If I were a betting man, I would wager that no one reading this blog has ever tried casu marzu. This Sardinian delicacy is a cheese that contains live maggots. However, these are not your average creepy crawlers. They are capable of jumping up to five inches out of your delectable snack while you’re eating it, which may make it wise to shield your eyes as you take each bite.
We are all aware of food items that we would not like to try. From Filipino balut (fertilized developing egg embryo), to Greenland’s Kiviak (seabird fermented in seal skin), to our casu marzu, we are aware of delicacies that, by definition, are not enjoyed for their nutritional benefits, but because of the uniqueness of the item. We might say that those foods are enjoyable, but they don’t necessarily bring life. In fact, most things in our lives can be enjoyable – from food to drink to our hobbies – but they certainly don’t bring us the Life we’ll be looking at today.
John 4 follows Jesus as He engages with the Samaritan woman at the well and responds to the request from the Roman official to heal his son. The whole chapter is a wonderful representation of two sides of the same theological coin. No matter how familiar you might be with the stories, I suggest reading the full chapter to appreciate all that God was doing in these stories, which expands far beyond what I can cover here.
In the first story, Jesus engages with the Samaritan woman who was not only marginalized by the Jewish people for her national identity (v. 9), but also by her own people because of her immoral history with men. She chose to fetch water during the heat of the day where she could do so without engaging with others in her community who would have gone during the cool of the morning instead. Jesus promises this woman a special kind of water – one where the drinker will thirst no more (v. 14) – and this is a very appealing concept to someone who encounters her community and receives judgment through the collecting of water to live.
A marginalized woman recognizes her need and, upon meeting her Maker, realizes He offers so much more.
In the second story, Jesus engages with the Roman official from Capernaum (beginning in v. 46). Far from marginalized, this man who would likely have been a part of Herod Antipas’s court, would have been very privileged and his role and habit of giving orders showed in how directly and unashamedly he came before Jesus with his request (v. 47). He is looking for healing for his dying son. He seeks life! And while Jesus answers his request by healing the boy (v. 50), He promises the man a special kind of life – one that will give him access to God. One that is provided by this new Rabbi who has power over humanity’s greatest enemy – death.
A powerful man recognizes his need and, upon meeting his Maker, realizes He offers so much more.
What are we looking at in John 4? Among so many other things, we see a universal condition within humanity, no matter how affluent, powerful, or popular someone is or how marginalized, isolated, or condemned they are. In our brokenness and imperfection, we all have needs. Whether water that sustains life or life itself, we’re unable to guarantee our physical well-being or circumstances and we all must come to that realization. And yet, the opposite side of this coin is that we have a Maker who not only answers our prayers, but stepped into the messiness of our lives and promises us so much more. He meets us in our ordinary requests, and yet He fulfills our much deeper needs as well. We’re not talking about mere delicacies like our casu marzu here.
Where you find yourself in need of water, Jesus Christ provides you living water (John 7:37-39). Where you find yourself hungry, He gives access to the bread from heaven (John 6:32-35). When we’re looking for more life in these broken bodies, He gives us an abundance of life that begins here on this earth and will span throughout eternity (John 10:10; John 5:24). When we feel we’re hideous and unlovable because of who we are and the lives we’ve lived, God confronts us with the knowledge that He loves us so much that He gave His only Son so that we might live (John 3:16).
Who does your particular pocket of the culture consider unlovable? Who can the church, at times, consider unlovable? After presenting hope to the Samaritan woman at the well, with all of the cultural and personal baggage that she carried, Jesus told His disciples that His “food” was to do the will of God who sent Him, and to accomplish His work (John 4:34), which we just witnessed to be the sharing of Christ’s kingdom with the world and with particular emphasis on loving the marginalized in His community who were without hope (Luke 7:36-50). He told the disciples that, if they were to raise their eyes and observe the fields, they would find them white for harvest (John 4:35). There are so many people in our world who do not know the love of Jesus.
May we pay particular attention this week to our deeper needs that Christ meets. May we extend gratitude for this fact by joining one another in God’s mission to share with the world our living Water, our Bread from heaven, and the abundance of life that Christ provides. All our hearts thirst for His love and, yes, the fields are “white for harvest”.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff