One of the familiar themes in the New Testament has to do with the identity of Jesus. Maybe you will recall the scene where a paralytic was lowered in front of the Son of Man as He was preaching. Jesus shocked his audience by forgiving the man of his sins prior to healing him (MK 2:1-12). The religious leaders were angry! The disciples had to be perplexed. Who did Jesus think He was to go around forgiving sins? As for the paralytic—surely He was ecstatic! Wouldn’t you? We like a Savior who heals our infirmities!

And what about the time when Jesus ordered His disciples to sail across the Sea of Galilee to the other side? A storm arose. The disciples were terrified, and Jesus—well, Jesus slept! Think of that. Right in the middle of hurricane-like-winds and engulfing waves, Jesus fell asleep. So the disciples woke Him up and asked Him to do something about the situation. He did! He ORDERED the winds and the sea to calm down. They did—right on command! It shocked the disciples to the extent that they asked, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (MK 4:35-41) We like a Savior like that—One who rescues us from peril. 

Ok, time out. Push the “pause button” for a couple of minutes. Before we say anything more about Jesus, let’s talk about us. I hope you don’t mind. In fact, if you could see into my life right now, you would see how often I avoid people. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true. I see people at the grocery store who are different from me, and……I avoid them! I see people from different ethnic backgrounds and make critical comments about their clothing or their rowdy children. I avoid them. I call for technical support for my mobile phone, and get irritated at having to talk to someone whose English is broken and confusing. My preference would be to avoid them if I could. Can you identify? Sure you can! 

But what does this have to do with Jesus? EVERYTHING! 

Take a look at John 4, verses 1-42. It is a familiar passage to some. The narrative begins by informing the reader that Jesus “HAD TO TRAVEL THROUGH SAMARIA (JN 4:4).” Wait a minute. Geographically speaking, first century Jews had ways of avoiding Samaria at all costs. Why would John say that Jesus HAD to go through Samaria? The answer is that when John uses this specific verbal form it was commonly used to indicate or to imply the will of God. So Jesus was going through Samaria intentionally—to teach His disciples an important lesson. More specifically, Jesus HAD to go through Samaria to do the will of the Father! 

As the narrative unfolds we are also told that Jesus entered into a conversation with a Samaritan woman, while His disciples were in a nearby town buying food. No “respectable” Jew would talk to a woman privately—especially a SAMARITAN woman! And the biblical text tells us that in the conversation Jesus revealed everything about this woman’s life—and I mean everything (JN 4:19, 29)! By the time the disciples returned, they too were amazed that Jesus was talking to this woman (JN 4:27). But instead of leaving them in their amazement, Jesus redirected His disciples to see a crowd of people who where coming from the nearby town, people who were coming to see if what the woman had told them was actually true (JN 4:30, 35).

Let me remind you that we appreciate a Savior who brings the best wine to the wedding feast (JN 2). And we like a Savior who heals and delivers (MK 2). We like a Savior who feeds us when we are hungry (JN 6). But don’t miss the expectations of this very same Savior at the end of John 4. The dialogue in verses 34-38 is not simply an answer to the disciples’ earlier question in verse 27. It is an invitation. It is an invitation to engage people who are different from us. That means that the people we judge at the grocery store, the poor family at the school musical, or the quiet, withdrawn colleague in the lunchroom—these are people Jesus wants us to know and with whom we must relate. You see, INSTEAD OF AVOIDING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT, ENGAGE IN CONVERSATIONS THAT MIGHT MAKE AN ETERNAL DIFFERENCE. 

So here we are just a few days away from the joyous celebration of EASTER! We like a Savior who heals, who delivers, and who rises from the dead! But this same Savior we celebrate on Sunday calls us to engage in “eternal conversations” today. He not only calls us to them, but He promises to be with us in every dialogue from start to finish (MT 28:20). Maybe you could start one of those conversations today by inviting a neighbor—someone different from you—to the worship celebration at your church. Perhaps you could invite a colleague and their family members to your home for dinner this week. Think about it! This very same Jesus who defeated death is calling you and me to proclaim eternal life to others—even people who are different!

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