Summary: When it comes to having people as a part of his kingdom: 1. God breaks all the rules. 2. God wants everyone to know him. 3. God wants us to open our eyes.
Times are changing, and it is rocking our country to the core. Cultural shifts are happening so fast that most of us cannot keep track of them. The country that our grandparents loved and grew up in no longer exists. It used to be that you graduated from high school and worked for one company all your life. A young person graduating from college today will work for a dozen companies or more before they retire. Values are changing. We used to value the “dignity of human life,” now our emphasis is on the “quality of life.” The family is being radically redefined, and will continue to be. The white majority is shrinking in the country. The Census Bureau is predicting that by the year 2010, whites will drop to only 68% of the population, and Hispanics will overtake African Americans as our country’s largest minority.
When I went to a preaching conference earlier this year in Washington, D.C., I walked along a street with several ethnic restaurants, most with sidewalk seating out front. One restaurant featured Italian cooking, another French, others featured foods from China, India, Korea, Viet Nam, Ethiopian cuisine, menus from Ghana, Pakistan, and many more. The racial mix of the area was astounding and fascinating, especially since I was used to homogenous little Mount Vernon. All of these people are coming to America, and many of them are Christians because of the faithful work of missionaries around the world. There are approximately 7,000 Latino and 3,000 Korean congregations in the U. S., with their unique worship styles. And this ethnic and cultural change is coming to Mount Vernon as well. Not only are the restaurants and orchards bringing ethnic groups to our area, but many of them are professionals: doctors, educators, and engineers. Get ready, for they are here, and more are coming. Hopefully, we will see many of them come to our church. The day has passed when you could live in a community or go to a church where you knew everyone and everyone was like you.
The Bible says that “God so loved the world . . . ,” and what that means is that God is crazy about people — all kinds and colors of people. The first point of this story that I want to bring out today is that when it comes to having people as a part of his kingdom: God breaks all the rules. When Jesus talked to this Samaritan woman, he certainly broke all the rules. First of all, Jews were not supposed to talk to Samaritans. Jews hated Samaritans. Jews would add a day’s journey on their way to Jerusalem rather than go through Samaria. Samaritans were a mixed breed, half Jew and half whatever, with a religion that was just as mixed as their racial characteristics (see 2 Kings 17:24). Jews saw them as an inferior group of people who lived away from the true God, and they could not imagine God being interested in them. Jesus also broke all the rules when he spoke to this Samaritan who was also a woman. She was astonished that he would speak to her. She probably thought he was soliciting her — especially when he asked about her husband and seemed to know that she did not have one.
But when it came to people, Jesus was always breaking the rules. He touched lepers. He showed mercy and concern for a woman who was caught in an immoral act. He allowed children to crawl on his lap, when the rules said they should stay in their place. He broke the rules when he ate in the home of Zacchaeus, a Jewish tax collector who committed fraud against his own people. Jesus broke the rules when he stopped on the way to heal a dying child to touch a woman with a flow of blood that would not stop. Women in her condition were considered unclean by that culture and it was against the rules to touch them. He talked to Greeks and went to the homes of Roman soldiers. He mingled with sinners. He broke all the rules of social custom in order to reach people and bring them into the kingdom.
The Bible says that Jesus’ disciples were surprised to find him talking to a woman when they returned. They were probably even offended by his easy way of speaking with her. The Bible says, “But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’” They were not about to talk with her, that’s for sure. But Jesus wanted her as a part of his kingdom. He offered her living water — real life. But when he broke the rules and began to talk about some very personal areas of her life, she tried to change the subject and engage him in a religious debate. She said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem” (John 4:19-20). And here is where Jesus really broke the rules. He said to her, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. . . . Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24). We would expect him to say, “The real worshipers of God must worship at the temple mount in Jerusalem.” The disciples, and certainly the people of Israel, would have expected him to say that. But Jesus blew her mind when he said that a time was coming when the real worshipers of God would not worship on the temple mount in Jerusalem, or on the mountain of Samaria — because the kingdom of God was bigger than that. Real worship is bigger than Jerusalem and Samaria combined. Worshiping God is not a matter of where, but how. Worship is not about a physical place, but a spiritual condition. God was about to place his temple inside of people — all kinds of people. It was there, where people would worship in spirit and truth, that God was going to place his temple. Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). If you think that was not a new and shocking concept to the people of that day, then you need to understand that if he had said this in Jerusalem he would have been crucified much sooner.