Summary: A look at the kingdom message for sinners, i.e. non-religious people
Kingdom = God’s Rule, God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven, God’s Shalom, it is God’s dreams being realised for the world, Jesus says this kingdom rule is available now through me, so change and believe it, be part of it. A fresh start was needed he said to Nicodemus, because God loves the world so much, far more that we realise. This is illustrated in John 4 and the encounter with the Samaritan woman. Perhaps you have heard the story about the bride and groom who ordered their wedding cake and requested a particular scripture verse written on the top with frosting. It was to be 1 John 4:18 - "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." Unfortunately the baker didn’t know the Bible all that well, and put on John 4:18 - "You have had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband..."
This incident stands in stark contrast to the one with Nicodemus – the contrast in Jesus day was quite shocking. We look at John 3 & 4 and think nothing of it. One conversation is with a respected leader of the nation, a member of God’s elite – the next is with to put it politely a lady of poor reputation, a member of a half-breed race despised by the Jews. Today the contrast is greater than Jesus one minute talking to a Bishop and the next to an illegal immigrant who is also a prostitute.
This is compounded in the contrasting way Jesus deals with them. In one sense it is really rather shocking. Jesus appears to deal harshly with the good guy and gently with the bad one! One he tells has to start all over again if he even wants to see the Kingdom, yet the other he offers living water. It’s as if Jesus is saying the good, religious guy is a long way from the Kingdom. The sinner is offered living water and eternal life which as we saw last time is the Kingdom. It was shocking that Jesus even went through Samaria, to set foot in that place could render you unclean. In Jesus day sin was regarded as a contagious disease. This woman was drawing water in the heat of the day because to do otherwise would have meant exposing herself to abuse. John in writing his Gospel was no doubt aware of this contrast and is telling us something significant about Jesus and his message, that was and is revolutionary….
1. Jesus sees sinners as thirsty people
Jesus knew this woman, the Holy Spirit clearly revealed to him the details of her life. The Pharisees wouldn’t have gone near her. Today some Christians might have told her if she didn’t repent she would go to hell, others might take her to task on her sexual immorality. Jesus asked for a glass of water and ended up offering her living water. To him she and others like her were just thirsty people looking in the wrong places, who weren’t actually that far from God’s Kingdom. I wonder if that is how we see sinners in our society today. You just have to see some Christian’s attitudes to homosexuals; they are an “abomination”. They are going to hell. Look at this picture of some Christians protesting against homosexuals. Don’t get me wrong, sin is sin, but Jesus sees the sin as a symptom of a deep thirst. Many when they realise that real life is found in may follow. The religious ones are the hard nuts, inflexible and convinced they are right, theirs is the way. Jesus turned people’s perceptions and ideas upside down. I believe that he will, if we let him, do that to us.
When Jesus looks at people involved in sexual sin, materialism, greed, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, striving for success – he sighs and sees thirsty people and would say to us as he did to his disciples the fields are ripe (4:35). People are thirsty for love, for fulfilment, satisfaction, peace, happiness, meaning and purpose. Maybe we are too – some of us may be thirsty. It’s one reason why Christians fall into sin, get greedy, are workaholics and many other things.
2. Jesus offers living water
Jesus said he offered living water. Apparently Jesus used a phrase that simply meant fresh, running water, natural spring water rather than the stuff you get from a well. His kingdom is like the difference between stagnant water compared to natural spring water. This water bubbles up to eternal life, abundant, real life, it is his Kingdom life. John is giving us another picture of the kingdom of God. His kingdom, his eternal life like living water for thirsty people – it satisfies, it fulfils, and it doesn’t leave you thirsty.