The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
March 25, 2017
“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 4:14, ESV).
The account of Jesus asking the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well for a drink of water is very familiar to us all, so I won’t repeat it here (See John 4:1-42). I want to look at the cultural and spiritual aspects. The woman was surprised that a Jew would ask her for a drink because a) she was a despised Samaritan and b) she was a woman, two facts which would have caused her to assume Jesus would not even acknowledge her, let alone ask her for a drink. It had been awhile since I reviewed the troubled relationship between Jews and Samaritans, so I researched it again.
You will remember that God had promised David that his sons would reign over Israel forever, provided, of course, that they continued to serve the living God, who was Himself supposed to be their King. They had insisted that Samuel choose them a king like all their neighbors had, and though he warned them of what that would mean for them, they persisted in their request. God authorized Samuel to anoint Saul as king. Putting a man in the place of God is never a sound plan, and neither is bowing to popular demand, rather than to the Word of the Lord.
God removed Saul from the throne and put David there. David was a man after God’s own heart, which is really surprising since David was far from a perfect person. He committed murder so he could have Uriah’s wife Bathsheba; he was a terrible father who didn’t discipline his disobedient sons. However, God looks at more than appearance or behavior, but rather at the heart, and clearly, David had the kind of heart God was looking for. He sent the prophet Nathan to declare to David, “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom….Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (II Samuel 7:12,16, NIV).
David’s first son by Bathsheba died shortly after birth, a punishment for their transgression. Solomon, their second son, was born and became king when David died. God gave Solomon the choice of riches or wisdom and Solomon chose wisdom. That pleased God, who made him the richest man on earth. All that glitters is not gold, however, and Solomon’s wisdom did not extend to the wives he married. The Lord had told the Israelite men not to marry foreign women because they would turn their hearts after their gods. Sure enough, Solomon “had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray” (I Kings 11:1-6). (I marvel at his stamina.) Because of his turn to the dark side. God told him He would rip the kingdom from his hands and give it to another, leaving his heir only one tribe for the sake of David (I Kings 11:12-13).
After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam ruled in his stead, but he was so harsh that all but those living in the towns of Judah, rebelled, refusing to follow him. The rebel ten tribes appointed Jeroboam to be their king. He ruled over the 10 tribes known as the Northern Kingdom of Israel. These were the people who were later hauled off into captivity by the Assyrians, a punishment for their violation of the bilateral Covenant God made with them at Sinai.
The King of Assyria brought foreign peoples into Israel to replace the ones he had taken (See II Kings 17:24-40). These pagans continued to worship their own idols and further corrupted the Israelites with whom they intermarried in the Northern kingdom: “These people of mixed ancestry eventually came to be known as Samaritans. In later times the Samaritans rejected the idolatry of their polytheistic origins and followed the teachings of Moses, including monotheism. In NT times Jesus testified to a Samaritan woman and many Samaritans were converted under the ministry of Philip (Acts 8:4-25).” (Study note on II Kings 17:29).
In Jesus’ day, the Samaritans were not pagans exactly, but the Jews considered themselves morally, intellectually, and spiritually superior to them and refused all personal interaction with them. Thus, the woman at the well was surprised that Jesus spoke to her and asked her for a drink.
Jesus’ lack of prejudice, and inclusion of a member of a despised race into the fellowship of God is another reason why I have come to think of Him as a “flaming liberal” in His day. Yes, of course, I know that today, conservatives claim the moral high ground, and discount most liberals as beneath contempt, inferior, and sadly lacking on almost every front.
Nevertheless, Jesus came to comfort the comfortless and discomfort the comfortable. He railed against the prevailing religious and political ideas in two ways. First, He raised the bar on morality, because the Pharisees, had “strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel” (Matthew 23:24) in terms of keeping the law, so much so, that Jesus denounced them soundly on many occasions.
When they blasted Jesus for not ceremonially washing His hands before eating, He replied, “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor and everything will be clean for you….Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the market places. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it” (Luke 11:39-41; 43-44, NIV). His insulting remark was very politically incorrect and also daring on the face of it.
I didn’t recall the reference to “unmarked graves.” It’s a companion verse to Matthew 23:27, in which Jesus called them “Whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones.” The reason both those references to tombs and graves are so damning is that under the law, “A person who stepped on a grave became ceremonially unclean (see Numbers 19:16), so graves were whitewashed to make them easily visible, especially at night. They appeared clean and beautiful on the outside, but they were dirty and rotten on the inside” (Study note on Matthew 23:27, NIV).
Secondly, I think Jesus was liberal because He told them that their standing as sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not impress God, saying, “Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Luke 3:8, RSV). Ouch! That must have raised their blood pressure.
Jesus shook up the status quo, turned their world view upside down, and said that no one could know the Father but the Son, who He was: “So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me” (John 8:28 RSV). Standing in opposition to the religious authorities and the traditions they held dear was what got Him nailed to the cross. He wasn’t “one of them.” He spoke as One with authority, and He included everyone in His divine fellowship: prostitutes and tax collectors being the worst offenders in the minds of the Pharisees. King David was an adulterer, and a murderer, several times over, and yet, God said of Him that He was a man after God’s own heart.
The main thing liberals have to commend their position today, is probably that they dare to ask, “WHY?” They look at the status quo and say, “But it is not perfect. The King has no clothes on. He’s stark naked!” That won’t get you crucified, but it certainly will earn you dirty looks, snide remarks, and excommunication from the conservative who thinks, “I’m right and God thinks so too.”
The Living Water is either for all of us, black, white, brown, purple or red, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu, liberal or conservative, or it is for none of us. How can any of us be more holy or more godly than anyone else when, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, RSV). Paul gives the answer to that question, in his letters to the churches: “(God) has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4, RSV). It was God’s choice, not ours, which filled us with living water. “He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38, RSV).
God always keeps His promises: “For when God made a unilateral promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you” (Hebrews 6:13-14, RSV). Christ is the fulfillment of that promise and of all the promises made by the prophets to the people of Israel. Providentially, we are all the recipients of that promise “in Christ,” a phrase repeated some 89 times in the New Testament. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, ESV). If God in Christ accepts all people to Himself, how can we do otherwise? I rest my case that in His day, Jesus was a liberal, and as you’ve probably guessed, so am I.
Father, deliver us from standing in the seat of the Pharisees, and forgive us our unmerited judgement of each other, for You alone are the Righteous Judge. We thank You and praise You for accepting us right where we are, how we are, and who we are, and for the Living Water You pour out through us to others You’ve chosen to receive it. We join our voices with “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!” Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan Austin Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)
All our writings from 1997-2010 are on
Our writings from 2010 to the present are on this blog. Scroll down to read them.
We always enjoy hearing from you!