Sunday, February 19, 2017

“Everything in Scripture is either preparation for the Gospel, presentation of the Gospel, or participation in the Gospel.” ― Dave Harvey

          First, a little history.  About 500 years before Christ came, the ruler of Babylon invaded Judah (southern half of Israel) and destroyed the Temple and took about half of the population into slavery.  He only took the good ones, the merchants, the teachers, the craftsman, the educated, the wealthy, the young, the strong, and anyone that might be an asset to the Babylonians.  He did not take the old, the infirm, the mentally defective, the prostitutes, or the needy.  These got left behind.  A few generations passed and those left behind who were almost all from the same tribe, built themselves a new temple but not in Jerusalem.  Instead, they built it on Mount Gerzim inside of Samaria.  You get it, the ones left behind who took over all the nice homes and possessions of those carted off—were Samaritans who made things worse by rejecting Jerusalem as the site of the temple.  When huge numbers of Jews were allowed to return about sixty years later, things didn’t go well.  The Samaritans were from the wrong side of the tracks, were the uneducated and criminals, were from the wrong tribe, and worst of all had committed heresy by building a new temple not in Jerusalem.  From then on, they became the most hated people by the Jews who would not even speak to them.  Now to travel from Judea to Galilee, the shortest routes were through Samaria, but if Jews went that way, they spoke to no one and never spent the night or ate with those people.  I think you’re beginning to get the picture and understand why Jesus made a Samaritan the hero of a parable.  Even more impressive to me is the story (not parable) of Jesus stopping at a well in Samaria in the middle of the day to get water (Gospel of John, Fourth Chapter).  I hope you know this story: a woman of low repute was at the well.  We know she was of low repute because she was not with the other women who got water in the early morning or late evening but had to get her water in the heat of the day when no other women were around.  We also know because Jesus told her she was living with a man who was not her husband.  When the other disciples found Jesus talking to this woman (he told her about the “living water”—Maisha Na Naji in Swahili), they were shocked and ashamed.  Of course, Jesus rebuked them (you really need to read this story if you haven’t) and even worse for them, decided to stay a day or two in Samaria.  The “AHA!” point of this story is that this woman who was the lowest among the low in Samaria told others about Jesus, and, based on her words alone, they believed in Him.  Then they came to see Jesus for themselves.  This is the shocker—the first real evangelist for Christ was a Samaritan woman of loose morals.  This was the first time recorded in the Bible that others believed in Jesus without having seen Him for themselves.  Samaritans did come and were converted and went back and converted others.  The first Christian missionaries, if you will, were the accursed Samaritans.  Why did the Gospel of John think this story was important enough to record and to place it so early in the gospel?  Because it was true and revolutionary and a lesson to us all that no one is so sinful, so rotten of character that she or he cannot be a both a disciple and a missionary for Jesus Christ.  When I was studying for the ministry, I once told my ministry mentor, the pastor of Sequoyah United Methodist Church that I didn’t think I was a good enough man to be a minister of God.  The Rev. Mike Mattox just laughed and said, “Charles, if God could get enough “good” people, He wouldn’t need you.”   So, here I am, the modern-day equivalent of the “woman at the well” serving God as a missionary in Tanzania for the last twelve years and beyond , not because I met Christ personally but learned of Him through others (like Mike Mattox) who were not saints—but who knew Jesus and lived with Him in their hearts.  If you know Jesus Christ, shouldn’t you be telling others?  Shouldn’t you be expanding His kingdom because of how He has touched you?  I’m pretty sure you know these are rhetorical questions, right?
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