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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Pastor Nelda’s Notes: Grace and Truth

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In the opening chapters of John (2-4) are a series of stories to illustrate the theme that the Law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, bringing to fullness that which was incomplete.? {{more: continue …}}
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1. In the miracle at Cana, the turning of water into wine, the new wine of Jesus is so much better than the old wine. As a result of the miracle, the disciples of Jesus believed in him (2:10-11).
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2. At the cleansing of the temple in chapter 2, Jesus says to the people, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The statement puzzles the hearers. But John interprets it to be a reference to the resurrection of Jesus, the new “temple of his body” (2:21). The new temple of the body of Jesus takes the place of the old Jerusalem temple that was indeed destroyed in AD 70.
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3. In the story of Nicodemus in John 3 there is an encounter between the old religion of Pharisaic Judaism and the new movement represented by Jesus and the Johannine community.
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In Chapter 4, Jesus will confront a Samaritan woman and through her story there will be a new resolution to the age-old alienation between Samaritans and Jews, as well as a true understanding of worship. This is another illustration of the idea that what this world needs is the new thing that Jesus brings.
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In many ways, however, the story of the Samaritan woman stands in stark contrast to the Nicodemus narrative in the previous chapter. Note the following differences:
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1. Nicodemus is a man, apparently a member of the Sanhedrin, and therefore highly respected. The Samaritan woman has two strikes against her: she is a woman, and she is a Samaritan. The inferior status of women in the ancient world is well known and needs no comment. The disciples are surprised when they discover Jesus is speaking to a woman (v. 27). As far as her being Samaritan, the hostility between Jews and Samaritans is well documented.
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2. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, teacher of the law, he symbolizes strict morality. On the other hand, the Samaritan woman is living with a man who is not her husband.
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3. The encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus occurs at night and is initiated by Nicodemus. The encounter between the Samaritan woman and Jesus occurs at noon, in broad daylight, and is initiated by Jesus.
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4. Nicodemus responds to Jesus with uncertainty, misunderstanding and caution. At the end of the story we do not know whether Nicodemus confessed Jesus as Messiah. With the Samaritan woman, she not only ends up believing in him but also goes and tells everybody in town about the encounter she had with Jesus. That results in many Samaritans coming to Jesus, hearing his word, and making the affirmation, “We know that this is truly the Savior of the world” (v. 42).
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We might also look at the story of the Samaritan woman from another perspective: the symbolism of water. The theme of water with spiritual symbolism is seen several places in John.
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Look at the following occurrences):
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1. The turning of water to wine, plays on the theme of the newness of Jesus being so much better than the old, and as a result the disciples believe in Jesus (2:11-12)
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2. Nicodemus is told he must be born of water and the Spirit (3:5)
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3. In the story of the Samaritan woman the symbolism of water is unmistakable (4:14).
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4. Rivers of living water springing up from one’s belly are explicitly identified as a reference to the Spirit, which believers in Jesus were to receive (7:38-39).
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5. If you remember water and blood that came out from Jesus’ side on the cross (19:34-35)
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One intriguing point of the story is the fact that Jesus disregards social conventions, customs, and expectations for the purpose of redemptive involvement in the lives of human beings. Jesus simply disregards the centuries-old impasse between Jews and Samaritans and the social taboo of rabbis having lengthy conversations with women in public.
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It should be noted that Jesus acts as he does in this story in order to accomplish an evangelistic goal. The reason Jesus acts the way he does is that this is who he is. He does not assume a role to accomplish something. He simply is who he is. And because he is who he is, he causes people to take a second look at themselves, at their prejudices, at their assumptions, at their sins.
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The deepest human needs cannot be met simply by focusing on them or even on the means by which Christ can meet those needs. So much of our worship is self-directed if not self-centered. Take for example the statement that people sometimes make about a worship service: “I didn’t get much out of this service;” or the songs and choruses that focus on human feelings rather than the person of God.
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The call of Jesus is that we move away from narcissistic preoccupation with ourselves, our own needs, and even our spiritual needs, and move toward a stance of adoration and openness before God in true worship. In other words, when we take our attention away from us and direct it to the worship of God in spirit and in truth, it is then that we begin to experience what it means to have rivers of living water gushing up to eternal life.
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See you on Sunday!
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“I don’t know how, but I know WHO!”
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Grace and Peace,

Pastor Nelda
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Kennedale First United Methodist Church is located at 229 W 4th St, Kennedale, TX 76060. Find out more @ The Mission Store and @ First United Methodist Church Facebook ?

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