I think my favourite story in the bible is Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar. You probably know it, but if you don’t, you can find it in John Chapter 4.
The Samaritans were despised by the Jews. However Sychar was a Samaritan town despised by the Samaritans themselves – the name probably means “drunkenness.” So in a town that was despised by the despised, Jesus talks with a woman who was despised even by Sychar: she was the despised of the despised of the despised! Did you know that she is the only individual in the gospels to whom Jesus reveals Himself as “I AM,” as God in the flesh? I find that an amazing thought. Indeed it is such a beautiful thought I find I cannot think of it for too long. Some things are just too beautiful to look at for too long. Jesus told us that flesh and blood, our eyes, ears, our minds and hearts , our whole being and frame as they are now, could not dwell in the presence of God in the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven without being changed. We could not bear the weight of His beauty. God once touched me with overwhelming love and grace. I knew it could not last for long or I would die. I knew that at that point flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven in its final fullness! The beauty of the Lord would be too much to bear. Remember God had to hide Moses as He passed by and displayed and declared His goodness. Even God’s goodness is so extreme, the sight of it full on would kill us. We need new bodies to enjoy Him forever, and praise God we will have them one day, and be able to dwell with our God who is like everlasting burnings. When I read John 4 and think about it, I have the sense of a prophecy from Isaiah being fulfilled at least in part: “You shall see the King in his beauty.”
I have been thinking today of the tone in Jesus voice, when Jesus said to the woman, “You have had five husbands and the man you are living with is not your husband.” He did not shirk from saying what was true, but the woman does not run away in shame; quite the opposite. When she did run from the well, it was with huge joy and excitement to excitedly speak of Christ to those who had previously despised her and to invite them to meet Jesus too! His voice is a Saviour’s voice.
That thought made my thoughts wander to the next: It is not a new thought to me but it came to back to the fore of my mind this afternoon. “Would you open the door to an angry knock?” In Revelation Chapter 3 Jesus knows there is much wrong with the believers in the church of Laodicea and says so. As in John 4, He does not shirk from saying it like it is, nor does He hide the truth of what happens when there is no willingness to repent. The emphasis though is that He is knocking at the door, willing to come in if anyone in the Laodicean church will open the door and ask Him in. I ask again, “Would you open the door to an angry knock?” Even in the midst of tough no nonsense truth talking, Jesus knows that the people behind the door are people who need Him, who are poor, wretched, pitiable naked and blind. He comes offering salve and sight and clothing and the promise of a shared meal. The “tone” of the knock has a Saviour’s touch.
Well, let’s make it like a 3 point sermon (it’s quite a while since I preached one of those)! Jesus talking; Jesus knocking; lastly, Jesus looking. I am thinking now of the “tone” of how Jesus looked at Simon Peter after he denied Christ. Again, truth was not fudged for there was something in the tone of the look that made Peter go away and weep bitterly. We don’t help people by making out that wrong does not matter; wrong does matter, and love which keeps no score of wrongs makes a space for it to be faced up to, for love also delights in the truth. However though truth was not fudged, there must have been something about the look that spoke not of condemnation but hope, a hope confirmed by meeting with the risen Jesus, a hope that was so strong that as Christ crucified and risen stood on the shore, Peter jumped from a boat into the water to meet Him ahead of anyone else: His eyes are a Saviour’s eyes.
I guess we are talking about truth and grace, not surprisingly. All of us need Christ to save us from sin, but I am wondering if some reading this blog are needing to meet Him as the one who carries our shame away as well? It may be that for you, whoever you are, there is a point of failure or compromise or disobedience that you cannot deny but you cannot seem to get over. That event or happening or deed holds on to you somehow in a way that other transgressions don’t. I pray that you will make space and time to let Jesus draw near as the One who never denies truth but who is full of grace. You might despise yourself for something you did. You know the blood of Christ paid for “it” whatever “it’ may be, but you despise yourself, nonetheless. Why not have a conversation with the One who spoke in truth and grace to the despised of the despised of the despised? You may think you could not cope with Christ looking into all the rooms of your life. Some rooms of course you have allowed him to clean out and redecorate, but not “that” room. Well, His arms are laden with good things He wants to bring into that room if you will allow Him in. Perhaps this is the day for bitter weeping to end and to look by faith into eyes of no condemnation; time for what has been an enduring sorrow to give way to a new morning of joy.
I am thinking of an old piano in my chiildhood home. It was a “Broadwood,” and it had the most beautiful tone of any piano I have ever heard. I had a white Yamaha piano of my own later on. It looked much more modern, indeed it was beautiful. It got damaged by the effects of mould as did my lungs. `For the sake of my lungs, it had to go; fortunately my lungs are still there, functioning well enough for me to enjoy life! I loved my Yamaha but I have to be honest and say though it had a beautiful tone too, the oldfashioned battered “Broadwood” had the edge there. Do you know what I long for in the pulpits of Scotland? Something more than biblically accurate preaching and sound teaching; something more than oratory or a stand up comic routine; something even more than a vision that I can give myself to. Biblical truth and accuracy, accessible delivery and something I can aim for and live out matter, but that is not what my spirit aches for when I sit in the pews, a new experience for me! I am longing for the sound of “The Broadwood Tone!” I long for the sound of preachers who more than their abiblity to relate bible truth to modern culture, have seen the beauty of Christ; who have never forgotten it; who haven’t quite got the words to preach Christ as they would long to do and may even invent words and write or talk long sentences like this with awkward structure, just like Paul did in his letters, as they try and put living , tumbling out, overflowing thoughts into some sort of communicable form… but whatever, the tone of incredible beauty comes through: a beauty so extreme that to borrow a phrase from C.S.Lewis, it breaks and heals hearts. I long for pulpits to be filled again with “the old, old story, of Jesus and His love!”… and not just pulpits, but the streets, the mountains, the valleys, the schools, the supermarkets, the oil rigs, the opera houses and the cinemas, the hospitals, the airports, the railways stations and whatever other place you can add to the list! May it be so, Lord!
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