September 5, 2015.
Daily Reading: John 3-4.
Background: John 1-2.
Concepts and Connections.
1. The man who came to Jesus by night: Chapter 3 of the book of John contains one of, if not the most quoted bible verse amongst Christians today, however the context of John 3:16 is often not highlighted as much as the verse is. The discussion in which Jesus says the beloved verse is one that takes place between He and a man who came to Him by night- Nicodemus. Nicodemus is mentioned two other times in scripture following this appearance, and though there is very little we are told about him, we can get a sense of the progression of his faith through these snapshots (see John 7:45-52 and John 19:38-40). In his first appearance, he comes to Jesus and tells Him that he believes that He is a rabbi sent from God because of the miracles that He has done (note the belief here). Jesus then begins a conversation with Nicodemus on what seems to be a completely different topic- salvation. Though seemingly random at first, Nicodemus’ prompt of believe is likely what warranted the discussion. Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be born again to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus doesn’t understand how a man can be physically born again. But this is not what Jesus is talking about. He is talking about being born again to a new life, burying the old life of sin and putting on Christ. Paul talks about this concept in several different places (as does Peter), one of the most blatantly in his letter to the Colossians (see Colossians 2:11-14, 3). When we are buried with Christ in baptism, we are dying to our old life of sin and being raised to a new life with Christ. We have been born again, not physically, but of the Spirit (see Acts 2:38, Titus 3:5). Our old life in which we were dead in our trespasses is now over, and we can begin anew in Christ. This promise of a new life in Christ is the gospel, for it was hinged on the fact that Christ would rise on the third day, defeating death and giving us the blessed hope that we too will rise on the last day just as He did (see I Corinthians 15). It was this promise that prompted that beloved verse: God did so love the world, so much that He would give His son to die in our place, that we might believe in Him and be born again to a new life though His power and salvation. Let us go to the Light that has come into the world, no longer walking in darkness, but walking in light that the glory of God may be clearly seen by the world.
2. John the baptizer and Jesus the Christ: After His conversation with Nicodemus, we see the words of Christ being put into action as His disciples are in the Judean countryside baptizing people. John is also baptizing near Jesus, and John’s disciples come to him a bit troubled because they see Jesus, the One who John bore witness about, baptizing and bringing many people near him. It seems they fear that Jesus is taking John’s disciples away from Him. But this is exactly what John wants. John was not the Christ, as he testified earlier, but rather the one to come before the Christ to prepare the way for Him. Once Jesus was here, it was time for John’s ministry to diminish as Jesus’ ministry grew. John then again bears witness to Jesus, as being above all and sent from God, the One who gives the Spirit without measure. John then links belief and obedience for eternal life, that the wrath of the Father would not fall on those who would accept the gospel message.
1. The woman of Samaria: Setting out for Galilee after learning that the Pharisees had heard that He was baptizing more disciples than John, Jesus and His disciples passed through Samaria. The Samaritans and the Jews had very bad relations with each other. The Jews considered themselves of a pure bloodline, as the Samaritans were a mix of Jewish and other decent, as their fathers had intermarried with the peoples who had come to inhabit the land when Israel went into captivity (see II Kings 17:24-28 and Ezra 4:2-11). They had embraced the religion of Israel, and they considered themselves to be children of Israel. For this reason, the Jews hated the Samaritans, as they did not consider them to be true children of Israel. It would have been uncustomary for a Jew to talk to a Samaritan. Even more than this, the woman that Jesus engages in conversation with here would likely have even been a less desirable person to talk to, even by her own people, because of her adulterous lifestyle. There is likely a reason that she was coming out to draw water at noonday alone instead of with the other women who came at a different time in the day.
Not abated by these qualities, Jesus struck up a conversation with the woman when His disciples went into town to buy food. When He does, she is astonished that He is actually talking to her (note the example of Jesus here). When she asks why He is talking to her, He begins to reveal who He is to her, telling her that she should be asking for living water, that she would not thirst again. She shows her devotion, or at least her knowledge, to her religion as she challenges Jesus, asking Him if He is greater than their father Jacob who dug the very well that she was drawing water from. Jesus goes on to explain the living water in a way where the woman asks Him to have this water that would lead to eternal life. Then He reveals His omniscience to her by telling her that she had had five husbands and the man she was with now was not her husband at all. Once she realizes that Jesus was a prophet, notice the first question she asks Him: who is right about worship, the Jews or the Samaritans? Jesus goes beyond the physical place of worship, telling her that the time would come, and now was, that worship would not be done based on physical laws and places, but rather in truth and spirit. The time was coming when the old covenant would be done away with in light of a new, better covenant (see Hebrews 8-9). The woman says that she knows the Messiah is coming who would teach them all things, then Jesus fully reveals Himself to her as the Christ. In a way, she became one of the first people to bear witness and proclaim the gospel to people, at least in Samaria, as she went back into her town and told the people that she just might have found the Christ. What exciting news this must have been for the people who had long awaited the coming of the Messiah. They believe in Him because of her testimony at first, and then because of their own witness of the words of Christ. Jesus stayed with the Samaritans for two days before continuing on to Galilee.
While the woman went into the town to tell the people about her encounter with Jesus, Jesus utilized this encounter to teach His disciples a lesson. When they came out and saw Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman, they wondered why He was doing such a thing, but no one asked Him. They urged Him to eat, but He said that He had food they did not know about. What they didn’t know was that He was talking about spiritual food, that was to do the work of His Father. He them tells them to look up and see that the fields are white for harvest. The disciples were not seeing the harvest that they should have seen because they had been blinded by their prejudice against the Samaritans. However, whereas salvation did come from the Jews (see Romans 3:1-2, 9:4-5), it would be offered to all (see Matthew 28:18-20).
2. Healing the official’s son: Traveling on to Galilee, an official who went to meet Him when he learned that He was going to this city. He had come to see Jesus because his son was sick, apparently to the point of death. Jesus tells the man that unless he sees wonders, he would not believe, but at the urging of the man, Jesus tells him to go and his son would live. Though the man believed in some sense of the word, we can see what Jesus meant when the man asked his servants when his son had began to recover, and it was from that point forward that he believed in Jesus, he and his family. This was the second sign that John reveals to us that Jesus did when He came from Judah to Galilee.
Tomorrow’s Reading: II Timothy 1-2.
He must increase.