Regardless of who we are or think we are, we have common needs. If we lost our way in a dense forest any of us would probably last for a few weeks on no food and about three days without water. Is there a way in which we could see each other from that perspective of our common needs rather than the needs that divide us? Serbs and the Muslims hate each other in modern Bosnia. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants constantly fight in Northern Ireland. Today we are surrounded by conflicts.
On His way to settle a conflict in Galilee, Jesus had to go through Samaria. He stopped at a well and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. One didn’t do that in those times. The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How do you dare ask me for a drink?” The hate the Jews and Samaritans had for each other was fierce.
Here is Jesus’ answer. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
John 4: 9-10.
Jesus answered her as a God/Man. As a human man Jesus could speak of basic physical needs common to everyone. As the Son of God he spoke of spiritual needs, needs that should matter most to us but they don’t. Therefore He alone is able to combine the two in a loving way.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
To help us understand this “life” that He was referring to, we can look at the 11th chapter of Matthew where we find Jesus trying to explain this life to His listeners. We are told that John the Baptist was born to herald Christ’s coming into this world. And at the time Jesus was explaining this to His listeners, John had been imprisoned. Alone in a cell, John was concerned about whether the one he had referred to as the lamb of God was indeed that lamb. That’s why when John sent messengers to Jesus to find out if this man was Jesus, Jesus sent this message back to John.
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
First let’s look at what seems like an apologetic statement. “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Jesus came into a world—the world in which we live that is ruled by forces of conflict. It was as if Jesus was saying I do not come to bring conflict. It was as though He was apologizing. He was sorry if they were offended over the place where He was born or the manner of His birth—by a virgin. He never went to school, was a carpenter’s son, and His own appearance and demeanor as well as the group that followed Him was not all that impressive. He did not sit in high places but walked among the down and out. It is as though Jesus is saying “Please don’t let this get in the way of your coming to know me.” But all this did get in the way.
The world of conflict, dissension, opposition and disagreement did not like Him because they did not know Him. They wanted to “get Him.” They used flattery to try to trap Him.
“Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
That was the culture of that time. Let’s call culture what we contribute to the world, a language, a religion, the way that we believe, the things we eat, the way we behave, our music and our art. But a culture cannot create truth. Truth can only be revealed from God. This is what accounts for the conflict between the physical and the spiritual. A culture has nothing to do with truth because no culture is eternal; God is eternal. When the two meet, “Caesar” loses. The world puts Christ to the test when it actually is the other way around.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.
Jesus did not come into this world to conform to it as Luke 4:1-13 (the temptations of Jesus) proved. He came to transform us by His love.
that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
So what does the Word of God mean by the word perish? It refers to a people, to a nation, to a church where God does not matter most in their lives. When a people forget God, all of their relationships suffer, their relationship to themselves, to families, communities and governments. There is no one to direct their ways.
LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.
At Jesus’ baptism a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17. Then at Jesus’ transfiguration a voice came out of the clouds saying “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Luke 9:35
What matters most is the truth God brings into this world. So what is God telling us in all that is happening around us today? Or are we just too uptight to even stop and listen to the voice of truth? As Bonhoeffer writes, “We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.” He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God, too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life. . . . Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God or his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies.
If we were to listen to each other today, we would realize that we have lost our spiritual connections with each and are unable to restore those connections on our own.