Monthly Archives: December 2016

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016 – Rest for the Weary

So he came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. – John 4:5-6

Jesus rested.  That’s what John tells us about Jesus as he journeyed across Samaria.  He was weary from his travels, and he rested.  Sometimes we can overlook the human side of Jesus, and, quite frankly, the gospels don’t tell us much about Jesus’ humanity.  In John we read that Jesus was tired, that Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus, and that Jesus cried out on the cross, “I thirst.”  These are about the only glimpses we see of Jesus’ humanity.  All of this can cause us to consider what it means that Jesus was fully human and fully divine.  After all, if Jesus did not feel human emotions or struggle with the aches and pains of life, then surely he could not be like us.  Most of us could negotiate life effectively if we always knew the future, always knew the right answer, and only had to speak a word for a miracle to be performed.

But we read that Jesus grew weary under the noonday sun and he rested.  John tells us that Jesus shared our human experience, but he did so without sharing our human nature.  That is, his orientation was not toward self-advancement or personal pleasure.  His motivation was pure love – love for God and love for others.  It is his nature that makes Jesus divine, and his miraculous powers were simply manifestations of God’s work through him.  Of course, even here we find help for living.  When Jesus was weary from the world, he rested in his father’s care and keeping.  His was not an anxious rest, a fitful rest.  His was more a true Sabbatical rest, resting in God.  Likewise, Jesus rested in faith and trust.  It is not by accident that John tells us that Jesus sat down by Jacob’s Well.  Jesus was resting in the faith of all who had come before.  It is to this same rest that Jesus calls us when he says, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Lord Jesus, I know you must grow weary with me.  Continue your work in me that I may live like you, love like you, and even rest like you.  Amen.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

A Bible study devotional by Gorman Houston

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Monday, December 12, 2016 – Breaking Down the Walls of Hostility

He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.   – John 4:4-5


John tells us that Jesus traveled from Jerusalem to Samaria on his way to Galilee.  Note the geographic progression of Jesus in John’s Gospel.  After his baptism “beyond the Jordan,” he traveled to Cana of Galilee, a city unknown to the other Gospel writers and of uncertain location to scholars today, though many scholars place it close to Jesus’ home of Nazareth.  From there Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover, to the center of Judaism.  He then traveled along the Jordan and came into Samaria.  Now note the implication of the setting.  John writes that Jesus’ performed a transforming miracle (water to wine) in Cana, then tells that he offers just such transformation to Judaism, first by cleansing the Temple, then by offering Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, the life-transforming power of birth “from above” with the Holy Spirit.  Now, John reports that Jesus moves from the center to the fringe with the same offer.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.”  Such is not necessarily the case, at least not logistically.  It is true that Samaria, home to hated half-breeds who claimed to be descendants of Jacob’s son Joseph, was geographically located between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north.  So great was the division between the Jews and the Samaritans that most pious Jews walked along the east side of the Jordan River to avoid setting foot on Samaritan soil.  John speaks of Jesus and his disciples being at the Jordan River just before they began their travels to Galilee, so it would have been expected that the group would follow the common practice and avoid Samaria altogether.  Not so.  John tells us that Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.”  This requirement does not appear to be dictated by geography so much as by purpose, by intent, by commission.  Jesus journeyed on purpose from the center of the Jewish world into the misunderstood, hated, suspect world on the fringe – from Jerusalem to Samaria.

As faith is institutionalized, it is easy – almost natural – for it to spawn division, to create insiders and outsiders.  Even the disciples of John the Baptist and those of Jesus experienced such friction, as John tells us in the previous chapter.  God’s intention in sending Christ Jesus into this divided world was to “break down the dividing wall of hostility,” Paul writes in Ephesians, “so making peace.”  In order for him to do that, Jesus had to travel first to Jerusalem, and after that “he had to pass through Samaria.”

Good Father, in the spirit and power of Jesus, help me to break down walls of hostility and to build bridges of trust.  Amen

“He is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility…” – Ephesians 2:14


A Bible study devotional by Gorman Houston