TLW10A for Sunday, March 15, 2020. The undeserved love of God
Taken from the Revised Standard Lectionary, Year A, March 15 (Lent 2)
Sunday readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. First read the passage in its entirety (NIV text) and let it speak for itself; then, the links below take you to the verse-by-verse commentary.
Theme: God’s sheer goodness to undeserving people
Exodus 17:1-7 – God shows grace to the grumbling tribes who need water, and delivers them again
John 4:5-42 — The gift of God in Jesus is love for the Samaritans
Romans 5:1-11 — What Christ did for undeserving, ungodly sinners
Also: Psalm 95
Exodus 17:1-7 — God shows His grace in giving water again to the grumbling tribes
The people are not trusting God or their leader, but He delivers them again
1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, travelling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.
“No water” – with their animals, a big problem.
2 So they quarrelled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”
“So they quarrelled” – the spiritual problem was not the need of water, but not trusting in God’s provision of it.
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
“Grumbled” – in distrust of God and His appointed leader Moses, even though they had seen the miracles of bitter water made pure at Marah, and finding food in the Desert of Sin, ç.
4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
“Moses cried out to the Lord” – in prayer and dependence, by contrast to the people who had cried out against him.
5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.
“Take… some of the elders” – not all of them were blaming Moses, and he needed witnesses to what God would do.
6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.
“I will stand there before you” – the Lord revealing Himself, and reinforcing Moses’ leadership.
“Strike the rock” – for Paul, the rock was a sign representing Jesus, 1 Cor. 10:4.
• For further study: the Lord is referred to as “the Rock”, Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 30; 1 Samuel 2:2.
7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
“Massah and Meribah” – testing and rebellion, although they knew God’s deliverance in leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud and fire, and manna, Psalm 95:7-8, Hebrews 3:7-8.
Moses was the convenient target to take the blame when there wasn’t enough food in the desert or there wasn’t a source of water. But actually, God allowed these times as tests, to know what was in their hearts, and whether they would trust Him – and they often failed.
- The good news in this passage is that God is good, His love is constant when ours is not, and when we eventually turn to Him, He is there for us.
See article on separate page, Understanding the Good News – God’s grace
How good are we at choosing not to blame, but to seek and trust God in the face of difficulties?
John 4:5-42 — The gift of God in Jesus is love for the Samaritans
How the unbelieving and hostile people found revival
5-6 So He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
“Sychar – a village opposite Mt. Gerazim near OT Shechem or NT Nablus, where Jacob had bought some land, later giving it to Joseph, Gen. 33:18-19, 48:21-22. A 40m well by a crossroads exists today.
7-8 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give Me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
“A Samaritan woman came” – women did not generally fetch water in the heat of the day, except this social outcast.
9 The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
“How can You ask Me” – Jesus’ desire to reach this lost woman overrode conventions: addressing a lone woman, and drawing from a well used by (ritually unclean) Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”
11-12 “Sir,” the woman said, “You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
“Living water” – God reproves the Jews for rejecting Him, “the fountain of living waters” in Jer. 2:13, and other prophets spoke of the time when “living waters shall flow from Jerusalem”, i.e. knowing God’s grace and spiritual life, Zech. 14:8; Ezekiel 47:9.
13-14 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
“A spring… welling up to eternal life” – like Jesus’s teaching about springs of living water from within, meaning the new life of the Spirit, at the Feast of Tabernacles, John 7:37-39.
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17-18 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“I have no husband” – she replies in guilt and shame for her immoral life while beginning to seek this “living water”.
19-20 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21-22 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe Me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.
“A time is coming” – all temples, priests, and sacrificial worship is now superseded by the priesthood of all believers in Jesus, the “living stones” of the church, 1 Peter 2:5.
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you — I am He.”
“I am He” – showing why “salvation is from the Jews”, v.22, able to speak of His Messiahship in Samaria without the political connotations.
27 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?”
28-29 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward Him.
“Could this be…” – She saw Christ first as a Jew, v.8, then as a prophet, v.19, and now the Messiah.
31-33 Meanwhile His disciples urged Him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then His disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought Him food?”
34-35 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent Me and to finish His work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.
“My food” – or My fulfilment, is in carrying out the mission. Jesus’s sayings needed spiritual discernment and were often only understood by the disciples after the Spirit had been given, John 2:22.
“Fields… ripe for harvest” – literally “white” at the end of the natural cycle. Here, sowing at the well was already resulting in a supernatural harvest in the village.
36-38 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.”
“Even now” – there is a foretaste of the messianic age where “the one treading grapes” overtakes “the ploughman and the planter”, while remembering that we harvest what others have planted, Amos 9:13, Micah 6:15.
39-41 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they urged Him to stay with them, and He stayed two days. And because of His words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “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.”
“Saviour of the world” – also in 1 John 4:14. The Samaritan revival is the first sign of Jesus’ saving mission beyond the Jews, the pattern for the way the early church moved out to Judea, Samaria and the Gentiles, John 3:1-15, John 4:1-42, John 4:46-54, Acts 1:8.
The Samaritans, having changed their version of the Scriptures to support worshipping independently on their own mountain, were hardly deserving of God’s favour. However, God breaks man’s ‘rules’ to bless those who seem to least deserve it, and bring spiritual life in unlikely places.
- The good news is that a heart that turns to God is what is important, not track record – because of His bias towards grace.
Where are the unlikely ‘Samaria’ places that we know, where God might be already working?
Romans 5:1-11 What Christ did for undeserving, ungodly sinners
When we have trusted Jesus, the tough times grow our faith and expectation
1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
“Justified through faith” – summarising the preceding teaching on how we are all under God’s judgment for humankind’s rebellion, which our ‘good’ actions cannot address but only believing, trusting faith like Abraham’s.
“Peace with God” – not a feeling but the settled reality of now being reconciled, freed from the fear of judgment, and having the joy of a personal relationship with God through Jesus.
3-5 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
“Glory in our sufferings” – tough circumstances still come but Christians find that God makes use of adversity to grow us in faith and character.
6-8 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
“The right time, when we were… powerless” – the realisation that while we are unregenerate sinners we can do nothing to help ourselves. This brings into focus the magnitude of what Jesus has done, dying for us, even though we were utterly undeserving.
9-11 Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
“Justified by His blood” – in Scripture, “blood” is shorthand for violent death, Leviticus 17:11.
“We were God’s enemies” – because we inherited Adam’s independence, a hostility to God’s order that must be removed for reconciliation to happen.
“Saved from God’s wrath… reconciled… having been reconciled… saved” – the repetition emphasises the point. Christians “justified” (declared not guilty) now by Christ’s blood poured out on the Cross, can be assured that at the judgment to come they will be confirmed in God’s eternal love, not wrath.
The grumbling Israelites and the independent Samaritans teach us that ‘deserving’ is not the way God works. Paul stresses that in ourselves we were lost and helpless and couldn’t do a thing about it. But Jesus did – before we ever made a single move to trust Him.
- This, says, Paul, is the “grace in which we stand” and it is this well-spring of God’s life within us, that holds us and grows us, through good times and tough times, while we joyfully give God all the glory.
How difficult is it for you to praise God and speak of His love for you, when all your feelings say otherwise?
Lord, I thank You for loving me when I wasn’t even looking Your way and for dying for me before I ever came to believe and trust in You. As I learn how You delight to bless, beyond anything we could ever deserve, so grow me in this Lent season to be more generous-spirited and gracious to others – like You. Amen.