“Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.”- John 4:6
Jesus not only seems to avoid the limelight and find God in the detours of life, but also we quickly discover that Jesus really is human. Some of us would have have grown up like I have declaring in creedal statements that Jesus is indeed God incarnate and born of a Virgin. Others would be aware from hearing a preacher say so or have simply discovered this for themselves through their reading of the New Testament. I still suspect that many of us haven’t really thought too much about the implications of Jesus’ humanity. Often we have focussed so much on Jesus’ authority, power and divinity that we have failed to honestly and carefully consider what it might mean that Jesus, the Son of God, was indeed a human being like you and I – with flesh and blood and all the other frailties of being human. Not only was he human, but in his humanity he accomplished everything God asked of him.
You see, one of Jesus’ best ‘revival meetings’ takes place not just ‘on the way’ whilst passing through unexpected Samaritan country, but in a time of rest when Jesus had done enough walking and wants to sit down, have a break and chill out.
This story actually provides a bit of a challenge to those of us with Type ‘A’ personalities. We struggle to stop. We struggle with the limitations of being human. We actually feel guilty that we need to have a rest.
I don’t know about you, but I have been to some Christian meetings where it would seem that the implications of what the speaker seems to be saying are, “You just need to try harder”, “pray harder”, “share more” or “read your Bible more” before “you will have really made the grade.” Often it sounds very spiritual. And often it sounds very logical. For instance; if all the Christians in Australia prayed for just 30 minutes a day, imagine what a difference it would make. Or if every Christian shared their faith with their friends and brought just one person to Jesus every year, imagine how quickly the world would be evangelised. So we leave these meetings feeling guilty that we are not doing all these things and often also feeling guilty that we are just plain human.
It therefore seems a little odd that in the most successful evangelism story in John’s Gospel, we actually discover that Jesus had no intention of witnessing to Samaritans; his calling after all was to the people of Israel. He wasn’t even planning for time out to talk with his Father. For that matter, there is no indication he was planning a stopover at all, but was simply on his way to good Jewish territory in Galilee. The only reason we are given as to why he stopped at this particular well was because he was tired.
Think about it. The Son of God was not super human. The Son of God needed to take a rest. The Son of God needed to visit the toilet. The Son of God had to withdraw from the constant demands of the crowd to take time to pray. And so we could go on.
In his second letter to the church of Corinth, the Apostle Paul shared with believers concerning a struggle he had. The Lord’s response to him was, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Even with this admission of weakness on Paul’s part, most of us would convince ourselves it couldn’t have been anything too serious; after all, he was an apostle. Paul’s weaknesses were no doubt like the weaknesses pastors and ministers confess trying to convince us that they really are also human just like us. Most of us think to ourselves, well if that’s their only problem they must live in a different world to me.
To be honest, I think that being human and accepting weakness in ourselves and others poses quite a challenge. We Western Christians honestly believe that the more plans we create, the more strategies we put in place and the faster we rush around doing good and godly things, the more successful we will become. We work so hard to eliminate weakness from our life.
We may be of the ‘health and wealth’ mindset in which we have believed the message that a good witness needs to evidence God’s blessings in their finances or in their health. Or we may have grown up in traditional or liturgical churches where it is of the utmost imperative that our worship is done in a well ordered fashion. (After all we should only offer God our best and if the music is not just so and if the candles are not lit in the right way, what exactly are we communicating about ourselves and the God we worship.) I have even heard that in some churches, every aspect of a worship service is timed to the minute. Image is everything, of course, and if we are to be good witnesses to a dying and sinful world, we need to present the best to them and even more importantly to God.
But what if the world isn’t actually interested with our best? And what if God does actually use and delight in frail human beings -even as he delighted in and powerfully used his very human Son? What if God is not as concerned about our limitations as we are? What if our limitations are really the fertile soil out of which he can do his work and display his glory?
I really do believe that God loves us and delights in us. And as it is oft stated, he didn’t make us human ‘doings’ but human ‘beings’.
I can’t but help think to myself that when God called me, he actually called ‘me’ – knowing full well that I am good at some things and hopeless at others. Yes, there are some areas that he has definitely improved upon in me, but there are others where he has just left things as they were. It took me years in ministry to finally realise that I didn’t actually have what it takes to be a minister, certainly not in the sense that all the books and seminars told me I should be. I knew I did some things well, but as for organising people, strategising and all that sort of stuff, – very important in growing big churches! – I was a failure. Praying harder didn’t change me. Fantasising about my abilities or deluding myself and others about my abilities ultimately didn’t help either. Even attending lots of courses, reading lots of books and getting prayer from those with ‘the anointing’ didn’t work. And, of course, comparing myself to those who had ‘made it’ only made me feel worse.
But you know what? I have discovered that the gifts God has actually given me are good. He even uses some of the things others would consider weaknesses – such as my love of Australian Rules Football, my penchant for fancy hair styles and my introversion – for his glory too.