Before we get continuing on with our walk through the Gospels again today, I have some notes to pass along:
First, the whole purpose here is to explore: If we rip off the blinders and gauze and mud "churches" and religious traditions have taught us to see Jesus and ourselves through – just who the heck is Jesus, and why is knowing the real Him so important (and liberating, and comforting, and refreshing) to our lives?
Second, I have been and will continue to go through the Gospels chronologically, so that's why you see clumpings of scriptures from all four texts as we go.
And third, do read the scriptures referenced each time, or you're not going to "get" what you're after here (which is God's Word, and not just my words about God's Word). I never reference more than a short bit at a time, and I give a link to an online bible you can easily change to whatever translation you'd like to read it in.
[Today's scriptures are here]
Ok – on to it...
Last week we looked at how Jesus interacted with some of the people around Him. This week, let's continue that but also look at some of how others viewed Jesus, and how Jesus saw Himself.
When the disciples returned from getting food, they found Jesus actually talking (and normally, respectfully, with personal interest) with a woman despised by Good Religious People and pagans alike (heck, even her own people rejected her, which we can know because she came to the well alone in the heat of the day, and not in the cool of the day with the other women). We can only guess at the life choices and/or misfortunes that left the "Woman at the Well" outside of "proper society", what with her past five husbands and current "living in sin" (unmarried). Perhaps she or her family just choose real losers for her? Or perhaps something in her personality (like not liking being treated like dirt, which is what women of the time were trained to accept without question, or even just being hard to live with herself, or...?) caused her to end up in a merry-go-round of relationships. In any case, we'd have to think in our modern day of the revulsion most people would have for a down-and-out prostitute, to get any sense of how the disciples and others of her day would have felt about this woman. Then add her religious and racial background on top of that, and it's pretty safe to say "amazement" (or "surprise", etc) was an understatement to what the disciples thought finding Jesus not only standing there talking to her, but also with the same dignity and open care that He gave to "good" and "normal" people like themselves.
No matter who people think you are, or how others judge or categorize you, Jesus has always and will always approach you as if you were the "cream of the crop". Despite what human religion has most often taught, Jesus will always recognize you do indeed have brains and can and should use them, and He'll always want that interactive relationship that can only exist between those who care for and respect each other. How does that change or affect how you should or do see yourself and the relationship you can and should have with Jesus?
The "Woman at the Well" was truly the first Gospel evangelist. Having been blessed with an opportunity to speak face to face with God Himself and see His plan at work in the world, she couldn't wait to share the Good News. The result? Many others of her people heard about Jesus, learned the truth of who He is (and therefore learned past the human religious ideas about "Messiah" they'd been taught before), and came to trust in Him. Then their experience with Jesus became their own, and no longer just through what the woman had to share with them. Their salvation truly became real.
Nearly all "Christians" today and in centuries past have believed they have a true relationship with Jesus, when actually all they have is the word of other human beings about Jesus. They pray to Him, do good works for Him, and even tell others about Him – but they still only know Him through their human "intermediaries" otherwise known as pastors, priests, popes, denominations, traditions, seminaries, theologies, and more.
Where is your relationship with Jesus only second-hand – and therefore second-rate? Where do you need to grow beyond trusting in God through your trust in other human beings?
Jesus told people to repent – but there are a good number of "Christians" today who announce that God accepts us without change. Is that true? No!
Now, it is true that our nature and personality are ours, gifts from God – but we must hone and mature them out of the narcissism of spiritual childhood to do right by Jesus. We must also turn away or repent from those parts of ourselves that are not properly part of who we are, that are simply choices we make to satisfy our weaknesses and lusts. Choices we make to use/abuse chemical substances (from marijuana to prescription drugs), and habits of thinking (from religion to politics), and so on – all work to hedge or turn off some part of our full engagement with God's reality, and our full awareness of God's plan at work in the world.
When Jesus talked about repenting, He meant to turn back from our own ways of being for this world and turn towards God's way of being to this world. Repenting is NOT about seeing ourselves as pieces of garbage, but about no longer choosing garbage for our hearts, for our lives.
The Bible says that those who were previously living in spiritual darkness back then got to see a great light that shown on those living under the shadow of death. Where is the spiritual darkness still in your life? What is the threat of death in your life? What does it mean to your life that God has gone to so much trouble to make sure you have a Jesus-lighted way out of both those things?
When God's handing out "stuff" we want or appreciate, we're usually liking Him, aren't we? Jesus did all sorts of miracles back then, and the Good Religious People were by and large impressed. He was doing the kinds of things God had used to prove Himself to their ancestors, and look – here they were going to get in on the goodies, as well! Cool!
But then some Good Religious People started to reject Jesus. What happened? Well, first He let them know that He wasn't just some new human prophet come to entertain them with tricks, tell them to clean up their acts, but then not really change a darn thing. He let them know that God Himself was sitting there among them now, having placed Himself into the world specifically to turn it upside and make it once again about great stuff for the poor, imprisoned, disabled, and oppressed.
Now, first the Good Religious People hearing Him thought that was pretty keen, didn't they? But the second thing Jesus did was the worst thing you can do to a Good Religious Person: He cut right through their religious bull.
Jesus already knew these Good Religious People would reject Him – and indeed, since they were living lives about "Good Religion" and not about God, they had already rejected Him. So He told them that just like years before (in Old Testament) when God had done great stuff for people that Good Religious People rejected and looked down on – but wouldn't do the same great stuff for the Good Religious People – in the same way He was going to do great Jesus-stuff for the people Good Religious People still reject and look down on, but still wasn't going to do a dang thing for Good Religious People.
What was the result? Did the Good Religious People feel guilty about their jerkdom and pledge to do better? Did they feel horrorstricken, finding out that despite all their previous good feelings about how "godly" they were that actually they'd done/believed nothing of any real value to or with any real respect to God?
Nope. They tried to kill Him (and this was only the first time).
Where are you in this story? Are you among the poor, the imprisoned, the disabled, or the oppressed that Jesus is promising great things to and for – only perhaps since you've only been listening to Good Religious People before you didn't understand what He really does mean TO and FOR YOU?
Or perhaps you're among the Good Religious People today who do all the "godly" things but are still so far from God He'd have to be God to even know your name? Keep in mind that God doesn't reject Good Religious People. Rather, again and again and again they reject Him by keeping evil and sludge in their hearts while waving around their religious doo-dads. But God's not going to force you to be true. The Bible says He WILL let you walk your religious parade all the way to hell if you think that's better for your life. So, do better - repent / turn around!
Or perhaps today you're both an oppressed person, and a Good Religious Person, needing to process the lessons God means for both?
One thing that remained true for Jesus throughout His time on earth 2,000 years ago: when people listened to Him, they recognized that He had wisdom and presence like no human being had ever had. They recognized that there was something sorely missing from their human religious teachers and guides that Jesus had in abundance. Those who would hear Him were drawn to Jesus like people who'd been stuck in the desert for years, tired of sucking on pebbles and pretending their own spit is good water, and then one day finally finding an unending cool, clear, clean stream of real water.
What have you missed in your life by relying only on what other religious human beings could teach you about Jesus? What does Jesus offer to your life, today?
This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.