Jesus went into the Judean countryside to spend time with his disciples [John 3:22]. There, he learnt that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining more disciples than John the Baptist. So he headed back to Galilee. Why? So as to avoid having so many disciples that the ruling class felt threatened? But the mystery deepens for John 4:4 says, "Now, he had to go through Samaria." Huh? Didn't good Jews of that time avoid traveling through Samaria and bumping into the accursed Samaritans who worshipped at Mount Gerizim instead of Jerusalem?
Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria? The answer is given in the chapter. But first, we see Jesus arriving at a town called Sychar [John 4:5]. Is the name important? Well, Sychar was in the valley below Mount Gerizim. Doesn't that mean that Jesus had deliberately gone to the very heart of Samaria, to the foot of the mountain the Samaritans held sacred? What great thing was he going to do there? He "sat down by the well" there! Which just goes to show that great things often have small beginnings.
Jesus was tired out by the 40-kilomete walk from Judea to Sychar. He was alone, for all his disciples had gone on into the town to buy food, for it was the sixth hour, or noon. But wait a second, was there a need for so many disciples to buy lunch? Were they all such great eaters? Or were the Samaritans so hostile to Jews that it was better to go to town in a group? But wouldn't that leave Jesus unprotected in hostile country?
Perhaps Jesus had sent them away? If so, why?
Well, a Samaritan woman came to the well. And Jesus did something earth-shaking. He spoke to her, saying, "Will you give me a drink?" What? You don't feel that was earth-shaking? Let me ask you, did good Jews speak to Samaritans in those days? Did rabbis speak to strange women, especially when they were alone? And did Jews eat or drink out of a utensil of a Samaritan? Wasn't that religiously unclean? What Jesus did was to break three of the greatest conventions and barriers separating Jews from Samaritans!
The Samaritan woman was shocked. "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman," she reminded Jesus. "How can you ask me for a drink?!" Didn't she mean: "Are you crazy?!"
Jesus didn't answer her question, did he? Instead, he put the spotlight on her. "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." But what is this "gift of God"? Many Bible commentaries say it is the "living water". However, what did John just tell us in the previous chapter, in 3:16? Didn't he say that, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only (begotten) son"? Doesn't that mean that the son, Jesus, was the "gift of God"?
So what Jesus meant was : "If you knew the gift of God [i.e. Jesus] and who it is [Jesus] that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him [Jesus] and he [Jesus] would have given you living water."
Wow, this was deep stuff. So the Samaritan woman suddenly called Jesus "Sir". [She had just more or less called him crazy, remember?] "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob……?" Jacob was the greatest person she knew about. We know a greater person, in fact the greatest person: Jesus.
Jesus then told her that she had had five husbands and the man she was living with was not her husband. Can we live in sin without God knowing all about it? Jesus also told her that the time had come when true worshippers would neither worship God at Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem, but rather in spirit and in truth. But this was deeper stuff and she didn't understand what he said. But she knew that the Messiah was coming and "he would explain everything".
Jesus shocked her again. "I who speak to you am he," he revealed. What was her reaction to this? "Leaving her water jar the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 'Come, see….Could this be the Christ?" Come …see…..didn't Jesus say these same words when he called his first disciples?
Why did the woman leave her water jar behind? Hmmm. Could she run with a full water jar on her shoulder or head? We who know Christ, do we run into town to tell our relatives, friends and neighbours about Christ and what he said and did in our lives?
A sinful woman came to the well at the hottest time of day when no one else would be there. Did no one want to talk to this woman of ill repute? But after she told the town about the Messiah, did they not speak to her civilly [John 4:42]? Did Jesus not restore this woman in society, an equal among the Samaritans who believed in him?
By the way, in exposing his disciples to Samaritans, and getting them to eat and live with Samaritans for two days, was Jesus not preparing them to reach out to the Gentiles who occupied the rest of the world outside Israel? Was his short stop in a little town as insignificant as we may have first thought?
Last Wednesday (5 Jun), Dr Quek Swee Hwa read from Psalm 136 and encouraged all present to work toward making BGST a learning-and-teaching community where love for God and one another characterises all that we think and do. Thank God, presently there is ample evidence of that. Dr Quek also reinforced from last week's "Good Books" that teaching can be creative and exciting.
Chapel speaker for this Wednesday (12 Jun) will be our resident Lecturer, Dr Ng Peh Cheng. Come & join us at Rm 302, 12 noon. Next week's chapel speaker is our resident Lecturer, Dr John Lim.
FACULTY MOVEMENTS. Rev Ng Seng Chuan will be preaching at Changi Baptist Church on June 9th and 23rd; Dr John Lim and Dr Quek will both be ministering at church camps in Malaysia: Dr Lim at the Praise EFC Church camp, June 7-10, and Dr Quek at the Zion BP Church Camp June 10-14.
GOOD BOOKS CD is in still in the gestation stage. That is, it is on the way. We are editing several hundred reviews and hope that the final product will be useful, informative and 'friendly' to use. So be patient.
THINKING POINTS. This is a more ambitious publication as we hope to include photos and it will be a "coffee table" type of book. Pray for the success of this venture so as to benefit the wider Christian public.
GREEK STUDENTS can have a welcome break on June 15 and 22. Classes will resume on June 29.
NT 101 STUDENTS are reminded that the final class will be on Monday, June 17, 7-10.30 pm.
Wishing you God's blessings on your Birthday!
Mrs Ellie Ng 10/6
Ms Alice Phillip 10/6
Mrs Jocelyn Wong 10/6
Mr Oliver Lawrence 11/6
Mr Dennis Lee 12/6
Ms Sandra Heng 13/6
Mr Ronald How 13/6
Ms Janette Koh 13/6
Pastor Gerald Seow 13/6
Mr Foo Say Chiang 14/6
Ms Rebecca Lee 14/6
Dr Quek Swee Hwa 15/6