I like water. You know what, I’m going to lead with that: I like water. Those who don’t like water typically complain that it has no taste, and they’re right. Drinking water for the taste is like playing Tetris for the storyline. But I’m a runner, and after an hour-long run in the summer heat, there are few things I want more than a cold glass of water. Maybe a million dollars. I would probably forego the glass of water for a million dollars. But there are few things apart from that, because when I get back from a run, I am thirsty, and as great as a million dollars are, you can’t drink a million dollars. You can drink water. And today’s chapter of John is about the thing for which water is a metaphor.
Luke 20 is basically a religious judo match between Jesus and the Jewish religious elites. They exchange quandaries, parables, and counter-arguments; the scribes and chief priests even enlist double-agent disciples to try to catch Jesus in some error and find a pretext for getting him in trouble with the Roman authorities. Each time he prevails, however, and at the end of the chapter he presents a puzzle of his own about the nature of the Messiah. I was particularly struck by his debate with the Sadducees over the resurrection, so let’s turn our attention there.
Paul’s got a two-pronged argument here for those among the Galatians who would want to hang onto the Jewish law and insist that it’s necessary for salvation. He starts with a contrast between law and faith, similar to his arguments in the first handful of chapters from Romans, then moves into one based on chronology. But before we get into all that, I just want to note: the Galatians are by and large not Jews themselves! But they’ve bought into this false gospel from diehard Jewish legalists that being a Christian means getting circumcised and getting your kosher on and keeping the Sabbath. Which, honestly, strikes me as a serious feat of persuasion, getting predominantly Greek Gentiles to adopt the restrictive legal code of a minority religious-ethnic group that enjoys no particular popularity in the Roman Empire.
I think we’re finally ready to wrap up our survey of John. Based on the passages we’ve looked at and the themes of his book, if asked to articulate the gospel in more than a few sentences, I think John would put it something like this: “Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, put death to death on the cross and gave his life in order to give us life.” And he didn’t stay dead, either, which is where today’s passage, the entirety of John 20 comes in. It’s John’s account of Mary Magdalene and the disciples discovering the empty tomb, and Jesus’ post-death appearances. Death doesn’t get the last word. The Word gets the last word.
So Jesus gets to the city of Sychar in Samaria, and he’s straight-up exhausted, so when a woman comes up to the well there, he asks her to get him a drink. Mindful of the hostility between the Jews and Samaritans, she starts asking him questions, and when he starts talking about some “living water” that only he can give, she’s doubly baffled. Then Jesus says: “Everyone who drinks of this water [from Jacob’s well] will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (13-14). This is Jacob’s well we’re talking about here. You know, the patriarch Jacob, from Genesis? To a first-century Hebrew, it’s the most famous well imaginable. And Jesus is saying that he’s got a source of water that’s even greater than this.
Today’s passage: Mark 10:17-31 Yesterday, I concluded that investigating the kingdom of God and what it stands for will give us insights into the gospel. Conveniently, today’s passage explicitly mentions both the kingdom of God and the gospel. So, a man with lots of property is unwilling to sell all his possessions, give the proceeds […]