Summary: Throughout the Gospel of John you will find Jesus using simple, yet clever, analogies about wind, water, bread, wine, doors, shepherds, light, – etc. Each instance was a teaching moment - created by misunderstandings among His audience.
August 2, 2009
“What You Talkin’ About, Jesus?”
A few years ago there was a situation comedy, Diff’rent Strokes, where two cute young black boys were living, as adopted brothers, in an upperclass white family, and invariably there would come a time in each episode, when the question would be blurted out by the younger brother Arnold– “What you talkin’ bout, Willis?” And we would laugh. Although John’s Gospel is not without word puzzles, irony, and a number of comedic twists, the author is not aiming to make us laugh, but to make us think. At nearly every turn - the tunnel vision of the literalistic pharisaical mind is being challenged. John wants his readers to think outside the box a little bit. Jesus does not fit into all our preconceived notions. So the question echoes on, “What are you talkin’ about, Jesus?”
A Christian man was on his honeymoon in the Bahama’s, when someone walked up to him and said, "Would you like to buy some “good stuff”? You’ll be able to tell everyone how much you really enjoyed the Bahama’s." After he said an emphatic "No!" and got over the shock of the dealer’s boldness, he began wondering (WWJD) how Jesus would have responded if someone came up to him selling drugs. Later that day, someone else came up to him pedaling drugs, and that gave him a chance to witness about his faith in a most creative way. The Christian honeymooner reported his encounter in the following way: “After he told me that he had the "good-stuff", I asked him, "What does that mean?" Once he said "Cocaine!", I said the following: “Is that all you have? I’m disappointed! I was hoping you would have something better than that. You see, I’ve got the real thing! What I have is all natural, pure and very powerful. And it makes me feel great all day and all night. And get this, it may be illegal in some countries, but not in this one, so you can’t get arrested for having it! By this time the man was very curious, and asked me what was this incredible "stuff" I was talking about. I said, "I’m talking about having Jesus Christ in your heart and life! It’s awesome what he will do for you when you get him inside of you! No drug in the world is as good as having Jesus in you." The man stopped smiling, and got this real serious look on his face - and said, "I want what you have. How do I get it?" It becomes very easy to share Jesus Christ with someone who just asked you, "I want what you have, how do I get it?" Too bad this isn’t a more often posed question!
Now, come to think of it, didn’t Jesus use water, much in the same way when he talked to a woman at the well in John 4?
The woman at the well is completely surprised that anyone, let alone a Jewish stranger is speaking to her. She came here at high noon so as to avoid the stares and snubs and verbal barbs of her neighbors. I sense that she almost dropped her water jar, when this gentle man suddenly and unexpectedly addressed her. Jews and Samaritan hardly acknowledge one another, let alone strike up a conversation, and for a Jewish man to speak with a Samaritan woman was - well – out of the ordinary. It had been so long, since someone other than her present lover had said a kind word to her.
Just a cup of water - was all he asked for, and he had such a polite and pleasant way of asking. There is no question in her mind about consenting to drawing him a drink of water - but there is a burning desire to find out why this thirsty Jew, would break from the strict, racial and religious, prejudicial protocol of that day. Someone without all the facts might say Jesus was acting “stupidly”. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
Notice how Jesus uses her query, about his breaking of social, racial, and class taboos, to engage her in a brain teaser about ‘living water’. Jacob’s well has water for parched lips, whereas Jesus claims he has a ‘water’ for the parched soul - that will quench her thirst forever. Her response is much like that of the Bahama drug dealer: “I would surely like to have some of that ‘living water’, give me some of it – please – so I’ll not have to come to this well again?”
Yes there is a misunderstanding, but Jesus uses it - not to berate her lack of insight, but to direct their conversation into a deeper, and soul searching level. But before going forward there is one protocol that Jesus will not ignore – that of her marital status. It would be totally inappropriate for him to go further with this encounter with this lady, without consideration of the propriety of how this may affect her husband. It is not about appearances. It is about respecting the mutuality of husband and wife, and seeking a mutual understanding, so that no wedge is introduced into their relationship.