Wrestling with the Word, episode 107: Third Sunday in Lent, Year A (March 27, 2011) March 20, 2011Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
Tags: Bible studies, Christianity, Exodus 17:1-7, fostermccurley, John 4:5-42, lectionary, Lent, preaching, Psalm 95, religion, Revised Common Lectionary, Romans 5:1-11, WrestlingWithTheWord
Third Sunday in Lent
We can all understand, I think, that when people of faith experience hardships in their own lives and observe the sufferings of others, they often lose their faith in the God they worshiped. Such a response is quite common among people during grief and trauma. It is more difficult to understand why people reject God even after God reveals himself as the protector of the oppressed, as Savior of the underdog, and as the loving Creator of all life. Precisely because God announces divine identity through such actions, our turning away from God is an affront to God’s honor. Our passages for this day demonstrate a variety of dishonorable actions from respected people and some quite commendable actions on the part of the despised. Watch how God responds as we move through the lessons.
Because the Lord is a great God, even the greatest among the nations’ gods, the people of Israel enter the Lord’s presence with song and joyful noise. Such praise and adoration are due the Lord because he is the Creator of the universe and the Shepherd of his people. Now switching to the direct address, the Lord surprisingly reminds the people of their rebellion in the wilderness (at Massah). God’s displeasure with their testing him means such rebels will not enter God’s “rest.”
In spite of the people’s rejection of the Lord’s salvation accomplished through Moses, God responds to their faultfinding and testing by providing water in the desert.
Beginning at 15:22 the people of Israel, under the leadership of Moses, entered the wilderness. They began complaining about the wilderness already at 15:24, then about food in 16:2-3. In the first instance God sweetened the bitter water to make it drinkable; in the second, God provided manna as food in the desert (16:13-36). Now they murmur for another necessity of life, and God responds favorably once more.
By justifying us through faith in Christ Jesus, God gives us that peace which enables us to honor to God through the tribulations of life here and now and to confidently wait for salvation on the Judgment Day to come.
In 4:1-8 Paul had explained that Abraham was justified by faith, and in 4:13-25 he writes that as with Abraham, the promise of God comes only to and through faith. Now he begins a section which runs through 8:39 about the reality of the righteousness of faith as Christian freedom.
V. 1. oun = “therefore”: The results of the previous argument follow. At the end of chap.4, Paul spoke of God’s giving to us righteousness (declaring us innocent) on the basis of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
V. 1. eirēnēn … pros ton theon = “peace with God”: Paul uses “peace” many times in Romans prior to this verse: 1:7 (“peace from God” as a Christian greeting); 2:10 (along with glory and honor is given to those who do good); 3:17 (in OT quote); after this verse: 8:6 (along with life is the result of setting one’s mind on the Spirit); 14:17 (along with righteousness and joy constitutes the reign of God); 14:19 (along with mutual upbuilding is a goal of the Christian community); 15:13 (along with joy is the gift of God which enables the Christian to abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit); 15:33; 16:20 (a characteristic which defines God).
Vv. 2-3. kauchōmetha = “we boast”: The word appears negatively in Romans at 2:17, 23; 3:27 (noun); postively here and v. 11; 15:17 (noun).
V. 3. thlipsis = “affliction”: The word appears in connection with evildoers at 2:9; at 8:35 it is that which has no power to separate us from the love of God; here and at 12:12 it appears for the New Day suffering of those who follow Christ.
V. 4. dokimē = “confirmation”: The word appears only in Paul’s writings in the NT (see elsewhere at 2 Cor. 2:9; 8:2; 9:13; 13:3; Phil. 2:22). In all cases it is that which is determined through testing.
V. 5. ou kataischynei = “not put to shame”: The expression derives from Ps. 22:6 (Eng. v. 5) and 25:20 where the loyalty and love of God protect the believer from hostile forces. It appears also in Romans also at 9:33 and 10:11 in quoting Isa. 28:16 where it promises the same protection for anyone who believes in the Lord.
V. 6. kata kairon = “at the appointed time”: kairos is not primarily measurable time but the time at which something significant occurs. It often appears with reference to the arrival of the “reign of God”: see Mark 1:15 and Romans 13:11-14.
V. 9. dikaiōthentes nun en tō haimati autou sōthē_sometha = “we are now justified by his blood, we shall be saved”: The tenses dramatize the contrast between the present gift of justification and the future promise of salvation. The passive voice serves as a theological passive, that is, the actor is God.
V. 11. kauchōmenoi = “we rejoice/boast”: The present tense indicates the result of the present gift and the future promise.
In his conversation with the Samaritan woman in Sychar, Jesus desacralizes the water in Jacob’s well in addition to Mounts Gerizim and Zion, in order to point to the worship of God in spirit and in truth, that is, in himself; through the woman’s testimony in the community, others come to know him and confess he is the Savior of the world.
The previous chapter reports the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus and then moves on to describe the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. Both men had been baptizing in the same area (actually the author corrects himself by indicating only the disciples were baptizing, not Jesus). When John’s disciples report the activity of Jesus, the Gospel writer responds with a speech that is reminiscent of those made by him in chapter 1. Realizing, though, that the Pharisees learned of the numbers of people he (or his disciples) was baptizing, Jesus left Judea and headed toward Galilee. While Jesus normally made this journey by traveling around the territory of Samaria (Matt. 19:1; Luke 17:11), on this trip he passed through Samaria, specifically through one of its major cities, Sychar. This city is the Shechem of the OT and today is called Nablus.
V. 5-42. Samaria … Samaritans: Samaria was the region named for the city of Samaria that served at one point as the capital of the northern kingdom called Israel. Its territory comprised what had once been the tribal land of Ephraim and Manasseh. The Samaritans family tree is rooted, it seems, both in the Israelite ancestors on the one hand and in the foreign deportees that the Assyrians imported into the land. In either case, the population did not worship in Jerusalem, establishing their own sanctuaries first in Dan and Bethel, then on Mount Gerizim outside Shechem = Nablus. As a result, the Judeans despised the Samaritans, denying their Israelite ancestry and accusing them all of being pagans.
V. 6. ēn de ekei pēgē tou Iakōb = “Jacob’s well was there”: This verse provides the earliest mention of Jacob’s well. There is not mention of the place in the OT or in Intertestamental Literature. From early in the 4th century A.D. the site became beloved and revered by the construction of churches and by pilgrimages. The traditional well lies a little over a mile from the modern town of Nablus.
V. 10. “who it is that is saying to you”: The remark by Jesus focuses the woman’s and the reader’s attention on the identity of Jesus throughout the entire story.
V. 14. pēgē hydatos hallomenou eis zōēn aiōnion = “a spring of water welling up to eternal life”: The proposed gift from Jesus sounds much like the description of God at Jer. 2:13: “the fountain of living waters.” The expression also recalls the prophecy that “on that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:8). Here, however, the source of such living water is Jesus himself.
V. 19. kyrie, theōrō hoti prophētēs ei su = “I perceive that you are a prophet”: The woman comes to this conclusion because without ever having seen her before this meeting, Jesus is able to speak about her personal life and history. As Jesus continues the conversation, he demonstrates that he acts like a prophet in another sense: he speaks of the coming Day of the Lord and the ensuing kingdom of God.
V, 21. erchetai hōra = “the hour is coming”: At v. 23 Jesus repeats the expression and adds something else: “the hour is coming and now is” (see also 5:25), indicating the new time is already beginning. In other places in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ hour had “not yet come” (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20), but at 12:23, Jesus announces that the quest of the Greeks to “see Jesus” marks the time when “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” In verses following this announcement (12:27), Jesus connects the “hour” to his crucifixion. At 13:1 the “hour” refers to his departure from the world, and at 16:2, 4, 21, 25 the “hour” is the time when the disciples of Jesus would also face persecution but through it come to know the glory of discipleship.
V. 21. “Neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem”: “this mountain” from the perspective of Sychar was Mount Gerizim, the mountain that was and still is considered by the Samaritans to be the holy mountain. The Jews, of course, believed that the holy mountain was the mount in Jerusalem on which stood the Temple.
V. 25-26. “I know the Messiah is coming” … And Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he”: The identity of Jesus now focuses on the title Messiah, one that Jesus hardly ever uses of himself in the gospel stories (see Mark 14:61-62 for Jesus’ response of “I am” to the high priest’s question: “Are you the Christ…?”).
Vss. 23-24. en pneumati kai alētheia = “in spirit and truth”: The worship of God “in spirit and truth” becomes the reason sacred places can be desacralized. “God is spirit” (v. 24). John’s prologue announces that “the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (1:14). Jesus speaks of himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” at 14:6, and that through him people can know the Father. Before Pilate Jesus says that he came to bear witness to “the truth,” leading Pilate to ask his famous question: “What is truth?” (18:37-38).
V. 42. kai oidamen hoti houtis estin alēthōs ho sōtēr tou kosmou = “and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world”: The title “Savior” appears only here in John’s Gospel, and the word “salvation” in v. 22 is also unique in John. Luke uses the title at 1:47; 2:11; 3:6; Acts 5:31; 13:23 and employs the word “salvation” thirteen times in Luke—Acts. Strikingly, neither “Savior” nor “salvation” appear in Matthew and Mark. The verb “save,” however, appears frequently to describe Jesus’ mission in all four gospels. In John, see 3:17; 5:34; 10:9; 11:12; 12:27, 47. That this expression of faith rolls off the lips of the Samaritans contrasts these people sharply with the religious establishment in Jerusalem. In other stories, individual Samaritans become models for faith and deeds (e.g., the grateful Samaritan leper at Luke 17:11-19 and the generous caregiver at Luke 10:29-37).