THE REMOVAL OF BARRIERS
- Read John 4:3–42.
- Sychar, or ancient Shechem, stood at the foot of Mt. Gerizim, about forty miles from Jerusalem.
- Some scholars think it meant drunkenness.
- Joseph was buried near by.
- Jesus was travel weary and fatigued.
- It was about twelve o'clock noon by Jewish time.
- The disciples had gone into the village to buy food and Jesus was resting.
- Some problems encountered in this narrative that separate people from Christ and prevent them from being Christians.
- A racial barrier:
- “The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”
- Who the Samaritans were. A brief history.
- “No dealings” meant that they would not use anything together. Would not drink out of the same cup or well, nor would they sit down to meals together and eat out of the same vessels.
- It is a great problem facing people all over the world today.
- Jesus faced the problem with His disciples during His personal ministry.
- The disciples were surprised that Jesus talked with the woman.
- Some of the apostles continued to have the problem long after He had gone back to heaven.
- It exists to a regrettable degree among some Christians.
- A religious barrier:
- “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain. Are you greater than our father Jacob?”
- Religious traditionalism is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome.
- Jesus told them they transgressed the law of God by their traditions and that they taught for their doctrines the commandments of men.
- Paul was a murderer of Christians and made havoc of the church prior to his becoming a Christian.
- Not many of us are as open and honest as the Ethiopian nobleman: “How can I, unless someone guides me?”
- Many today have inherited their religion and their ties to family and friends keep them from making a change and become true children of God.
- A moral barrier:
- “He whom you now have is not your husband.”
- She had had five husbands in times past and the man she was now living with was not her husband.
- Jesus laid bare her entire life in just a few sentences.
- He did it to show her how wrong such a life is.
- And to point out to her that He could help her correct it.
- One of the greatest barriers that keeps people from becoming Christians and living as a Christian should is the moral evil in their lives that needs to be cleaned up!
- The whole tenor of Christianity is for us to purify ourselves even as he is pure..
- The high standard is set and the principles are clearly enunciated, “Let us cleanse ourselves ...”
- An ignorance barrier:
- “You do not know what you worship.”
- This caused the apostasy of Israel from God.
- Even the donkey knew his master's crib, and ox knew his owner, but Israel did not know God.
- God's people were destroyed for lack of knowledge.
- Today, ignorance keeps people from serving God and turns their faces toward the world.
- A material barrier:
- “The woman then left her water pot.”
- Why did she do it?
- Did she forget because of the great impression Jesus had left on her?
- Did she do it because she had found something incalculably more important?
- Does the press of duty today and the attraction of material things blind us to the true values in life?
- People want things and that is paramount in their lives. Other things are neglected or laid aside for worldly goods.
- A barrier of procrastination:
- “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’ ” (John 4:35)?
- Jesus and the apostles taught that it is now (Hebrews 3:7, 13, 15; 4:7).
- Do not delay; do not defer it; souls are at stake. And now is the time.
- It is a matter of priorities:
- The word proton is used sixty times in the New Testament. “But they first gave themselves to the Lord” (II Corinthians 8:5).
- The word protos is used one hundred times in the New Testament. “He would be the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23).
- When we get first things first in our lives, the barriers will fall and pure Christianity will be practiced and people will be moved by it.
- It is difficult not to treasure treasures. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
- People simply want things; and they want things above the spiritual and the lasting.
- Life to them is possessions. Animal enjoyment is the superlative achievement.
- “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness ...”
REMOVAL OF BARRIERS
To understand the setting of our lesson, please read John 4:3-30. The encounter with the woman at the well, whose name is not given, with Jesus the Messiah took place in a small village in central Palestine. Sychar was located at the foot of Mt. Gerizim about forty miles north of Jerusalem. Some scholars think the word meant drunkenness or town of drunkards because of the character and conduct of the people (Pulpit Commentary, Isaiah 28:1). There are others who think it means town of liars (Habakkuk 2:18). Joseph was buried near this village and Jacob's well was there.
Jesus and His disciples had walked this long distance and He was travel weary and fatigued. “Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey ...” (John 4:6). John used one of the many words found in the New Testament for work. This word is kopiao and the definition is “to be worried or spent with labor, faint from weariness; to labor hard, to toil” (The Analytical Greek Lexicon).
There is a common expression with many people today when they are tired; “I am beat,” or “I am worn out.” It might interest you to know that this is the measure and degree of effort in which the Lord wishes us to be engaged in His service as Christians. It is not half–hearted, but complete dedication fully giving one's self to the tasks to which he has assigned us.
According to Jewish count of time it was about twelve o'clock noon. Jesus was tired, dusty, thirsty, and hungry. He had traveled a long distance, as indicated in the number of miles from Jerusalem to Sychar. The sun had waxed hot, the disciples had gone into town to buy food, and He was spending this period of time resting. This is one of the classic examples of the humanity of Jesus.
Roadblocks that Bar the Way to Heaven
By now you have read the story and have observed some of the things discussed which separate people from Christ and true discipleship—and some things which separate people from one another and prevent them from being true Christians. But let me
hasten to say that all of these roadblocks that bar our way to Christ and the practice of Christianity as He taught and lived it can be removed once we decide to relinquish our hold on the world and give ourselves without reservation to Him and His purpose for us.
1. A Racial Barrier. The woman said to Jesus in reply to His request for a drink of water, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (verse 9). She was saying that “there is a fence between the Jews and my people, a boundary that I am surprised, even astonished, You have crossed.” Perhaps we can understand more about this wall of enmity that existed between these neighbors in Palestine if we learn who the Samaritans were.
When Israel's last king, Hosea, transferred allegiance from Assyria to Egypt, Samaria was surrounded by the armies of Shalmaneser and, after a long siege, was taken by Sargon II in 722 B.C.
Many of the Israelites were driven from the country and carried away into Assyria. Sargon's annals say that he deported 27,290 people. But some were left behind and colonists were brought in from Cuthah, Babylon; Hamath, Syria, a city of old Hittite origin, and other foreign parts after he had conquered Samaria. The Jews counted these people as only one–degree nearer to them than the Gentiles. It is thought that the descendants of these mixed people, in the devastated land of Samaria, produced through intermarriage, this mongrel, bastard race called Samaritans.
The Samaritans had asked long years before to have a part in the rebuilding of the temple, but they were refused. “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the Lord God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers' houses, and said to them, ‘Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do...’ ” (Ezra 4:1–2). They hated the Jews and the Jews, in turn, hated them!
Subsequently, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim. It was totally destroyed by John Hyrcanus about 128 B.C., but they still worshipped where the sacred edifice had stood.
No Dealings With the Samaritans
This word dealings is a compound word which means “they will not use together.” The Jews would not drink out of the same cup or well with the Samaritans. They would not sit down to meals with them nor eat out of the same vessels. They would have no religious or social connections with them. Some of the Jews, history indicates, did have some commercial dealings with the Samaritans, but they would go no further than that!
The deadly hatred that existed between these two peoples was well known. The Jews cursed them and believed that they were accursed. Their most merciful wish for the Samaritans was that they would have no part in the resurrection. They hoped that they would be annihilated!
The Jews from Judea would cross over the Jordan into Perea and go up the east side of the river and then cross into Galilee. They did this to keep from passing through the land of the Samaritans.
The Barrier of Racism in Our Day
There are few problems facing the world today more serious than the barrier of racism. It is likely that there is no interference that so locks out world peace or that so impedes the spread and progress of true Christianity than racial hatred. I truly believe that this is one of the greatest barriers to preaching and reception of the gospel around the world in the twentieth century. For a time it seemed that this ethnic condition would improve, but one who watches the daily news and reads the papers finds this to be a false hope. There is only one solution—embracing the principles of Christ which have to do with our attitude toward, and our treatment of, other people.
Some of the Apostles Affected
It is not a new problem by any means. The apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ wrestled with this problem in their own thinking and conduct over a long period of time. At a time when one would think that the apostles of Jesus had learned well and for all time this needed lesson, it would erupt and evidences of the prejudice would break forth like a floodgate.
To the household of Cornelius, Peter made this strong and incisive statement: “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28). After penetrating directly to the heart of this matter in such clear and unambiguous language, he made a trenchant and classic statement that has become somewhat of a motto or an axiom for Christians of all ages and colors: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34).
After this persuasive language and this obvious truth, this same Peter found himself in a situation which, for a short while, turned him around one hundred and eighty degrees to the former prejudices and narrow–mindedness of his Jewish way of life. Paul related to the Galatian brethren what happened: “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews’ ” (Galatians 2:11–14)? Old prejudices do not die easily!
This problem or barrier is not peculiar to any one country or race of people. It does not apply to just Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi in the United States. It is a fierce predicament in the Middle East where Jew and Arab have gone berserk and are engaged constantly in violent skirmishes sometimes flaring into full scale war. It has been a troublesome bother for centuries in India with its 17,000 castes in the hereditary Hindu social distinctions based on birth, wealth, and occupational class. It is a “sea of troubles” in Africa between blacks and whites, blacks and colored, whites and Asiatics, and blacks and Arabs. Among a thousand Bantu tribes, it is an insoluble prob–
lem that stymies national progress. It is a besetment that keeps communities and countries in a constant state of ferment. There is hardly a brief period in their affairs that is free from excitement, agitation, commotion, and unrest. Their societies seethe with bitterness and hatred.
Some years ago while living in Africa, I recall that in Uganda the Bantu killed 100,000 Watts, the tall, royal inhabitants of that part of the world. Not long after these tragic events, the newspapers reported fifty thousand others had been killed. Pregnant women were slashed open and small children were run through and held aloft on the points of bayonets. On much of that continent it was a story of indescribable, heartless cruelty.
This state of affairs has not erupted in violence everywhere, but it exists as a formidable barrier in distressful proportions in many parts of the world. We lived for five years in the Caribbean and have visited there on many occasions throughout the past twenty years. It poses a dangerous and awkward situation, but, more than that, bitterness and animosity subsists among people who aver that they have any form of discrimination.
What distresses me is the more subtle and abstruse approach which characterize so many Christians faced with this problem. We would never think of doing bodily harm to one of another color or race and we would be repulsed by any rude remarks or sharp invective spoken against these people, but how much do we care about their having the gospel preached to them?
We can relate to people who live down the street from us, particularly if they have the same color skin as ours, or we may feel greater sympathy for a family of a different culture and linguistic background who have lived in the neighborhood some years. But how much money would we give, and what kind of sacrifices would we make, to see that the people in Southeast Asia or the Caribbean Islands have the gospel fully preached to them?
Are we ready to generously and unselfishly share the gospel with all races and are we willing to accept them as one with us in the family of God? Is there a secret annoyance that
that they should presume to be on the same plane with us? Our prejudices take on a good many different faces and forms and each Christian needs to examine deeply his own heart.
The problem may seem insoluble, but Christianity can remove the barriers, heal the wounds, alleviate the hurts, tranquilize the ruffled feelings, and bring men and women together in peace, love, harmony, and good will in one great family, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But you have to be willing!
2. A Religious Barrier. “Are You greater than our father Jacob” (John 4:12), the woman at the well asked? “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain” (John 4:20), she said.
One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome and one of the most stubborn barriers to remove is that of religious traditionalism. It is as unyielding, intolerant, radical, extreme, and unreasoning as racism. Religious traditions not only blind one to the truth, but it gets a firm hold on one in a death–like grip.
Jesus dealt with people throughout His ministry who placed tradition above the doing of God's will. On every turn he met it. It kept the leading Jews of His day from accepting Him as the Messiah. “Why do you also transgress [step by the side of; become a violator] the commandment of God because of your tradition” (Matthew 15:3)? Jesus told them: “And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7).
Tradition Once Everything to Paul
Paul himself, at one time, was mad and murderous against Christians because, through the blindness caused by religious traditionalism, he tenaciously held to the doctrines of the Pharisees.
Listen to this apostle as he reflects upon this period in his life before he was converted to Christ: “According to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (Acts 26:5). “And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:11).
“Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). “And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14).
What About People in Our Time?
Today there are not as many people as there ought to be who are really open to the truth. Far too many people have inherited their religion and feel strongly averse to any change. They hesitate to even discuss the matter. In the remote areas of Africa where I once lived, I encountered this spirit, “Let me first talk with the elders in my village.” I found it among other races of people as well. A young Greek lad whose beginning had been in the Greek Islands remarked, “I believe what we are now studying from the Bible is true, but let me first go back to Cyprus and tell my father about it.” In America I hear, “My people have been this, religiously, for generations; and what would my mother and grandmother say if I should make a change? The current of religious thought has been in the family from times almost immemorial, and to break with that tradition would be sacrilegious. None in my family runneth to the contrary.”
Connected with the breaking of tradition is the fear of social and economic ostracism. They feel that such a change as becoming simply a Christian would be an admission that their parents and other members of their family had died and were forever lost. It would be an admission that they could not go to heaven. Furthermore, they are not willing to lose the love, friendship, and support of those whom they cherish. Nor are they willing to make the sacrifice of a family inheritance that, in many cases, results when the decision is made to make such a change.
It Takes Genuine Honesty
There are not many people with the honesty of the Ethiopian nobleman, about whom we read in Acts chapter 8. “And he [the Ethiopian nobleman] said ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:31).
There are not many people like Paul who broke with his people and religious culture to become a Christian—especially in the face of the storm of rebuke and rejection by family and friends which such change produced. This barrier of preconception, prejudice, and bias needs to be removed if God's will is to be effectively carried out and if He is to be glorified, for there is no warp or twist of man's thinking which is more detrimental to the prospect of unity and peace among God's people than this cancer of the soul.
3. A Moral Barrier. “And the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly” (John 4:18). The woman had said to Jesus, “I have no husband.” She had been doing considerable talking, using forty–one words in two sentences and fifteen words in another, but when the conversation moved into a critical, crucial stage, there was a turning point in her approach and her response. The next sentence she used contained just three words! There is no question but that she was throwing up a barrier. She refused to be exposed and unmasked. At least that was the nature of her defense.
But the Lord did not leave her alone. In His reply, He literally said to her “A husband you do not have.” He emphasized the fact that she was without a husband by using the word first in the sentence. What He said to her was, “For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly” (John 4:18). In one sentence, He laid bare her entire past and present immoral life. He penetrated the innermost recesses of her heart. Why did He do it? He revealed it to impress on her two significant truths: (1)the sinfulness of her life and (2) His ability to correct it and change her.
Let's Change the Subject!
This woman of Samaria changed the subject to avoid the embarrassment and the painful reminders of her sinful conduct. She needed to make correction of her own life before she could be a disciple of Jesus.
Two thousand years have gone by, but people have not changed very much. The story has been retold countless times through these two millennia. It parallels what happened yesterday and the day before. The great hindrance that an incalculable number of
people have to becoming Christians is the character and conduct of their own lives. They need to clean up their manner of living. There is no place on earth where this need does not exist. There is certainly no place where the truth is more pertinent and relevant than in our own country, the United States of America.
Widespread Social Relationship
I also saw this moral barrier in distressing proportions during the years I lived in and visited the Caribbean Island nations. Marriage is treated so lightly there. The practice of concubinage is more common than marriage. Millions of people cohabit without legal ties or moral promises. Concubinage is, in fact, a socially recognized and accepted state of affairs in these societies. I recall picking up my daily newspaper and seeing an editorial on the subject. I was taken aback by its report that ninety children out of one hundred were born of these concubined connections.
In a sense, the situation in America is more wretched and miserable than in the Caribbean because the economic standards are higher in America and the opportunities for intellectual achievement are much greater, so that we are without excuse.
Give serious attention to the high and royal standard set by Christianity. No system of ethics in the world favorably compares with that of Christianity. A true disciple of Jesus who has brought his life into correspondence with God's will, stands in every moral principle, head and shoulders above the converts of any world religion in existence.
What Must be Done as a Remedy
“Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1). “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I John 3:3). Paul continued to give this advice to young Timothy: “Keep yourself pure” (I Timothy 5:22). “Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Timothy 4:12). “Flee youthful lusts” (II Timothy 2:22). “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness” (James 1:21). James further said, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is ... to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27).
The line of demarcation in conduct and deportment is not drawn clearly enough between the man of the world and the Christian. The Bible makes a clear distinction; it depicts who is a true disciple. A man's life does not always delineate that difference. The outline sketched in the New Testament is full and complete. It is beautiful and practical and we know and understand it perfectly well in theory, but making it a part of our daily living is where we fall short. The barriers will not be removed and God will not be glorified because of us until the day arrives when we, like many of the Christians of the first century, unreservedly commit ourselves to live like Jesus.
4. An Ignorance Barrier. “You worship what you do not know” (John 4:22). A barricade that must come down is that of ignorance. No wall that prevents men from becoming Christians and worshiping God in spirit and in truth is longer or higher than this one. The peoples from other nations that were brought into Samaria and left there after the Assyrian captivity intermarried with the Israelites and produced a mongrel race called the Samaritans. It was of these people that the writer of the book of Kings said: “They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away” (II Kings 17:33).
The prophet Hosea said concerning this condition among his people: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you ... Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6).
The prophet Isaiah, pursuing this subject of ignorance and what resulted from it among God's people, said: “The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master's crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider” (Isaiah 1:3). Then follows a long list of sins of which they were guilty growing out of that ignorance. Let me write some of that list down and draw your attention to the danger and devastation of the sin of ignorance:
1. “Ah, sinful nation.”
2. “A people laden with iniquity”
3. “Offspring of evil doers.”
4. “Sons who deal corruptly.”
5. “They have forsaken the Lord.”
6. “They have despised the Holy One of Israel.”
7. “They are utterly estranged.”
8. “The whole head is sick.”
9. “And the whole heart faint.”
10. “From the sole of the foot even to the head.”
11. “There is no soundness in it.”
12. “But bruises and sores and bleeding wounds.”
13. “Your country lies desolate.”
14. “Your cities are burned with fire.”
15. “Aliens devour your land.”
16. “Like a besieged city.”
17. “Unless the Lord of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9).
Can you imagine that many evil things growing out of ignorance? Peter preached to the Jews in the city of Jerusalem and said to them: “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17).
Ignorance and Alienation Defined and Understood
Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus on this subject: “Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). Paul asserts here what is difficult for us to accept, viz., that ignorance will alienate one from God. Ignorance produces spiritual blindness and one cannot see. What is hard for us to believe and accept is that one who is ignorant of God and His will should be held responsible for his actions. The term alienate is a strong and descriptive one. It means to separate, disunite, sever. Ignorance produces blindness, Paul said, and that in turn results in a cleavage, a rupture, and a detachment from God.
Three Classes of the Ignorant
Today, there are three general classes of people in ignorance: (1) those who have not had the opportunity to know God because we have not taken the gospel to them, (2) those who have the opportunity to know Him who refuse to surrender themselves to Him—a dangerous, willful ignorance, and (3) those who
are blinded by false teaching.
Many people in the world are illiterate and need more than ordinary help to come to know God. Some years ago there were places on the African continent where the rate of literacy was not more than one percent. Hopefully, that figure is higher today. There are other places in the world with large populations where the literacy rate is very low. I picked up a newspaper in the airport in Port au Prince, Haiti several years ago and noticed that 90 percent of the people of that island nation could neither read nor write. It was a big problem in Jamaica where we lived for a number of years.
Along with this ignorance go fears of the unknown, the beliefs and practices of superstition, trust in magic, an irrational attitude of mind towards the supernatural, voodooism, ancestor worship, witchcraft, and communication by trance with animistic deities. All the pagan rites and ceremonies which accompany this ignorance are rife and endless.
People who have embraced this way of life are hard to reach with the gospel. The complexity and complication of heathenism are deeply entrenched in their minds. They, more often than not, have a suspicion and mistrust of the man who brings them the gospel.
The ramifications of these systems comprise a labyrinth of confusion to the mind of the Christian who is accustomed to simplicity of truth, the purity of thought, and the logic of the teachings of Christ. Disentanglement from it is a Herculean task. I know! Students in our schools of preaching and Biblical studies in these countries have serious difficulties uncluttering their minds and stripping themselves of long accustomed habits.
I recall a graduate student of the Tanganyika Bible School whom we had sent to preach and establish a church in Dar–es–Salaam returning for a visit at the school. He had developed a distressingly painful condition of his feet. Ultimately, he went back to the witch doctor and when he removed his shoes to show me the treatment he had been given, I was amazed to see a hundred scars on top of his feet. These slashes from a knife or some sharp object were slits, supposedly, through which the evil spirits responsible for the pain had escaped.
I hoped that the Christian student did not believe that but was simply seeking some relief from the distress he had experienced.
A second class of these people in the category of the ignorant are those who have had every opportunity educationally, economically, and culturally to learn and know the truth, but who have filled their hearts with earthly ambitions and furious desires and simply have not chosen to know God. Their god is their belly and they mind earthly things.
And there is still a third class. They, too, have had every educational advantage, but have been blinded to the truth by false teaching. There was this class of people in Jesus' day. Paul contended with them almost everywhere he went. He said, “I marvel that you are tuning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6–9).
Today there are so many people with preconceived ideas, prejudices, and set opinions and their faces thereby have been turned away from the truth of the gospel. People die of ignorance in a land of learning and Bibles.
5. A Material Barrier. “The woman then left her waterpot” (John 4:28). Jesus could have left this job for Philip. Many years later Philip came to Samaria and preached Christ to them, but Jesus had already laid the groundwork. The Lord could have said, “I am tired, thirsty, and hungry and these matters can wait. This woman is not Jewish, but eventually she will be included.” The woman, on the other hand, could have said: “I must carry water; this is my job. Religious matters can wait.” But she didn't. The wonderful news the woman had just received impelled her to tell it to others. That is one of the highlights of this lesson—her undaunted desire to share what she had heard with her neighbors and friends in the village. The fact that Jesus had opened an ugly chapter in her life did not deter her from telling the story.
It seems that it would have been unnerving, and even disheartening, to be confronted by “a Man who told me all things that I ever did” (John 4:29). She was constrained to tell others.
Often I have asked, “Why did she leave her water pot?” I like to think that in her excitement she forgot it because she was so absorbed in what she had heard. As we say in our language today, “She was so caught up and enmeshed in Jesus' teaching and who He was” that she was overwhelmed by it all. She could have easily forgotten her water pot. I also like to think she left it purposely, deliberately, and intentionally because now she has found something far better and more important.
One of the most formidable, insuperable barriers which confronts us in modern times is the barrier of materialism. It is difficult not to treasure treasures. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil"” (I Timothy 6:10). Every sort of crime has been perpetrated out of consideration of money.
People want things, and they want things above everything else. Life, to them, is possessions. The accretion of wealth, and what it will purchase for animal enjoyment and compensation are the superlative achievements. This is so true in affluent America; but it is also true in what we call the disadvantaged societies of the Third World countries. A Haitian preacher said to me some years ago: "Anything can be bought in Haiti with money." But could not this be said in New York and Dallas? The tragedy of it all is that Christians have been terribly influenced by materialism.
Jesus once said, “the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). He used two words worthy of our careful inspection. One of them is deceit, apate, and it means, “the lusts excited by deceit; by deceitful influences, seducing to sin;” the verb means: “to cheat, deceive, beguile” (Thayer). Two of the passages he uses are Matthew 13:22 and Mark 4:19. In being deceived by lusts of the flesh, he enumerates and specifies what these particular lusts are. Jesus called them riches, but that word, plousios, means “wealthy, abounding in material resources; to be rich, to have an abundance of outward possessions” (Thayer). One standard translation renders this part of the verse, “the delight in riches.” It is true that men delight in them because of all the promises money makes, all the security it offers, and the wonderful status
symbol it represents. It promises power, pleasure, and popularity. Nothing is so prestigious as money. It is a delusion, but men believe a lie, and this translation says they delight in it. The pleasure, however, is short–lived.
The love of money, of things, of creature comforts is still a barrier which deters us from preaching the gospel around the world in this generation. The answer to this question, the solution to this problem, and the surmounting of this obstacle is that we “first give our selves to the Lord, ... seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”