because we have a tendency to read the Word of God one chapter at a time; one chapter a day, and we miss important connections.  That initially happened to me upon reading chapter two.  Ephesians two is a well loved chapter to most Christians, being rich with images, words and phrases about salvation, grace and mercy.  I was anxious to reread those beloved verses and practically skipped the first, rather unflattering words of Ephesians two.

I caught myself and went back to the opening words of the chapter.  “As for you, you were dead …”  I thought about the first three words, “As for you” .  I recognized those as transition words.  Now he is talking about “you”.  You Ephesians, or more generally, you believers, or you Christians.  Well what was Paul talking about before, at the end of chapter one?  What was he comparing us to?  I went back and reread the last paragraph of one.  Paul was comparing us to Christ.

We were dead.  What was Christ?  Christ was raised from the dead.  Christ was seated at the right hand of God, seated in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked.  All things were placed under his feet, and appointed as head of the church.  He fills everything in every way.

And who were we?  What were we?  We were dead.  What an incredible contrast the apostle Paul presents between us and Christ!

My meditation phrase for that day was “and you were dead.”  Or more personally, I reminded myself that “I was dead!”  Maybe you want to try out that phrase within your day.  Remind yourself over and over that you were dead.  You were a spiritual corpse, without hope of true life, abundant life, eternal life.  Then go and read the rest of the first paragraph of Ephesians two.  See how great is the impact, how meaningful and significant those following words of Paul become – But God made you alive!

*****          *****          *****          *****

While we remain in Adam, we are entirely devoid of life; and that regeneration is a new life of the soul, by which it rises from the dead.      John Calvin

 

Advertisements

It was getting hot and uncomfortable in Judea.  Not hot as in the physical climate, but the social and spiritual climate woman at wellwas becoming unbearable.  Jesus told his followers that they were heading north.  The Master wanted to get back to his old stomping grounds -Galilee.  Not that he couldn’t take the heat, but Judah was fast becoming a place where he couldn’t help people like he really wanted.  The religious leaders were turning his ministry into a side show, and at this point in his early ministry Jesus wanted no part of that, although it would be hard to avoid no matter where he went, because no matter where he went he healed the sick, the blind received sight, the cripples walked and demons were cast out.  Everyone wanted a piece of that action, and the Master was happy to provide it; happy to make people whole; happy to rejoice with them, although the real wholeness that he came to bring was much more than physical healings.  Deep down the masses were suffering from mental, emotional and spiritual sicknesses.  He especially wanted to bring healing and wholeness to them.  That was another reason he wanted to head north.  He had a divine appointment with a sick woman at a well.

It was not just any woman, it was a Samaritan woman, which meant they must go into the heart of Samaria.  It would be a hard pill for his Jewish disciples to swallow.  They didn’t like Samaritans very much.  It was hard for them to get along.  Hundreds of years ago the Samaritans intermarriage with Assyrians turned them into half breeds and that was something most Jews just couldn’t let go of.  They had so much to learn.  Normally when they traveled north to Galilee they would skirt around Samaria, even though it made the journey longer.  This time the trip would take them through the hated peoples terrain.  So much to learn.

Jesus was smiling as he and his band of brothers crossed the boarder into Samaria.  His followers – not so much.  It was midday when they stopped for a rest at a well outside the little town of  Sychar.  The disciples wanted to push into town and try and find something for lunch.  Jesus told them to go on without him.  “Stinkin’ Samaritans!  Probably spit in our pita bread” one disciple whispered under his breath as they headed into town.

They disappeared over a hill at about the same time that a woman from town topped the hill and made her way to the well.  She was all alone.

She looked down towards the well and was dismayed to see a man sitting there.  While most of the town’s folk went for water in the cool of the morning or evening, she preferred to go at midday.  Even though it was hotter, it was also quiet.  Peaceful.  Her noontime trips for water gave her a chance to be alone with her thoughts, away from the stares of men and disapproving frowns of women.  Oh well, she would just have to make the best of a bad situation.  Something she was used too.  At least this man wasn’t from town; he was clearly a stranger.  Getting closer she saw he was really a stranger.  She could tell by his clothes and facial characteristics that he was a Jew.  “No way!” She thought.  Jews never come around here.

Lowering her water jar into the well, she was surprised that this strange man spoke to her.  This Jew.

“Will you give me a drink?” He asked.  On the surface it seemed a simple question.  He was thirsty and she had water.  Beneath the surface it was extremely bizarre.  Most Samaritans knew that Jewish men thanked God everyday that they weren’t born gentiles, women, or dogs, and while she wasn’t a dog, she was clearly a woman, and probably considered worse than a gentile.  If he drank from her water jar, she knew he would be considered “Unclean” in polite Jewish circles, whatever “unclean” meant.

When Jesus asked the woman for a drink, he seemed to have twinkle in his eye, as if he were playing some kind of game where he had made the opening move, and now it was the woman’s turn.  She decided to play along.

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan.  How can you ask me for a drink?”  Two can play at this game, she thought.

She was taken aback at his reply.  “If you knew the gift of God and who it is asking you for water, you would ask him and he would give you living water.”

She had no idea what He was talking about, but she like the sound of “living water”.  She replied, “You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is very deep; how are you going to get this living water?”

Jesus looked into her eyes and explained to her that whoever drinks water from this well will be thirsty again.  But whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst again.  In fact the living  water I give will well up within and streams of water will gush out leading to eternal life.

Jesus has said a mouthful, overwhelming the woman’s ability to take it all in.  But the phrase, “never thirst again” caught her attention.

“Give me this water to drink so that I won’t have to come here everyday to draw water.” She replied.

Jesus decided to go deeper to help her understand what He was really talking about.  “Go get your husband and come back to me.”

Husband? Husband!  What did having a husband have to do with living water.  She thought of the five husbands she had had.  All the dreams and hopes that came with each wedding, and all the heartache and pain that came with the end of each marriage.  She had finally given up hope of finding any fulfillment in the institution and settled for just living with a man.  At least she would have a roof over her head and food in her belly.

She thought of the strange man’s request again and something began to rise in her.  A strange mix of self pity and anger.  She didn’t know what to say.  She was getting uncomfortable with this man and his words.  Hoping to brush him off she simply told him she had no husband and turned back to her water jar.

His next words struck her hard.  “You’re right.  You have no husband.  You have had five husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband.  You have certainly told the truth.”

This man was really starting to get on her nerves.  She felt shocked and ashamed.  How could he possibly know about her past.  What business was it of his?  She certainly was not going to discuss it with Him.  She hastily changed the subject and decided to discuss religion.  That should definitely get this Jewish guy going in a different direction.

“Wow, you must be some kind of a prophet or something.  I know you Jews think Jerusalem is the place to worship, but our ancestors worship at this mountain”, she said pointing off to Mount Gerizim.”

Jesus spoke gently to her saying, “Jerusalem is the correct place to worship.  Salvation comes from the Jews.  But that’s beside the point.  A time is coming, and the truth is, the time is now, that true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  God is spirit, and his people must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Again, the woman was somewhat overwhelmed by the the man’s words.  They sounded nice, and at least he didn’t bring up her husbands again.  Both the Samaritans and the Jews were looking forward to a time when the Messiah would come and make things right in the world.  That was always comforting to her.  She often imagined herself talking with the Messiah and having him resolve all the religious struggles she had within; heal the spiritual sickness she often felt. Not to mention all the personal issues she was dealing with.  She blurted out, “some day the Messiah will come and answer all our questions.

Jesus answered her saying, “I am the Messiah.”

Wouldn’t you love to know what became of the sick woman at the well?  All we know is that after Jesus proclaimed he was the Messiah, his disciples came over the hill with some food and the woman hurried off.  She forgot her water jar and went into town to tell the people of a man at the well who told her all about her life.  She also asked, “Could this be the Messiah?”

Did she believe he was the Messiah?  Did she she drink deeply of the “living water”?  Did she go on to live a life peace and joy?  Of fulfillment and wholeness?  Was she able to bury the demons of her past?  Or did she dismiss the stranger at the well as a crazy person who was just yanking her chain?  We don’t know.  I think that’s the way John wanted to end this saga of the woman at the well.  John also mentioned in his gospel account in chapter four, that many Samaritans came out to give Jesus words a listen, and that they asked this JEW to stay with them a few days, and that many believed.

Why did John write this story that the other gospel writers did not include in their books?  Why did John write any of the stories that he wrote?  He says in chapter 20 that these things were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and that by believing you might have life through his name.  What does it mean to drink the living water that Jesus offers?  It means to believe!  How about you?  Do you believe?

*****          *****          *****          *****

From time immemorial men have quenched their thirst with water without knowing anything about its chemical constituents. In like manner we do not need to be instructed in all the mysteries of doctrine, but we do need to receive the Living Water which Jesus Christ will give us and which alone can satisfy our souls.

 Sadhu Sundar Singh