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Jesus Evangelizes a Sinful Woman: Reprint

I’ve come to feel that the “woman at the well” has received a bad rap. Truthfully, I envy her and would like to be more like her. I mean, she had one on one with Jesus out in the middle of the desert; he revealed to her point blank that he was Messiah; she received him into her heart without struggle; and she instantly went out and testified to all the men in her own town, bearing much, much fruit, even a hundred fold (John 4:30, 35, 39-42). She really exemplifies Romans 8:28—in the end, everything in her life worked together not only for her own good but for the good of many others, because she loved God and was called by him according to his purpose.

Sadly, at times, I feel more like a female Pharisee than the woman at the well—judgmental, argumentative, way off base— while the woman at the well was sincere in her joy, generous with her treasure, sharing her love for Messiah with everyone. Or, sometimes I feel like a female Nicodemus, of the Sanhedrin—an expert in the law, the “teacher of Israel,” who came to Jesus by night, sneakily, in fear of being spotted and condemned by one of his own crowd, outed. And he never quite got it. At least not in those moments when he had that awesome opportunity to interview Jesus one on one and speak to him without the jostling crowds competing for his attention.

Photo by Thea Hoyer on Unsplash

So often in sermons and teachings, I hear the woman at the well being brushed off as a sinner, as though that were her one defining characteristic (1, 2). What ever happened to Romans 3:23 and 3:10? And when she learns that Jesus is a prophet and asks him a prophet’s question, we hear from some of the pundits that she is using an evasive tactic to divert attention away from her sin. Excuse me? We’ve already passed that part. Jesus scored. Can’t a woman whose sin falls into the category of sexual also have an intellect and a genuine interest in the big questions of Samaritan life—this mountain, that mountain, what is truth? She did better than Pilate on that one—she recognized Jesus for who he is. Or, do many commentators, especially those of an older generation, scorn her, finally, because she is a woman, period? Jesus, after all, was a ground breaker.

Yet, this story is mainly about Jesus, rather than the woman. We see him as a passionate evangelist. He really cared about people, all people, even people whom church ushers place near the back. You see, that is prejudice. Jesus sat this woman in the front row, directly, never in the back. This spot was reserved for her from all eternity past. He loved her, capital agape. He loved everything about her. We are wholes, not conglomerates of fractions. When we love someone, we must love all of them, because that’s who we are. The arm is not separable from the toe. He loved her as she was, and he loved what he knew she would become in him. He loved that she responded to his love by loving him in return. And he loved her town and all the people in it. I truly don’t think I would have done as well as the woman at the well. She, like Jesus, was a passionate evangelist who loved people.

Think: Jesus revealed himself to this woman more fully, more directly, and more quickly than to possibly anyone else in the Gospel narratives. What is God trying to tell us in this portion of Scripture? I can think of a few things—

  1. Jesus Christ, Messiah, God’s precious Son who reveals the heart of God to humans and who always does what God tells him to do, loves women.
  2. Jesus Christ loves sinful women.
  3. Jesus Christ, very God of very God, reveals himself gladly and directly to sinful women.
  4. Jesus Christ can use a sinful woman who believes in him to greatly advance his kingdom.
  5. Jesus Christ has no favorites.

____________

1. “Consequently by all expectations, she is not a woman worthy of attention from the Son of God.  She is not a woman who is elevated. This is condescension.”
https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-20/messiah-the-living-water-part-1. MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Messiah: The Living Water, Part 1, John 4:1-15.” Grace to You, April 21, 2013. Accessed January 25, 2018.
“So when He speaks to this Samaritan woman, it is a shocking condescension. It is an unexpected condescension.”
https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-21/messiah-the-living-water-part-2. MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Messiah: The Living Water, Part 2, John 4:16-26.” Grace to You, April 28, 2013. Accessed January 25, 2018.
My comment on the above: It might be a “shocking condescension” for a person who judges by externals and sees himself as actually being quite above a person such as the woman at the well. But what if Jesus Christ, as revealed in his having become human, is in fact as humble in character as both his birth and death indicate he is? Was he posing when he chose poor, uneducated people to be his earthly parents? Was all that about being born in a stable and laid in a feed trough for animals a charade? I posit that Jesus humbled himself in “shocking condescension” by becoming human in the first place. From his great height next to God the Father, the difference between Nicodemus, the well-respected Jewish male rabbi, and the woman at the well does not even exist. To us who are proud in heart by nature, Jesus perhaps “shockingly condescended” to the woman, but more likely, for him, he did not view his sister that way at all.
2. Contra the above and in defense of the woman’s perceived immorality, see Reeder, Caryn. “In Focus: Revisiting the Woman at the Well.” Intervarsity, Graduate Women in the Academy and Professions, May 27, 2014. http://thewell.intervarsity.org/in-focus/revisiting-woman-well. Accessed January 25, 2018.

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Hebrew Couplet in John 3 and 4: Jesus Evangelizes a Rabbi Section 2

John the Gospel writer wrote chapters 3 and 4 like a poetic couplet written in Hebrew. We miss a great deal of meaning if we read about Nicodemus without considering the woman at the well, and we miss a great deal of meaning if we read about the woman at the well without considering Nicodemus. Each of these narratives is like one line of a single couplet of Hebrew poetry.

This Blog Has Two Sections 
  1. Woman at the Well–Shorter, fewer details, general comments: Link
  2. Nicodemus–Longer, more details, specific comparisons

 

Hebrew poetry of the Old Testament, especially in Psalms, features couplets. A Hebrew couplet consists of two lines of poetry that are independent, yet connected. The second line commonly repeats the first line by using a slightly different image, by adding a detail or example, by extending the meaning of the first line, or by particularizing the first line in some way. Examples abound.

1. Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD,

your salvation according to your promise; (Psalm 119:41)

2. How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

3. My God in his steadfast love will meet me;

God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. (Psalm 59:10)

John 3:16 itself is like two couplets of Hebrew poetry:

1. For this is the way God loved the world:

He gave his one and only Son,

2. so that everyone who believes in him will not perish

but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NET)

In John 3:16 above, Jesus says that God gives “everyone” who believes in the Son eternal life. To illustrate this statement, John gives two examples of “everyone”: first, Nicodemus in John 3, and then the woman at the well in John 4. These are two very different people, yet identical. While the differences are external, the points of identification are essential. The two taken together form a continuum of humanity with Nicodemus at one extreme and the woman at the well at the other. The two examples together are like a Hebrew couplet of poetry that illustrate the couplets in John 3:16 above:

Nicodemus is part of the world; this is the way God (in Jesus) loves him.

The woman at the well is part of the world; this is the way God (in Jesus) loves her.

Differences between the two:

Nicodemus–a man, Jewish, a rabbi, well known, well-respected, educated, a teacher, close follower of the law.

Woman at the well–a woman, a Samaritan (pagan), anonymous, not respected, not educated, an adulteress.

Identification of the two:

Nicodemus–unable to enter God’s kingdom without the Spirit of Life (Christ).

Woman at the well–unable to enter God’s kingdom without the Water of Life (Christ).

Identification:

Nicodemus–welcomed by Christ.

Woman at the Well–welcomed by Christ.

Differences:

Nicodemus–slow to believe and receive.

Woman at the well–quick to believe, to receive, and to go share with others.

We can see the relationship between the two chapters if we align the verses in a table format:

John 3

 

John 4

2 “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God,”

 

19 “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

3 Jesus answered … “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

23 …true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh,

and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

 

24 God is spirit,

and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Progress towards Faith Breaks Down

 

Progress towards Faith Continues

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

 

25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

 

 

 

10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel

and yet you do not understand these things?

 

26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

 

 

 

 

 

28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people,

29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”

     

John the Gospel writer devotes great detail to demonstrate his point about Jesus’ teaching concerning the Kingdom of God. We can summarize Jesus’ teaching like this:

In order to enter the Kingdom of God…

1. No one is so rich that Jesus is not necessary (Nicodemus);

No one is so poor that Jesus is not sufficient (the woman at the well).

2. Jesus is necessary for everyone to enter the Kingdom of God;

Jesus is sufficient for everyone to enter the Kingdom of God.

3. Jesus is necessary and sufficient for all to enter the Kingdom of God.

John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (NET)

The Gospel of John shows us that everyone who is born again receives the Spirit of God. Everyone who believes in Christ God’s Son receives the Spirit of God. God is a living God who speaks with everyone who receives his Spirit. The Spirit of God is Christ, God’s Son. If you believe, then God gives his Spirit to you, and God’s Spirit will talk with you.

This is what Jesus accomplished on the cross. The cross of Christ wiped out the sin that separates all humankind from Holy God. With sin gone and Christ in its place, there is no longer need for Holy God to maintain his distance from human hearts. Every believer in Jesus Christ God’s Son reunites with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

This is why Scripture is alive to all who believe. This is why as you faithfully and persistently read the Psalms, you will begin to hear God speaking to your heart through them. You will begin to hear the prayers of Christ within the Psalms as the Holy Spirit interprets them to your heart.

All humankind is somewhere on the continuum between Nicodemus and the woman at the well. Everyone needs Christ. Jesus God’s Son makes himself available to all.

 

 

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Link to prior post in this series

Link to Contents for this series

 

Outline of Psalms Revisited

I. Introduction

A. Overview: A Second Go Round

B. Expect God to Speak to You—Yes, You!

1. Pursue Your Hunger

2. God Is Willing to Talk to You

3. Jesus Evangelizes a Sinful Woman: Section I

4. Jesus Evangelizes a Rabbi: Section II

5. The Holy Spirit in the Reader

 

 

Jesus Evangelizes a Sinful Woman: Section I

Two Sections
  1. Shorter, fewer details, general comments
  2. Longer, more details, specific comparisons with Nicodemus

I’ve come to feel that the “woman at the well” has received a bad rap. Truthfully, I envy her and would like to be more like her. I mean, she had one on one with Jesus out in the middle of the desert; he revealed to her point blank that he was Messiah; she received him into her heart without struggle; and she instantly went out and testified to all the men in her own town, bearing much, much fruit, even a hundred fold (John 4:30, 35, 39-42). She really exemplifies Romans 8:28—in the end, everything in her life worked together not only for her own good but for the good of many others, because she loved God and was called by him according to his purpose.

Sadly, at times, I feel more like a female Pharisee than the woman at the well—judgmental, argumentative, way off base— while the woman at the well was sincere in her joy, generous with her treasure, sharing her love for Messiah with everyone. Or, sometimes I feel like a female Nicodemus, of the Sanhedrin—an expert in the law, the “teacher of Israel,” who came to Jesus by night, sneakily, in fear of being spotted and condemned by one of his own crowd, outed. And he never quite got it. At least not in those moments when he had that awesome opportunity to interview Jesus one on one and speak to him without the jostling crowds competing for his attention.

Photo by Thea Hoyer on Unsplash

So often in sermons and teachings, I hear the woman at the well being brushed off as a sinner, as though that were her one defining characteristic (1, 2). What ever happened to Romans 3:23 and 3:10? And when she learns that Jesus is a prophet and asks him a prophet’s question, we hear from some of the pundits that she is using an evasive tactic to divert attention away from her sin. Excuse me? We’ve already passed that part. Jesus scored. Can’t a woman whose sin falls into the category of sexual also have an intellect and a genuine interest in the big questions of Samaritan life—this mountain, that mountain, what is truth? She did better than Pilate on that one—she recognized Jesus for who he is. Or, do many commentators, especially those of an older generation, scorn her, finally, because she is a woman, period? Jesus, after all, was a ground breaker.

Yet, this story is mainly about Jesus, rather than the woman. We see him as a passionate evangelist. He really cared about people, all people, even people whom church ushers place near the back. You see, that is prejudice. Jesus sat this woman in the front row, directly, never in the back. This spot was reserved for her from all eternity past. He loved her, capital agape. He loved everything about her. We are wholes, not conglomerates of fractions. When we love someone, we must love all of them, because that’s who we are. The arm is not separable from the toe. He loved her as she was, and he loved what he knew she would become in him. He loved that she responded to his love by loving him in return. And he loved her town and all the people in it. I truly don’t think I would have done as well as the woman at the well. She, like Jesus, was a passionate evangelist who loved people.

Think: Jesus revealed himself to this woman more fully, more directly, and more quickly than to possibly anyone else in the Gospel narratives. What is God trying to tell us in this portion of Scripture? I can think of a few things—

  1. Jesus Christ, Messiah, God’s precious Son who reveals the heart of God to humans and who always does what God tells him to do, loves women.
  2. Jesus Christ loves sinful women.
  3. Jesus Christ, very God of very God, reveals himself gladly and directly to sinful women.
  4. Jesus Christ can use a sinful woman who believes in him to greatly advance his kingdom.
  5. Jesus Christ has no favorites.

This last point will be developed in Section II.

____________

1. “Consequently by all expectations, she is not a woman worthy of attention from the Son of God.  She is not a woman who is elevated. This is condescension.”
https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-20/messiah-the-living-water-part-1. MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Messiah: The Living Water, Part 1, John 4:1-15.” Grace to You, April 21, 2013. Accessed January 25, 2018.
“So when He speaks to this Samaritan woman, it is a shocking condescension. It is an unexpected condescension.”
https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-21/messiah-the-living-water-part-2. MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Messiah: The Living Water, Part 2, John 4:16-26.” Grace to You, April 28, 2013. Accessed January 25, 2018.
My comment on the above: It might be a “shocking condescension” for a person who judges by externals and sees himself as actually being quite above a person such as the woman at the well. But what if Jesus Christ, as revealed in his having become human, is in fact as humble in character as both his birth and death indicate he is? Was he posing when he chose poor, uneducated people to be his earthly parents? Was all that about being born in a stable and laid in a feed trough for animals a charade? I posit that Jesus humbled himself in “shocking condescension” by becoming human in the first place. From his great height next to God the Father, the difference between Nicodemus, the well-respected Jewish male rabbi, and the woman at the well does not even exist. To us who are proud in heart by nature, Jesus perhaps “shockingly condescended” to the woman, but more likely, for him, he did not view his sister that way at all.
2. Contra the above and in defense of the woman’s perceived immorality, see Reeder, Caryn. “In Focus: Revisiting the Woman at the Well.” Intervarsity, Graduate Women in the Academy and Professions, May 27, 2014. http://thewell.intervarsity.org/in-focus/revisiting-woman-well. Accessed January 25, 2018.

 

Link to next post in this series

Link to prior post in this series

Link to Contents for this series

 

Outline of Psalms Revisited

I. Introduction

A. Overview: A Second Go Round

B. Expect God to Speak to You—Yes, You!

1. Pursue Your Hunger

2. God Is Willing to Talk to You

3. Jesus Evangelizes a Sinful Woman: Section I

New Birth–Its Necessity and Its Joy

Week 4

The New Birth–Necessary and Desirable: John 3:1-21 and John 4:1-42

First, let’s read the text, especially John 3:1-15  (New Birth Necessary) and John 4:1-30 (New Birth Desirable).

What is the New Birth?

“It is very clear, therefore, that there is an act of God which precedes any act of man. In its initial stage the process of changing a person into a child of God precedes conversion and faith.” (Hendriksen, Vol. 1, 133)

Being “born again” or “born from above” is an action of God that connects the person spiritually with God; communication with God is restored through the depositing by God of his own Holy Spirit into the person. Being born from above is God’s action of REGENERATION upon a dead soul (the Bible precedes “Dr Who” by 2,000 years). It’s God’s work of bringing an enemy of God (all human beings since the fall of humankind–see Genesis 3 and Romans 5:10) into the very family of God as children.

ESV John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

NIV  Galatians 3:26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith

ESV  Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

NIV  Romans 8:14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

ESV  Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Hosea 1:10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

2 Corinthians 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

1 Peter 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Why is the New Birth Necessary? Jesus explains to Nicodemus 

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [ἄνωθεν, an-o-then, 1-from above, 2-again] he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

ESV  Romans 8:9 … Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. [AND]Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Why is the New Birth Desirable? Jesus explains to the Woman at the Well  woman-well

John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

2 Samuel 14:14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

How do we get the New Birth? We must only ASK for it.

John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 

John 4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Isaiah 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

The new birth (the water of life) is FREE; it is for EVERYONE who asks.

God will cleanse us to make our water vessels clean.

Nicodemus and the woman at the well both discovered that they were incapable of being born from above and receiving the water of life on their own. They didn’t have the capacity to effect their own new birth; unlike the mythical Dr Who, they were not able to perform their own regeneration. Such a miracle of life must come from above; it must proceed from God alone. God created at the first, speaking life out of nothing. He alone can speak new life into a dead sinner’s heart.

Jesus explained to Nicodemus in very few words the entire theology of the Old Testament, made clear in the picture of the brass serpent that Moses lifted up high on a pole to heal all those who had been fatally bitten by a venomous serpent. (Numbers 21) The poisonous snake, in the picture God chose to use, represents sin. Looking at a brass serpent lifted up on a pole effected physical healing. Looking at Christ (with the look of faith) lifted up on the cross brings spiritual healing–cleansing–to a soul poisoned by the fatally venomous bite of sin.

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–

Nicodemus needed to be cleansed of the sin of unbelief. (Exodus 20:3-7)

John 3:11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

Nicodemus did not confess his sin of unbelief, and the account in John 3, he did not receive salvation–cleansing and new birth–the water and the Spirit.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

The woman at the well needed to be cleansed of her sin of immorality.

John 4:17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

She did confess her sin (see just above, vss 17 and 19). John 4 recounts her joyful salvation and her sudden trip back to the village to tell all her neighbors the good news of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ paid the price for our cleansing, so that the water of life would be FREE for all of us.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

Outline of John up to this point Outline

You might be interested to read more at this link from Billy Graham’s website: How to be Born Again

 

 

 

 

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