Harvest Festival 2014: John Chapter 4
Pastor Terry Inman
Tonight is our annual Harvest Festival. It a great family alternative to the ever increasing celebration of darkness we call Halloween. There’s a lot of family fun. No tricks, just treats. There are no spooks, but there will be the Holy Spirit and the hospitable spirit of our Harbor Light family reaching out to our community.
The Harvest we are celebrating is people. You could call this event an acclimatizing occasion where people are exposed to positive Christians.
Today I want to take a look at a Harvest Festival in the scriptures.
“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4.35 NIV)
Jesus’ early ministry in the Judean territory was getting a lot of attention. The growing number of followers did not escape the notice of the Pharisees, who were the ruling religious leaders.
The growth of any messianic movement could easily be interpreted as having political overtones, and Jesus did not want to become involved in any outward conflict with the state, whether Jewish or Roman. In order to avoid a direct clash, he left Judea and headed home toward Galilee.
Jesus took a short cut to get there though the land of the Samaritans. Most respectable Jews would take the long way around to avoid contact with these people they considered a mixed race with a false religion.
The Gospel of John says, Jesus “had to go through Samaria”. (John 4.4) It was not out of comfort or convenience but conviction. As the Savior of all people, Jesus had to confront the smoldering suspicion and hostility between Jews and Samaritans by ministering to his enemies.
Jesus disciples were about to learn something pretty radical about Jesus view of the ripened harvest. We live in one of the most racially and religiously diverse cultures in America. It is not an accident that we are here. We need to be here. It is not always comfortable or convenient.
The Bay area is one of the least “Christian” regions in the nation. The Barna Institute says only 16% of our population could be considered “bible minded” and only about 4% attend any bible believing church.
We can choose to take a bunker mentality or we can do what Jesus did-- shine where there’s much diversity and darkness. John shares an incredible story of an encounter Jesus had with a Samaritan woman.
It had a dramatic influence on an entire village.
This meeting was as a much for the benefit of the disciples, as it was the Samaritan woman. So let’s take another look at this familiar story.
Jesus stopped for a rest around noon at an ancient well given to Joseph by his Father Jacob. It was about a half a mile from the Samaritan village of Sychar. It is now the West Bank city of Nablus, in Palestinian territory. The population is now Muslim with Christian and Samaritan minorities.
The well of Jacob lies at the foot of Mount Gerizim, the center of Samaritan worship. While the disciples went into the village to get some lunch a Samaritan woman came out to draw water.
It was an unusual time for a woman to draw water and there may have been a newer well in the village. She could have been avoiding the local village women who would have shunned her because of her reputation.
Jesus’ encounter is not accidental. It is intentional. Everything about this encounter is not just cross-cultural it’s counter-culture. This woman would certainly not expect to find a Jewish man at this well, let alone a religious teacher. A Jewish man especially a religious leader would never talk to her and would certainly not drink from a Samaritan cup.
Furthermore it’s obvious that Jesus knew about her multiple marriages and live-in boy friend. He chose to talk with her and ask her for a favor.
To effectively connect with our neighbors and work associates we will need to do some very unconventional things. We need to purposefully step out of our cultural comfort zone. When we engage someone who expects us to keep our distance, we communicate acceptance and value.
This woman who was probably feeling plenty of rejection from her own people is suddenly valued by someone that she least expected to show any interest in her. Jesus asks her for a drink. She tests his sincerity with some sarcasm. Something akin to, “We Samaritans are the dirt under your feet until you want something; then we are good enough!”
Jesus paid no attention to her flippancy or to her bitterness.
He was more interested in winning the woman than in winning an argument.
At the very least her curiosity is arrested. What kind of man is this? She asked him why he was asking her for a drink. Number one Jews would never do that and number two he didn’t even bring a mug.
He doesn’t react to her reminder of the prejudice that exists between their cultures. He simply takes her curiosity to the next level.
He says, "if you knew how generous God really is, and who it is your talking to, you would ask me for a drink. It will quench your spiritual thirst." She was already wondering what kind of Jewish guy this was--now He really had her attention.
Here’s how the scripture reads, Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4.10 NIV)
He is talking about the nature of the gift and the giver.
The gift of salvation was never limited to a monoculture.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3.16-17 NIV)
It doesn’t say God so loves Jews or Americans, whites or straights. It says he loves the world.
Jesus is telling her I am God’s gift to you. A few other guys had tried to convince her of that but it wasn’t believable.
She doesn’t understand the offer at first. She doesn’t pick up on his metaphor for “living water”. She thinks he is talking about fresh spring water. It was a deep well, and he didn’t even have bucket, how could he get to the bottom of this ancient well and get pure water.
Her next question leads me to believe that she is beginning to wonder if he is some kind of miracle worker. Curiosity is turning into expectation.
She says, “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?”(John 4.12 Message)
Her reference to “our father Jacob” is an attempt to impress this rabbi with her religious heritage. Samaritans claimed ancestry through Joseph.
People who have not yet experienced the gift of life in Jesus can be defensive about their religious experience.
Satan loves to manipulate their insecurity to make them feel like we are putting them down and making our self better than them.
But John 3 continues with this, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18(NIV)
This is why Peter instructs us to be very considerate of un-believers. “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (Peter 3:15 NIV)
Jesus was patient. He wanted her to clearly understand what he was offering. He contrasted the physical water with spiritual water. One would satisfy temporal thirst. It was hard to get, she had to draw often, and it was a deep well.
The gift he was offering would quench a deeper thirst forever. It didn’t come from the ground. It would spring up from within. Jesus used the same metaphor in Jerusalem. “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." John 7.38 NIV
She wasn’t tracking with him yet. She was still looking for a more convenient way to get water. He raised the bar in the communication by revealing her deepest need. She was trying to quench a thirst for love in all the wrong places. She had become victimized by one failed relationship after another.
He revealed her secrets gently. He said, “go call your husband”. Again this is a great example of respect for her and her culture. It wasn’t proper to talk to a man with out your husband present. It was also strategic.
She would now begin to open up. She said, I’m not married. Now Jesus revealed her real felt need. He gently lifted the veil on her past. The conversation moved from small talk to something deeply personal. It wasn’t condemning but it was very revealing.
Jesus affirmed her for telling him the truth and then added the detail, “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” (John 4.18 NIV)
Now she acknowledges that he is some kind of prophet and attempts to divert the personal issue to a religious argument. She raised the old controversy between Jews and Samaritans--whether worship should be offered on Mount Gerizim, or at the Temple mount in Jerusalem.
The spirit of religious controversy still rages in the world. We should not let Satan derail us with it.
We are not here to defend Christianity or put down other people’s sincere faiths we are here to offer the gift of Jesus!
Jesus doesn’t bite. It’s not about mountains, temples and traditions, He says, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4.23-24 NIV)
He didn’t tell her she had convert to Judaism. He just said, worship the father spiritually and genuinely. True worship is that of the spirit, which means that the worshiper must deal honestly and openly with God.
“God is spirit”, is one of the four descriptions for God in the New Testament. The other three are God is light, (1 John 1:5) God is love, (1 John 4:8) and God is fire. (Heb. 12:29). God is not material, He is spiritual. He cannot be confined to our religious temples and traditions.
Jesus had successfully tapped into this woman’s spiritual hunger. She expressed some hope that a Messiah would come and explain everything. He revealed his identity. “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4.25-26 NIV)
Right about that time the disciples returned from lunch. They were a bit shocked that he was talking to this kind of woman but afraid too ask why. She was so excited that she forgot her water pot and ran off to tell the whole town about this man that could be the Messiah.
“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4.30 NIV) They left the village to see for themselves. They were so impacted that they asked Jesus to stay for two days.
The disciples were worried about Jesus getting something to eat. He, like the woman, was satisfied by something more than food and water.
He said my “food” is to carry out the fathers will and finish his work.
This was why he “had” to go through Samaria. He was on a spiritual quest.
As the people are pouring out of the village a half a mile away in the noon-day sun, Jesus points to the seekers and says, Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4.35 NIV)
People in our communities are not as resistant as Satan would like us to think they are. Let’s open our eyes and open our hearts. Love breaks down all barriers!
Tonight we have an opportunity to encounter our neighbors. Many are school families. Some may be from the apartments we have been reaching out too and others from Hersh elementary school where we have a kids club. Jesus says, love your neighbor as yourself.
Come tonight and do some neighbor loving. Join the Harvest Festival!