Empty Arms with Full Hearts

Empty Arms with Full Hearts

In John chapter 4 we have Jesus talking to someone who, according to the apostles and the Jews of that day, He has no business talking to. Culturally speaking, Jesus is crossing a line by having this conversation that completely shocks His apostles. In John 4:27 we have their reaction described as, “…At this point, His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman…” The word used there to describe their reaction to what Jesus is doing at the moment is the Greek word “ethaumazon” and is used only seven times in the New Testament. Each time this specific word is used it denotes a feeling of bewilderment, marvel, or even astonishment in someone. We see this in John 3 when Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about the need of being born again. Nicodemus’ reaction is to be “amazed” at this wild concept. Again in John 7, after Jesus has spent a good amount of time teaching a crowd the Jews are “astonished” at the level of teaching Jesus is capable of despite being without any formal education. The idea we see in the context of this word is a situation when someone is amazed by something so astonishing that it’s also perplexing. This is the feeling the apostles feel when they see Jesus talking to not just a woman, but a Samaritan woman in the middle of the day.

When describing to teenagers the feelings that the Jews had when it came to Samaritans, I often will borrow a term from the Harry Potter book series, “mudbloods.” They were half pure blood (Jewish lineage) and half “unclean” blood. The Samaritans were a group of people who had once been faithful Israelites but had intermarried with different peoples of the area and had become “dirty” in the eyes of the Jewish people.  This and other religious discrepancies between the two groups created a sharp divide and disgust from both parties. It became so strong that when Jews would walk from Galilee to Jerusalem, they would go miles out of their way just to not walk near the city of the Samaritans. Couple all of this with the fact that Jewish men wouldn’t normally strike up conversations with women and it’s easy to understand the “amazement” the apostles had in seeing this situation. What we have in John 4 though is so much more than Jesus simply crossing cultural lines to show love and importance of spreading the gospel to ALL people. Within this chapter, I believe we also see a perfect example of how we who have heard the gospel should react to the good news in our lives.

After reading verses 7-26 and observing the conversation between the Samaritan woman and Jesus we see that Christ has revealed to her who He truly is, taught her on matters of true worship and the living waters He can give. It’s what happens in verses 28-30 that reveals a key concept in discipleship. John describes it by saying, “So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’ They went out of the city and were coming to Him.” Often times when examining this text, we look to the evangelism this woman instantly did to show how we too should be instantly looking for ways to spread the good news to the people around. While this is definitely a teachable moment and truly something we should take to heart, there is also another takeaway tucked within this text. What the woman did right after hearing the good news and right before going to her city to evangelize, “So the woman left her waterpot…” The Samaritan woman who had come to Jacob’s well for the sole purpose of drawing water left her waterpot/bucket behind to do work of the Lord. This is no small thing! What she was doing by coming to the well was a huge responsibility of hers as a woman living and managing a household. She wasn’t just drawing water to have a refreshment to sip on throughout the day; she was drawing water for the vital functions of her home. She was providing water for her family to drink, water for her to wash various items like clothes and dishes with, and water for a multitude of other purposes like bathing and cleansing rituals. Yet when she came to the realization of who Jesus was, she leaves all this behind to spread the news to other people. She let go of the task and responsibilities that she was busy with in order to pick up the task and responsibility of someone who has met Christ; tell others.

This step in the process of being a disciple and doing the Lord’s work is imperative for us to follow. We too need to drop what we are carrying at the feet of Jesus so that we can better achieve the true goal in life. Too often do we as Christians try to carry too much in our arms as we attempt to work for the Lord? So many times, we hear what Christ is offering, we accept it (obey and submit to it), but afterward, we want to return to our waterpot. We have both arms full carrying the Lord’s work and our own agenda/responsibilities. No doubt, later that day or sometime soon afterward, this woman went back and continued her work in providing for her family, but we see through her actions a ranking of priorities.

We all have various responsibilities that we have the duty to hold and carry out whether it be to our family, our job, or our community/country but, these should never outrank or overshadow our first and foremost responsibility to serving the Lord. We all also have otherworldly things that aren’t responsibilities that take up room in our lives and slow us down in fulfilling our mission in serving Jesus. Things like entertainment, hobbies, leisure time and other things that aren’t inherently bad at all, but nonetheless take up room in our lives.  Christ frames it well when in Luke 9:62 He states, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” What things do you need to leave at the feet of Jesus?