We have human tendencies to decide what is better by counting how many of this and that. A person must be successful because when you count their dollars they seem to have more than the guy down the road. We count the vegetables in the gardens and decide whose garden is best because of how many tomatoes it produced. What is they were trying to grow potatoes? “I have more cars and trucks than you” say small children as they play, “so I’m better than you”. “My dad is better than your dad because he has _______(fill in the blank with just about anything.) Counting, counting, we are always counting and comparing.
So did the Pharisees. Like denominational church plant executives, they compared the ministries of Jesus and John by keeping count of how many baptisms and posted the score! It is important to note that when the counting game began Jesus left! He wanted no part of that! This counting sets the stage for automatic rivalry, a bi-product of counting what’s on the outside.
Yes, this precursor counting event opens the story of Jesus leaving the “game of who is baptizing more” to another town where He sits down and visits with a lowly, hated by Jews, Samaritan woman. The disciples were off to grab and bite to eat at the local “Fast Manna”. This, of course, is no coincident and It occurs to me that the stories run parallel. Jesus solidifies what really “counts”.
John 4, The Message
The Woman at the Well
4 1-3 Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed (although his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.
4-6 To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
7-8 A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
9 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
11-12 The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
13-14 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
15 The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
16 He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”
17-18 “I have no husband,” she said.
“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
19-20 “Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
21-23 “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
23-24 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
25 The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
26 “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
28-30 The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.
What counts? “But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth.”
What are hearing from God’s Word today? Accept Jesus. Believe. Love Him with all that is within us. Gather as a group of people who believe in the Son and follow His Word in spirit and Truth, building each other up. Behave like we say we believe. That’s what counts!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for Your Word that speaks to us and teaches us to pause and reflect, adjust and change our thinking to match Your thinking. We may not do it all at once, but day by day we are coming closer to You. Continue to be with us. Grow us. Show us Your ways, O Lord.
In Jesus Name, Amen