Letters to the Prison - Week 44

Hello, everyone!
We continue to be grateful for this chance to study God’s word with you.  This week, we’re going to finish looking at John chapter 4.  The story of Jesus’ ministry to the village of Sychar in Samaria ends in verse 42.  Keep in mind, however, the wonderful success Jesus had there.  After a simple conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well (a person many would agree was the least respected and least influential person in the village) who then testifies to her people that Jesus is indeed who he says he is, the entire village of Sychar turns out to hear what Jesus has to say –and most (if not all) of them believe in Jesus.  So, what happened in Samaria was amazing.  
Also amazing was what didn’t happen in Samaria.
As we finish reading John chapter 4, this will become very clear.  To begin, we see that Jesus is continuing north from Samaria into Galilee (John 4:43).  Galilee is the region Jesus lived in most of his life.  Nazareth of Galilee was Jesus’ “home town.”  Though he was born in Bethlehem of Judea and spent some time in Egypt, Jesus eventually returned as a young boy with his family to grow up in Nazareth.  In verse 44, we see something interesting that Jesus says about himself:
• (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)
-John 4:44
That Jesus here calls himself a prophet is not new to us.  But that such a prophet receives “no honor” in his hometown is something to consider.  Especially when, in the very next verse, we see that the “Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast” (John 4:45).  How is it that the Galileans welcome Jesus, yet do not honor him?  Are we capable of doing the same?  Do we welcome Jesus without honoring him and what’s the difference?  
One thing to notice here is why the Galileans welcomed Jesus:  Because they had “seen all that he had done in Jerusalem.”  We caught a glimpse of these signs and the questionable attitude of the people about them in John 2:23-25.  So, the Galileans were there in Jerusalem to witness the miracles Jesus did there.  They therefore knew what Jesus was capable of doing and so when he arrived, they welcomed him expecting him to “put on a show” like the one they saw in Jerusalem.  So, they weren’t in it to honor Jesus.  They were looking for what Jesus could do for them.  
We see an example of this in John 4:46-48.  Jesus returns to Cana where he had already performed the miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:1-12) and he is approached by an official who begs Jesus to heal his son (John 4:47).  Note here that the man showed Jesus no honor.  He did not worship him or acknowledge that he was the Son of God or follow him or anything like that.  He just begged Jesus to heal his son.  He too was in it for what Jesus could do for him.  Apart from Jesus’ healing power, the official might never have seen fit to even speak to Jesus at all.  Yet, when there is an urgent need that no one else can meet, here he is begging Jesus for help.  
Does that sound like us?  Do we look to Jesus only for what he can do for us?  Do we welcome him without honoring him?
What happens next is interesting:
•So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
-John 4:48
Jesus isn’t just speaking to the official here.  He’s speaking to the crowd around them as well.  He also speaks the truth because, in his mercy, Jesus tells the official “go, your son will live” and the official believes him (John 4:50).  Moreover, we see in the following verses that the official and his entire household believed (John 4:51-53).  Here we see how Jesus can heal from a distance just by saying so.  He didn’t need to see the official’s son… had probably never met the boy in person…  yet still knew everything about him; even what he was dying from.  And Jesus healed him from a great distance with a word.
So, in comparing this event to Jesus’ ministry in Samaria, we see what didn’t happen.  In Samaria, Jesus did not perform any miracles.  He didn’t heal anyone or raise the dead or make food or turn water into wine…  none of that.  
Another thing that didn’t happen in Samaria:  No one challenged or opposed Jesus.  The leaders in Jerusalem did as we see in John 2:18.  We’ll see the Jewish leaders challenging Jesus and denying him constantly throughout our study of John.  What we saw in chapter 2 was just the beginning.  Yet in Samaria, no one challenged Jesus’ authority or questioned his claims to be who he says he is.  
Further, it’s true that Jesus didn’t perform any miracles in Samaria.  But even more important is this: No one asked him to.  In fact, we see clearly exactly why the Samaritans believed in Jesus:  Because of his word (John 4:41).  The Samaritans didn’t need to see Jesus prove himself.  They took his word for it and believed in him and honored him as the Savior of the world (John 4:42).  And they did all this following the simple testimony of the lowest, most least-respected member of their village:  The woman Jesus met at the well (John 4:1-30).
As we finally close out chapter 4, we need to ask ourselves this: Why are we seeking Jesus?  If we’re seeking Jesus at all, what is our motivation?  Are we looking to gain something from him?  Do we need him to prove himself to us?  What would it take?  And, if we’re “demanding signs and wonders” from Jesus, at what point would we say “yes, Jesus.  You’ve proven yourself.  Now we’ll believe.”  What more would we need to see?  Is that even the right attitude with which to approach Jesus?
We pray that as you are considering these questions honestly for yourselves you will decide to be like the Samaritans who take Jesus at his word and give him honor as the Savior of the world without questioning his authority or demanding “proof” or “signs” from him.
Until next week, keep reading!  We’re moving into chapter 5!  We love you!

Dean A.

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