Monday March 20
‘Well then,’ said Jesus to the woman, ‘go and call your husband and come here.’ ‘I haven’t got a husband,’ replied the woman. ‘You can say that again!’ replied Jesus. 18 ‘The fact is, you’ve had five husbands, and the one you’ve got now isn’t your husband. You were speaking the truth!’
We all know about Hollywood celebrities who have married many times. Elizabeth Taylor comes to mind. 8 marriages. Or with more, Zsa Zsa Gabor, married 9 times. But, it’s not just celebrities who are serial spouses. This is Linda Wolfe, and she has been married 23 times. That’s the Guinness World Record.
She took her last husband, Glynn Wolfe, as part of a publicity stunt. Their vows made Linda his 29th wife, making him the most married person at the time. He died a year later at age 88. Linda said she said that she was “on the lookout for number 24”.She says, “It’s been years since I walked down the aisle. I miss it.”
So, how about a woman from Samaria who has been married five times and is currently working on number 6? What is going on with her?
First century marriage and divorce customs aren’t the same in first century Israel as today. For a woman you initiate a divorce was highly rare.
It is likely her five marriages are an unfortunate combination of death and maybe a couple of divorces. Since a woman would need a dowry to marry, she probably is out of options by now. She might be an older man’s concubine.
The reason these may be likely is first there are no examples of 5 divorces from any sources in ancient times. Second, later we will see she is respected enough to be listened to by townspeople when she speaks with them.
Yet, no matter what the situation, five men and now number six is awkward, even if it isn’t promiscuous. Troublesome, and probably a combination of bad luck and bad choices. But, why did Jesus know any of this? She will find out soon enough.
Has Jesus spoken direct truth to you like this? What was it like?
Tuesday March 21
‘Well, sir,’ replied the woman, ‘I can see you’re a prophet …Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain. And you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’
Jesus is catching the woman in an uncomfortable situation. He seems to know quite a bit about her.
Whenever a light is shined on issues that may have something to do with morality, people often try to change the subject. Even though Jesus isn’t making any moral judgments, the woman quickly tries to shift the focus. And one of the ways people try to change the subject quickly is bringing up religion.
I get this quite a bit. Someone will ask what I do for a living, I’ll say I’m a pastor, and often it immediately enters into their view of religion and usually, why they don’t follow one. Though I haven’t asked about anything! If they are older, I will often hear this.
“I used go church when I was little, but…”
Then will come the reasons they aren’t connected anymore.
- All the church did was ask for money…
- My church was really strict and judgmental…
- My mom was a Baptist and my dad was a Catholic and so we ended up not going to church at all…
- I’m spiritual, I’m just not religious…
You can hear it in her voice. The tone doesn’t change.
‘I was brought up to think that this mountain, here in Samaria, was God’s holy mountain. But you Jews think yours is the right one.’
She seems to be saying, we can’t both be right about which place is the right one to worship. Maybe nobody knows. And maybe, here comes the kicker, nobody knows about morality either.
Yet, the woman is asking a serious question. She is not being flippant. And Jesus honors her question with a serious answer.
Do you have friends who use to “go to church” but don’t now? What do they think about you?
Wednesday March 22
‘Believe me, woman,’ replied Jesus, ‘the time is coming when you won’t worship the father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You worship what you don’t know. We worship what we do know; salvation, you see, is indeed from the Jews. But the time is coming – indeed, it’s here already! – when true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and in truth. Yes; that’s the kind of worshippers the father is looking for.
God and the church aren’t the same thing. You can’t confuse one with the other. Jesus knows that one mountain or one Temple isn’t going to contain God anyway. It’s like denominations.
When God is offering the living water, getting caught up on which church you should go to becomes a moot point. Denominations are human inventions, not God’s inventions. There is only one Church. Where Jesus reigns. Just like holy mountains or holy buildings, denominations can become idols. All of these things are at most signposts pointing to God, not a box that contains God.
How many different churches have you attended?
Thursday March 23
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.’
Here is the essence of the view of Jesus when it comes to everything from denominations to worship styles and everything in between.
God is spirit. What did Jesus say about spirit earlier in the Gospel of John? Remember?
The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is like the wind and he will blow wherever he wants. We will know if we are worshiping with spirit and truth when we see things happening through us that happened with Jesus and his followers in his day.
Enemies are loved. Seeking the good of others, no matter who they are. Cheeks are turned. No revenge. Seeking the truth of Jesus with courage and consideration, even when society calls it hatred or bigotry. When our lives look more and more like Jesus is living our lives we know we are are the path of spirit and truth.
No, it’s not about places or building, it’s about hearts and minds and bodies and souls and relationships that all point to the love of God in Jesus Christ.
“They will know we are Christians by our love…” Not a quaint chorus for an old camp song, but maybe the essence of who we are…
Friday March 24
‘I know that Messiah is coming,’ said the woman, ‘the one they call “the anointed”. When he comes, he’ll tell us everything.’ ‘That’s me,’ said Jesus. ‘Me, speaking to you.’
Now the woman at the well will try a different way to get Jesus off the subject of her life.
“Well, we Samaritans and you Jews, we’ll just all have to wait and let the Messiah figure it out.”
I’m sure she thought this would end the conversation. If which mountain is the holiest or which Temple is the correct one isn’t enough of a quandary, let’s talk about who is the Messiah.
The woman at the well is not a lightweight when it comes to religious discussion. She deftly moves from one topic to another. There is only one problem. She has met her match.
The answers to all the questions of both Jews and Samaritans will be revealed when the Messiah comes. He will sort everything out.
‘One day the Messiah will come,’ ‘Why don’t we wait till then? He’ll make it all clear.’
This time, she is 100% correct. No doubt about it. Jesus says, “That’s me.”
Whenever people throughout history are willing to dig for the truth with everything they are…Jesus is waiting for this. Give him just a crack, and he will break through.
That’s him. He is the way. Worthy to be followed. He is the truth. Worthy to be trusted. He is the life. Worthy to give your life to him.
Who do you know that could use the love of Jesus? Pray for them for awhile and be open to what Jesus might have in mind.