The Woman (and the man, and the child) IN the Well

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, the scripture makes it plain that she was at the lowest point of her life. Jesus usually met people at their greatest time of need and in the case of the Samaritan woman, that time had come. Women in that part of the world in that time customarily went out to draw water in groups, and they did so at a certain time of day, usually late in the day when it was cool. This is confirmed in two places in scripture. Genesis 24 verse 11 – And he (Abraham’s servant Nahor) made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women (plural) go out to draw water. And in 1 Samuel 9 verse 11, we read that Saul and his servant were seeking Samuel the prophet and were met by the women (again, plural) of the city as they were coming out to draw water. It’s very unlikely that this custom had changed by Jesus’ time, so the fact that the Samaritan woman was drawing water – alone – during the hottest part of the day tells us that there was a problem in her life. As we know from the account in John’s gospel, the problem was her immoral lifestyle, which was brought out in the course of her conversation with Jesus. She may as well have been IN that well and in a spiritual sense, she was.

In that same sense, many of us have felt like we were stranded in a well or at the bottom of a deep pit at some point in our lives. And before we accepted Jesus Christ, we were just like the Samaritan woman. We may as well have been stranded at the bottom of a well. Even in our Christian walk, we sometimes experience brief moments when it feels like we’ve fallen into a well and can’t get out.

So let’s use that imagery. Imagine actually having fallen into a well or a deep pit or a cave. First of all, there a couple of things about falling into a well that you can be certain of: One, there’s nowhere to go but up. And two, if someone is kind enough to throw you a rope, it doesn’t do you much good if you don’t grab ahold of it. Spiritually speaking, the same holds true. When you hit bottom, the only way out is up. Because of His love for us, God gave us a way out. He’s the one holding the rope at the top of the well. Of course the rope in this illustration represents God’s free gift of grace. It’s there for the taking, but you have to accept it. You have to grab the rope.

If you watch any of cable channels, chances are you’ve seen a documentary or two about people who were mountain climbing or hiking in a remote area and accidentally fell into a crevice or deep pit. It’s happened. But what if those people refused to be rescued? Suppose someone threw them a rope, but they refused to believe there was someone holding the other end of the rope? We would call that unbelief. What if they believe but simply choose to ignore the truth that they’re doomed to die unless they grab the rope? That’s probably a good description of spiritual blindness. Or, what if they said they don’t need the rope because they can climb out of the crevice on their own? That would describe people who believe they can save themselves through works. What if they just decided to live out their lives at the bottom of the well and for whatever reason, they never took hold of the rope? That describes people who are lost for all eternity if they die without Christ.

If you were to witness to someone and lay all of this out they way I’ve laid it out here, they’d probably tell you that no one in their right mind would refuse to grab the rope if they fell into a well or crevice or some kind of deep pit. No one in their right mind would refuse to be rescued, they would say. And they would be right. Yet every day, people refuse to grab the rope that God has thrown to them to rescue them from whatever spiritual well or pit or crevice they’re in. They refuse to believe there’s a God at the other end of the rope. Or they acknowledge the existence of God, but they ignore the truth that anyone who rejects Jesus Christ stands condemned. “Yeah yeah, I believe God is real, but I don’t want any of that Jesus stuff.” they say. Or they think they can be saved by living a good life or by being a good person, or by doing more good things than bad things with the hope that the good will outweigh the bad.

Any reasonable person who was stranded in a crevice or a pit or at the bottom of a well would want to be saved. With that in mind, the Bible makes it very clear in very familiar passage in Romans 3 that every person, living or dead, has sinned. So spiritually speaking, everyone has fallen into a pit. Everyone is stranded at the bottom of a well, whether they realize it or not, unless they’ve grabbed the rope. The good news is, God is on the other end of that rope. He’s waiting patiently. He wants everyone to be rescued. God’s grace is there for all. As we witness to people, our challenge is to show them how real and how deep their spiritual well is, and as followers of Christ, our calling is to show them the rope!

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You Never Know who’s Listening!

Mathew chapter 8:
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.

Just how did a centurion come to have that kind of belief in Jesus Christ? The Romans were enemies of the Jews who had conquered and occupied Israel. So how did this enemy soldier come to have such great faith that, as the scripture tells us in the following verses, Jesus was amazed? Here’s one theory: You can be certain that whenever and wherever Jesus preached to large gatherings of people, Roman soldiers were nearby. It was their job to maintain order. There were probably some Roman soldiers who understood the Hebrew language, and if they didn’t speak Hebrew, they had translators. That stands to reason because it was also their job to make sure Jesus was not speaking out against Caesar or trying to incite some sort of insurrection. They needed to know what He was saying. And without a doubt, I believe some of the soldiers heard Jesus……….and came to believe in Him. Perhaps that was how the centurion at Capernaum came to believe in Jesus. Maybe he was watching over the crowds one day and as Jesus spoke, the words of our Lord God pierced his heart like a sword!

We’re not told the name of the centurion just we’re not told the name of a Canaanite woman who came to Jesus and asked Him to heal her daughter. That’s the story from Matthew 15 where Jesus answered her cries for help by telling her that He only came for the lost sheep of Israel, and that it wasn’t right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. In her reply, she demonstrated her faith and her understanding of God’s plan of redemption for Gentiles and Jews alike by saying to Jesus, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” And there again, the scripture says that Jesus was amazed by her faith.

Paul wrote in the 10th chapter of Romans, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. So I think it’s very possible and even likely, that the Canaanite woman had been a face in one of the crowds of people that Jesus preached to, just like it’s possible that the centurion had, at some point, heard Jesus speak in person.

But it’s also possible that the centurion and the Canaanite woman came to believe after hearing about Jesus from one of His followers. They may have never seen Jesus in person prior to their encounters with Him. They may have become believers after overhearing someone talk about Jesus and of all the things He taught and all the miracles He had performed. But whether they were among the crowds of people listening to Jesus, or whether they just happened to overhear someone sharing the gospel, it doesn’t matter. Either way, they heard Jesus Christ preached……and believed!

Only God knows the names of those two. So here’s something to consider. When we share our faith with someone, we never know who might be listening. Remember, I said it’s possible they came to faith because someone told them about Jesus, and it’s also possible they came to believe after overhearing a conversation about Jesus.

So how does this apply to us? Suppose you’ve decided that this is the day you’re going to share your faith with a friend, or a neighbor, or a co-worker. You invite them to go have coffee with you. You tell that person what it means to be a follower of Christ. You tell your story. You share the love of Christ. Maybe your friend responds, and maybe not. But here’s something to think about, that friend of yours may not be the only one who’s listening. There may be someone sitting two tables over from you surfing the web on a laptop or looking down at a smartphone who heard every word you said. And a week later, a month later, a year later, God uses the words you spoke to your friend to bring that other person, some anonymous person you don’t even know, to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

We just never know how God is going work these things out. We should never be too embarrassed or too bashful or too ashamed or too afraid of what someone might think……to share the gospel. In the Bible, Christ was proclaimed publicly, and He was professed publicly. We need to do the same. You never know who’s listening, and the words you speak when you talk about Jesus Christ to a neighbor or a friend or co-worker may the words someone needs to hear!

Permanent Blood

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the playground across the street from our house with my six year old granddaughter. As all kids do, she stumbled and skinned her knee. It bled a little, not much, but it was enough to be noticeable. But to her, it was as though she had broken her leg, so I put her on my back to carry her home so we could get her doctored up.

She was riding piggyback, but she was holding her knee out and away from my body, and it was throwing me off balance. When I asked her why she was doing that, she said she didn’t want to get any blood on my shirt.

“It’s okay.” I told her, “It will wash out.”

“No it won’t.” she said, “I have permanent blood!”

I laughed so hard I had to stop for a moment. Whenever we let her draw pictures with colored Sharpies or Magic Markers, we always tell her to be careful not to get any ink on her clothes because it will not wash out. They’re permanent markers we tell her. So that’s how she made the connection.

But as I began to think about what she had said…..permanent blood……it dawned on me that through the mind’s eye of a six year old child, God had given me a very apt yet very simple description of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Permanent blood. One of the central themes of the book of Hebrews is the “once and for all” atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. There is permanency in Jesus’ shed blood in that His sacrifice is sufficient payment for all sins, past, present, and future and never needs to be repeated, unlike the sacrificial system under the old covenant by which animals had to be sacrificed time and again. In Hebrews 9 the Bible assures us of this permanency in verses 11 and 12 where we’re told: But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Either because they’re uncertain, or confused, or just immature in their faith, there are certain Christians today who feel like they must keep confessing the same sins over and over and over. Let’s make this perfectly clear. When a person has been convicted by the Holy Spirit and confesses his or her sins to God, there is no need to keep bringing them up again. This is true for new believers who have accepted the gift of God’s grace for the very first time, and it’s true for Christians who have stumbled. To be sure, we must take ownership of our sins and confess them to God with a sincere heart, but we do not have to confess those same sins again and again as though God didn’t hear us the first time. We’ve been cleansed. Our sins are wiped clean. Permanent blood equals eternal redemption.

In that same chapter of Hebrews, the Bible tells us: When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Jesus lived the perfect life that none of us could live. That’s Sunday school 101. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded from time to time that His perfect life made Him the perfect sacrifice (that is to say, our substitutionary sacrifice) so that his blood only needed to be offered once. Permanent blood. I can think of no better way to describe the blood of Jesus Christ!