Another story from the gospel of John that gets a lot of mileage is Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. When Jesus arrives at the well, it is noontime. It is hot. People avoided doing hard work under the burning sun; yet here comes this woman to fill up her water bucket, and she runs into Jesus. Usually the sermon points out that – as we later find out – she is a woman with a “reputation” in that town. Therefore, we are told, she came at the time when no one else would come to the well, to avoid dealing with glares and snide comments.
But we don’t know why she came. Maybe we should make no assumptions. Maybe she came there for a divine appointment.
John 4:1-3 When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus makes and baptises more disciples than John (however, Jesus himself did not baptise, but his disciples), he left Judaea and went away again unto Galilee.
Jesus’ concern about “his time coming” (remember the wedding at Cana?) is still present here. Had He suddenly acquired a huge following at that point in the ministry, he would have become a serious threat to the Pharisees and that would have precipitated conflicts that would have interfered with His mission.
John 4:4 And he must needs pass through Samaria.
This one verse by itself deserves a sermon.
And now, a slight detour into Paul’s letter to the Ephesians
What do you think? Does God the Father have a detailed plan for each one of us? Even as believers, it is sometimes easy to get so busy with the routines of life that we don’t think about those things that are outside the routine, things that we do not control; and, therefore, we put them out of our minds.
The problem with that is that that category, “things I do not control”, is enormous. And it is precisely things that we cannot control that sometimes crash into our lives and derail our perfect little plans for our routine. But, for an infinite God, our Heavenly Father, there are no things beyond His control. Nothing can take Him by surprise.
He cares about every detail of every life (Luke 12:7 7 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore, ye are better than many sparrows.) And He knows those details ahead of time (Psalm 139:16 (NIV) Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.)
Therefore, it is not a stretch to conclude that, yes, He does have a perfect plan for each of our lives. I believe it is in that sense that He has chosen us. Jesus said,
John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and have set you that ye should go and [that] ye should bear fruit, and [that] your fruit should abide, that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name he may give you.
You see, God’s Love is so overwhelmingly immense that He loved the whole world: every person ever born and ever to be born. He gave each one a life and gifts prescribed for that life through which we could do the work He prepared for us (the fruit Jesus talks about in John 15:16); which is why Paul says:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has before prepared that we should walk in them.
Does that mean that He controls everything we do? That we have no free will? That He chooses some to be saved and some not to be saved? I don’t think so, because it would be illogical, and God the Father invented logic. It would also be inconsistent with a host of Scriptures.
It is a fact that God predetermined (please avoid the word predestined) that those who would be adopted into His family, would receive eternal life; even if they were born descendants of Adam and Eve (and therefore were born powerless to say “No” to sin.)
But how could God overthrow the rule that He made, that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)? He did that by predetermining that His adopted children would be holy and blameless.
But how does He set aside the whole fall of man and original sin? The answer is that before that event in the Garden ever happened, He had established a greater Law. (Or, as Aslan would say, a deeper magic).
At the time of the sin in the Garden, God established a horizon for man, a limit, a boundary that man could never cross, called death (eternal death).
But before the foundation of the world, God had already established another horizon for His children, the horizon of eternal life. And that horizon, having come first, surpasses the other one.
Any human being born in this Earth that hears the voice of God and accepts His plan of salvation by believing in it, by believing on the One He sent to fulfill that plan, is transformed into a child of God and therefore moved from the horizon of death to the horizon of eternal life.
This is what the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is telling us.
Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ; according as he has chosen us in him before [the] world’s foundation, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love;
Who is the “us” he is talking about that He has chosen?
Ephesians 1:5 having [marked us out beforehand = literally, pre-horizoned] for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
The “us” are His children: those adopted into the family of the Father through Jesus Christ. It is those children that have been chosen to be holy and blameless and therefore able and deserving to spend eternity before Him in His Love. And this truth deserves the utmost praise because not one of us deserved this. But He gave us this eternal life as a free gift, unmerited favor, by His Grace.
Ephesians 1:6 to [the] praise of [the] glory of his grace, wherein he has taken us into favour in the Beloved:
But what is the mechanism through which all this is accomplished? How do we get moved from the horizon of death to the horizon of eternal life? It happens through the Beloved, through Jesus:
Ephesians 1:7-8 in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of offences, according to the riches of his grace; which he has caused to abound towards us in all wisdom and intelligence…
It is that simple. Jesus said it: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” And those who listen and obey, according to John 3:15-17 are no longer condemned, no longer bound by the horizon of death.
Does that mean that we save ourselves? That we save ourselves by having faith, by obeying? and that therefore that faith is a “work” we have accomplished?
Going there is kind of silly because nothing we have has come from ourselves. My life, my breath, my thoughts, are all mine because God made me. I did not invent my faith. I did not work it out. Remember, I was born into the horizon of death. I had no power to reject sin; I was enslaved to every whim of the devil.
Ephesians 2: 1-3 and *you*, being dead in your offences and sins— in which ye once walked according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience: among whom *we* also all once had our conversation in the lusts of our flesh, doing what the flesh and the thoughts willed to do, and were children, by nature, of wrath, even as the rest…
How could such a person, enslaved to that degree, have any power to break his bonds? It is impossible… The fact is, we live our lives blind to those bonds:
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 But if also our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in those that are lost; in whom the god of this world has blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving, so that the radiancy of the glad tidings of the glory of the Christ, who is [the] image of God, should not shine forth [for them].
So, how do we get saved?
The answer is that the Father is working on salvation to this day, He is speaking to this day. And His voice penetrates that darkness. So that, no matter how much chaos the devil scatters all around us trying to keep us forever in the dark, we can still hear the Father with the spirit He gave us, and the measure of faith he planted in each one of us.
Ephesians 2:8 For ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God’s gift…
So, there you have it: it is not my faith, and it is not my spirit, because He gave them to me for free. But it is my choice.
That is all we, of ourselves, have control of… and even that, He gave to us: Because God the Father chose to give humanity free will, and a spirit like His Spirit, so that we could Love like He does. He knew the price that decision would cost Him when He made that choice. He knew it would cost Him His Son. But He deemed it all worth it, so that He could have eternity with us.
I know this was quite a tangent. But I felt it was necessary because people have spent and still spend a lot of time debating technicalities of theology all based on the early translators taking that word Paul invented, pre-horizoned, and rendering it as “pre-destined”… as if it had anything to do with our eternal fate or destiny being fixed by God, arbitrarily, ahead of time.
Indeed, if any choice of that kind, made by God, is irresistible to the point of fixing fate, what are we to say about the Son of God, who chose twelve apostles…
John 6:67-71 Jesus therefore said to the twelve, Will ye also go away? Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast words of life eternal; and we have believed and known that thou art the holy one of God.
Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you the twelve? and of you one is a devil. Now he spoke of Judas [the son] of Simon, Iscariote, for he [it was who] should deliver him up, being one of the twelve.
You see, one of them chose to betray Him, even though Jesus had chosen him for a better future in eternity.
All this tangent motivated by this one verse:
John 4:4 And he must needs pass through Samaria.
You see, God had a perfect plan for Jesus’ life, detailed down to the last minute. And if there was One who always listened to the voice of God, without fail, it was Jesus.
So, when it says there Jesus needed to pass through Samaria… it means that.
Yes, Jesus could have chosen to stay on the other side of the Jordan as they walked all the way back to Galilee. But He knew God the Father had prepared a divine appointment for Him in Samaria.
So, they walked on the west side of the Jordan and passed through Samaria. And he came to rest at the well of the city of Sychar… where a Samaritan woman also happened to answer the call to the same divine appointment.