Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

What happened in Samaria, doesn’t stay there.

March 19, 2017


Sometimes it is good to spend some time with familiar stories.

John 4:1-42 is the well known story of Jesus and the Woman of Samaria, or the Woman at the Well.  It’s a big story and there are many things to think about when we read it. The writer of John pays a lot of attention to this story. At 42 verses it is one of the longer stories in the Gospel of John. I think it has some things to say about women and how Jesus interacted with them.

  • Jesus talks to her, by himself. Apparently Jesus doesn’t have a problem with a man talking with a woman without someone else around.
  • Jesus also doesn’t have a problem treating her like a person of equal worth.
  • Jesus knows she has been married several times and now lives with a man. And he seems not to care about her marital status or her sex life. His mentioning of her previous husbands and current partner are a statement of reality, and in no way can be read as condemnation or judgement, or as approval. Her marital status and sex life have nothing to do with her encounter with Jesus.
  • After her encounter with Jesus the woman testifies, preaches, evangelizes- call it what you like- to women and to men. And they listen to her and follow her to Jesus. No man other than Jesus “allows” her to do this. Her calling is clear to her and to the others in her village who listen and respond.

This story also has some things to teach us about how we should interact with those who have different theological view.

  • Again, Jesus is respectful, he doesn’t belittle her views. There are no condescending comments about Samaritans.
  • He isn’t distracted by her “lifestyle”or her Samaritan ways.
  • Jesus doesn’t hide who he is or pretend he isn’t engaged in a serious conversation with someone of a different tradition. He doesn’t paper over legitimate differences.

Most interestingly to me, Jesus says that both the Jews and the Samaritans have gotten some of this religion stuff wrong. Neither group completely “owns” the truth. The truth is not ownable.

20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you[c] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Spending time with familiar stories helps us remember what we ought to do. Because mostly, I need the reminder.  I need to remember what Jesus taught and how Jesus acted.

Jesus is sometimes not as direct and clear as we might like. It would be much easier, in some ways, if Jesus had simply given us a series of rules and guidelines.

Women this…

Men that….

People with different theological positions…..

But he doesn’t. I used to find this quite annoying. I really wanted rules and some clarity about how to live. Jesus’s way is more subtle and more flexible. It is attentive to the particular situation one is in. It is attentive to whom one is speaking with. Jesus’s way requires us to think about what we are doing and why. Jesus’ way requires us to think about who we are speaking with. Jesus’s way requires us to constantly ask the Spirit for guidance.

The people Jesus encountered knew Jesus by what he said and by what he did.  And it is the same for us. We know Jesus’s will by what he says and by what he does.

The same is true about us. People know who we are by what we say and more importantly by what we do.



Isaiah and Jesus: Mighty God

December 31, 2016

For a child has been born for us,

a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

and he is named

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NRSV

To think of Jesus as “Mighty God” may not be difficult for us as Christians who affirm the Trinitarian nature of God. Because the “Son” is the second person of the Trinity, we can think and speak of Jesus as part of the Trinue God.One blog post can’t possibly cover the pertinent church history, however simply put the church wrestled with question of who Jesus is for a very long time. Our understanding of Jesus as truly human and truly divine, as well as our understanding of the Trinity is the result of much thought and prayer by the early church. But things were not as simple for the first believers. (I’m not saying that understanding the Trinity is simple, but it does give us a way to make sense of the relationship between Jesus and the Father.)

In ancient times, when Isaiah was writing, kings were often believed to be a god. And if not a god, the son of a god. And if not that, someone who ruled because god placed the ruler in power. Rulers; kings, pharaohs, emperors; ruled on behalf of the gods and were believed to embody at least some of the god’s attributes and powers. If the people were polytheists, as most of the ancient world was, thinking of the ruler as another god was not a theological problem.

But the Jewish tradition was different. They were always very clear that their ruler was not God. There is only one God. So how can Isaiah and Israel speak of the coming king as mighty God? There is more than one possibility.

The phrase that is translated as “Mighty God” can also be translated as “mighty hero” or “divine hero”. These four titles may also have been understood to be describing the God who placed the ruler- God’s representative- on the throne. The Bible is full of examples where someone’s name was a phrase about God. For example; Elijah- YHWH is my God. Isaiah-YHWH saves.

What about the early church? To speak of Jesus as God presented a problem. No one should be called God, but the one true God. When Jesus closely identifies himself with God (The Father and I are one,   John 10:22-39) it is considered blasphemy.

Nevertheless, the New Testament does describe Jesus as one who does divine, God like things. In ancient literature, what one did was a statement about who one was. When the early Christians talked about Jesus as one who cast out demons, as one who nature obeyed, as one who forgave sin, as one who healed, and so on; they were ascribing and describing divine actions to Jesus. Jesus showed the mighty power of God and that revealed  who Jesus was.

The question for us to reflect on is, what does Jesus’ actions tell us about mighty God? And then how do we as modern disciple continue to reflect and reveal the power of God?

My reflections this Advent and Christmas are based on Walter Brueggemann’s book Names for the Messiah: An Advent Study Guide.  

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