The sports news this week has been about Sam Burgess. He has been one of the best Rugby League players in the world but in November last year he switched codes and began playing Rugby Union for Bath. Just months later in August this year he was selected for England’s World Cup squad as a centre, when he was playing his club rugby at flanker. With England’s failure to progress in the competition Burgess found himself at the centre of a debate as to whether he should have been selected to play in crucial games with so little experience. After discussions between Bath and his former Rugby League club, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Burgess left Bath and re-joined the Rabbitohs. Personally, I feel sorry for him, with the benefit of hindsight it was completely unfair to expect him to play at such a high level when he was not even sure of his best position. What chance did he stand?
In our reading today, the disciples return to find Jesus speaking to a woman and they clearly have no idea what is going on.
“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’” (4:27)
Yesterday we were thinking about Jesus’ humanity. The Word had become flesh and he could be tired (4:6), thirsty (4:7) and probably hungry as well (4:8). He is like the rest of us and yet he isn’t. There is distance between the Lord and his disciples. They care about his welfare (4:31), they are prepared to die for him (11:16) and John is able to lean against him as they share a meal (13:23-25) but there is a distance between them. We see it here in that they are all thinking the same thing but dare not ask Jesus what he is doing talking to a woman. It’s something that remained throughout our Lord’s ministry and even at the last supper, they are frightened to question him. It’s always ‘Jesus and the twelve’, never ‘the thirteen’. There is no leg pulling or mickey taking as has been the case with every group of guys that I have seen. They have recognised that they are in the presence of greatness, he is; ‘Meekness and Majesty, Manhood and Deity’.
His worldview is different as well. The disciples saw Samaria as enemy territory (9:52-54) but Jesus saw it as a harvest field. Perhaps that should challenge us, its easy to feel out of place when those around us indulge in conversation that is out of step with our faith but in truth they are just people who need Jesus; a harvest field. Jesus is driven to complete the mission set by the Father and his physical needs, which as we have seen were just as real for him as for us, were very much in second place. It was a principal by which he lived and ultimately died.
“Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart’” (Psalm 40:7-8)
The woman and the Samaritans are a lovely example to us. The woman leaves her water jar where it was (4:28), such as her desire to tell others about Jesus. If she had felt excluded before, an encounter with Jesus compelled her to share what she had heard. The Samaritans asked Jesus to stay with them, he never stayed where he was unwelcome, and listened to his words. Their faith and wonderful confession may have begun with the witness of the woman, but it was founded on the person of Jesus himself;
“We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.” (4:42)
“Mercy and grace are mine, forgiven is my sin,
Jesus my only hope, the Saviour of the world.
“Great is the Lord” we cry, God let your kingdom come,
Your word has let me see, thank you for saving me!” (Martin Smith)