Friday, March 13, 2015

A REVOLUTIONARY CONVERSATION March 2015

A REVOLUTIONARY CONVERSATION
Lessons from the Master Teacher to share the Gospel cross-culturally



Introduction

The lessons in Cross-Cultural Outreach published here were used in the 1990s as an abbreviated form as devotionals for the course ‘Love your Muslim Neighbour’. From Jesus, the Master Teacher, we can learn so much. Very important lessons for cross-cultural evangelistic outreach - in fact for any type of evangelism - can be derived in His conversation with the Samaritan woman, which has been recorded relatively fully in John 4.

            The present manuscript has been revamped when we got ready to launch a new ministry to people of other religious backgrounds called Friends from Abroad, an alliance of different mission agencies and churches who have a vision for compassion towards the 'tsunami' of foreigners that have been coming to Cape Town in recent years. I attempted also to rectify the tradition that we have been speaking – sometimes derogatorily - about the ‘Old Testament’, ignoring that the Bible is a unit, where both parts are equal in value. The Tenach, consisting of the first letters in Hebrew for the Law (Torah, the Prophets (Nebiim) and other Scriptures (Chetubim), is very much a basis for the 'New Testament'. Instead of ‘Old Testament' I use the words the Hebrew Scriptures, or else I put it in inverted comma's. 
            As this is not an academic treatise, I refrain from supplying a bibliography. The bibliographical details of titles mentioned can be found in A Goldmine of another Sort, accessible at www. isaacandishmael.blogspot.com.

In the light of recent developments internationally, I take liberty to acknowledge the similarity with Islam of the narrative of conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4, as compiled by a missionary colleague from Durban, David Foster:

1) Like the Samaritans, Muslims believe in one God.
2) Like the Samaritans, Muslims take pride in claiming an ancestral link to Abraham (Samaritans focused on Jacob, whereas Muslims trace their connection through Ishmael).
3) Muslims and Samaritans expect the Messiah will come. One minor difference is that Muslims believe at his first coming Jesus already was the Messiah (Al Masih) and they expect him to come again near the end.
4) Both religions believe God revealed his will through the prophets (e.g. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses).
5) Samaritan religious rituals were similar to what the Jews practised, e.g. circumcision, clean vs unclean meat, animal sacrifice, etc.
6) Both Samaritanism and Islam emerged as a religious cult that twisted the original revelation from God to suit their own purposes. The changes which each cult introduced evoked accusations and heated debates. For example, Jews and Samaritans accused each other of corrupting the Torah – similar to debates between Christians and Muslims. It is not surprising to see how the Samaritan woman asked Jesus his opinion about a longstanding debate regarding the two rival worship centres, at Mt Gerazim and Mount Zion. It is noteworthy that the Samaritan Pentateuch adds to the 10 commandments, an instruction to worship the Lord God on Mount Gerazim!


Cape Town, March 2015



































1. Jesus had His Priorities in Place


             The Lord perfectly mastered the art of having His priorities right on target. There are a few issues in the Bible verses just prior to the narrative of the Samaritan woman in John 4 that could have drawn a  negative reaction from anybody else. The behaviour of Jesus followed naturally from the close relationship to His Father. This commitment to God automatically brought the Lord to the right place at the right time. Unlikely places for evangelism and improbable instruments for evangelism can then be utilized in unprecedented ways.
We read in the run-up to the narrative of the Samaritan woman in John 4 in the context of a quarrel about ceremonial washing. John the Baptist’s disciples were evidently upset when they came to complain: ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan - the one you testified about - look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him’ (John 3:26). How easy it would have been for John to get upset. But none of it! He would not allow the enemy of souls create a rift between him and the Lord. John the Baptist’s greatness came through when He answered coolly: ‘You yourselves can testify that I said, `I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ John even surpassed this when He responded: He must become greater; I must become less (John 3:30).

The Lord as the Bridegroom
It is interesting that John the Baptist described himself as the friend of the Bridegroom. This fits in with what Paul and the Book of Revelation said about Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as His bride (Ephesians 5:22, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelations 19:7, 21:2+9, 22:17). It also cements the divinity of Christ. In the Hebrew Scriptures Israel has been repeatedly described as God’s bride (e.g. Exodus 34:15; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2:19ff). When the disciples of John united with the Pharisees at another occasion to get an explanation of Jesus why His disciples do not fast, He referred to the presence of the bridegroom (Mark 2:19; Matthew 9:15).
            The dynamics of the forthcoming consummation of the marriage of the Church with its bridegroom, our coming King, have not been generally recognised. The whole existence of the Church is at stake. The outlook of Christians, the state of the Church likens that of a widow. Of course, in a certain sense the Church is indeed a widow through the death of the Lord on the cross of Calvary. But the fact that the widow is to marry again must change matters of necessity.
            We as Church are impoverishing ourselves when we neglect the teaching of the second coming. It is not surprising that there is such confusion about the details of the coming of the bridegroom of the Church. Is it necessary to know everything so exactly? The arch-enemy certainly knows what a power could emanate from the Church if she starts to take the fact of the return of our Lord seriously. In every major religious awakening this played an important role.  Let’s go for it!
            The Jewish reader of the build-up towards Jesus' interaction with the adulterous Samaritan woman of John 4 will no doubt also recall Israel's adultery as a nation, worshipping foreign Gods. Jesus thus exposed their hypocracy at the same time when they were condescendingly looking down upon Samaritans who worship five (or seven) other gods next to Yahweh. But the Gospel writer obviously also wants to point to the coming Bridegroom.

Responding to a Rumour
It was brought to the Lord’s attention that the Pharisees ‘had heard’ something. This is thus a classical case of a rumour. How should we respond to a rumour? Jesus gives the example: A rumour does not require a response at all! He treats it with disdain. There might be circumstances where one might be tempted to squash even a hint, by defending oneself fiercely. Jesus gave a clear answer by refraining from reacting to the rumour. Often the best way to reply is to stay silent, not to let yourselves be drawn into petty squabbling about minor issues. Jesus’ example - to ignore the rumour and walk away - is definitely one of the valid ways of responding.
            The issue at stake will possibly determine whether one should respond in the way our Lord did. In this case, the Lord knew that it was serious business. He knew that the Pharisees were looking for a reason to get rid of him. Jesus did not only know His own calling, but He also respected the calling of John the Baptist. The Lord demonstrated support for John. Therefore He appears to have refrained from getting drawn into a fruitless discussion on trivialities. A rumour has all the ingredients to get one side-tracked. Less relevant side issues then usually get an importance that is way out of its proper proportion.
            Let us take a look at some issues that could have become explosive if the Master had responded differently. There was for example the suggested number of people baptised by Him, compared to those by John the Baptist. How easily we allow ourselves to be impressed by numbers! It was possibly true that Jesus was gaining more disciples than John, but the Master refrained from any response - which meant so much as saying: ‘so what? It is completely immaterial who baptises how many people!
            At the base of the issue was plain church politics. The Pharisees were envious of Jesus. In a situation where John the Baptist had already drawn people away from their sphere of influence, the Master seemed to be even worse.
            It is sad to discern some of the low morals which religious leaders display when their influence appears to be threatened. Instead of doing introspection, the Pharisees started a smear campaign. And because they could not successfully hit at Jesus’ moral quality, they tried to play Him out against John, the Baptist. The aim of their endeavours was to get Jesus out of the way. The beastly intrigue, which preceded the death of John the Baptist could easily have had its origin with the religious leaders. From what we read in the gospels about the Baptist, he could just as well have told Herodias or Herod to their face what he thought of their marriage. But some instigation by some Pharisees would also have fitted perfectly into the picture. Let’s face it: the things that the Master said to those Pharisees and Sadducees who came to him were quite unpalatable.  (By the way, not all Pharisees were bad guys. It is sad that a few rotten potatoes sometimes do influence a whole bag. The Gospels probably distort to some extent the image of a group of people who had a good reputation amongst their compatriots).

Discipling in Depth as a Priority
From the other gospel narratives we can safely surmise that Jesus was not interested at all to boast with an impressive number of followers. Thus, after‘many disciples turned back and no longer followed him’, Jesus said to the twelve in John 6:67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus gave us the example that quality rather than quantity is the best strategy. He was quite happy to invest much time in only twelve men. But then the teaching must be done properly and in depth. It is not surprising that the Master concentrated on a few.
            Jesus was a realist. He knew that He could not possibly give masses of people the personal care that they needed. Thus He imbued a few men with His vision, men who would finish the work on His behalf after His death.
            An important advantage of working with a few is that one is more flexible to make changes on the spur of the moment. On more than one occasion the Master left a particular area with His disciples when He regarded it expedient. Thus John 4:2 narrates how He left Galilee after the rumour of the Pharisees had been brought to His attention.
            Without neglecting the masses, the Master sent away those who wanted to follow him for ulterior motives, for example because of signs and wonders. As we have just seen, He even offered this generously to the twelve disciples. (Compare this with Saul who became nervous and disobedient when His soldiers deserted him (1 Samuel 13:11). Our Lord invites us to follow him for what He is and not for what we hope to get out of the deal. Jesus taught the few, who had to become multipliers. In mission strategy, discipling in depth should always have the priority over evangelising in breadth.
            Jesus led by example rather than by precept. In so many words, servanthood - feet washing - became the example, which His disciples had to follow (John 13:15). The Master probably spent more time with His disciples than with everybody else put together. Whether He addressed the masses or whether He spoke to the Scribes and Pharisees, the disciples were close at hand to observe and to listen.
            Thus it was good missionary strategy by the Herrnhut Moravians to concentrate on a few dedicated believers who could work alongside the missionaries to evangelise their own people. In fact, Count Zinzendorf encouraged His missionaries to be especially on the lookout for those individuals whom the Holy Spirit had already prepared. In one of the Moravian litanies a prayer was included: ‘Save us from unholy growth.’ (Literally, guard us from an unholy getting big).
            Count Zinzendorf was one of the few people in Church history who really discerned the importance of this principle. He discerned on the one hand the untiring will to reform of the ‘children of the world’ but on the other hand the ‘sleeping churches and their inactive congregations.’ Not much has changed since then. Influenced by the principle of the ecclesiolas (small fellowships inside the big churches) of the Pietists, the Count organized the Herrnhut community in small ‘bands’ and ‘choirs’, which would of course be easier to handle. Therefore he also put much emphasis on young people. He guided and nurtured them, even during conferences so that they could grow into the church work, but he also used them for experimentation, because thus he could also stop any new endeavour more easily when it did not succeed. Following the Master, the vibrant Herrnhut church openly discussed the success (or lack of it) of missionary ventures.
            In recent decades the house church movement has been making great strides, notably in different Asian countries. Will the lessons to be derived really be heeded or are we just going to continue as we have or - just as bad - are we going to proceed with pouring new wine into old bags, wasting the precious wine?

The Danger of Comparison
From our Lord we learn that there is power in being small and insignificant, that it is better to serve than to be served upon. Also Paul taught: ‘When I am weak, I am strong.’ We note that the missionary apostle said this in the context of suffering under an attack by an agent of the enemy, the thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
            The flexibility, which our Lord displayed, was actually taught by Paul as strategy. In 1 Corinthians 9:19ff the missionary apostle stressed how he adapted to the various groups of Jews and Greeksin order to win at least some of them.’  By sitting next to the well, Jesus displayed identification with the Samaritans. He does not stand condescendingly above them like other Jews would normally have done.
            Jesus knew that He and John the Baptist were basically on the same side of the battle. It is tragic that the Pharisees, the religious leaders, were the authors of the infamous rumour that was clearly bent on sowing mistrust between our Lord and the Baptist. The proverb goes that comparison is odious. But this is only part of the story. So often comparison has poisoned relationships. It has turned out to be a prime tool in the hand of the arch-enemy. Not for nothing the ancient Romans perfected the art of ‘divide and rule’. The psalmist Asaf described in Ps. 73 how his looking at the success of others caused bitterness in his own heart. Comparison does not only have a bad smell. Yes, comparison is more than odious, it is dangerous because it can cause jealousy, self-pity and bitterness. In the previous chapter (3:30), John had so magnanimously said that our Lord should increase and he should decrease! It should be noted that John gave this reply after his disciples evidently had problems with the number of people who were following the man whom their master had baptized. On their part, John’s disciples were quite perturbed that ‘He that was with you ...baptizes, and all men come unto him.’ The rumour, which the Pharisees heard, thus had some ground. It might have originated from the envious disciples of John.
            We can learn from Jesus that he did not allow the Pharisees to drive a wedge between him and John the Baptist. Jesus discerned where the real opposition was. On another occasion one of the disciples John tried to oppose someone who drove out demons in Jesus’ name. The only reason given was ‘he isn’t one of our group’. The master only responded coolly, correcting him with ‘Don’t forbid him...Anyone who is not against us, is for us’ (Mark 9:38f). Thus the Master would probably also oppose anybody to-day who would claim the ultimate truth in the details of following Him.
            We would do well to emulate the Lord in combating sectarianism, prejudicial nationalism and group thinking of all sorts. On the other hand, religious people - often those who belong to the church establishment - have through the ages often actually opposed the gospel. Instead of allowing himself to be drawn into a petty, unproductive discussion about a rumour, Jesus ‘left Judea’.
            This is however not to be interpreted as a cowardly act of circumventing an uncomfortable situation. Very often the best reaction to a situation is to walk away even though that might not look very gracious. It is even better to give an answer at a later stage, at the right moment. Instead of quarrelling about doctrinal matters like baptism, rather get on with the job of bringing in the harvest. It is better to work along with other churches that also believe in the authority of the Word, who proclaim Jesus as their Saviour, than to get involved in petty competition.
            And what about sects like Jehovah’s Witness. There is parable about the weeds is appropriate: ‘…The weeds are the sons of the evil one,  and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age (Matthew 13:38b-40).
John the Baptist also teaches us how to handle people who are misled by jealousy and false pride. Beware of people who could be used to drive a wedge between you and a friend! How does one handle gossip effectively? By praising the absent party! This is the proven way to get negativity and backbiters off your back.

Beware of Discussion around Trivialities!
It is not clear what the motives of those people were who brought the rumour on behalf of the Pharisees, but the gunpowder contained in it is quite evident. It is not impossible that the Pharisees as troubleshooters had sent them. How tragic that we as Christians are not always aware of the snares of the evil one. In the process the arch-enemy sometimes uses us to cause distrust and enmity by unintentionally spreading rumours and half-truths. Jesus could have strayed into a discussion about who actually performed the baptisms. How often discussions in church councils centre around trivialities like who should perform what rituals, with or without liturgical robes, with or without headgear in the case of women, whether the sermon is held from the pulpit or a lectern etc.
            The issue of baptism was evidently already divisive in Jesus’ days. In the preceding chapter, in John 3: 25f, we see how the divergent and competing baptisms for purification gave rise to a corresponding verbal dispute. The disciples of John the Baptist got engaged in a skirmish with the Jews about purification rituals. Don’t get involved in a discussion with Muslims about whether Islam is a ‘skoon galoef’ (a clean faith) or not!
            Being the good strategist He was, our Lord however did not allow himself to be trapped in fruitless discussion over trivial matters. He would not have any of this doctrinal and petty bickering. Elsewhere, for example with regard to the issue to whom tax should be paid (Matthew 22:17f) or where one should worship (John 4:20), the Master cleverly avoided getting involved in an endless discussion. We should thus not allow ourselves to be drawn into doctrinal discussions with adherents of other religions about Jesus as the Son of God, the deity of our Lord or the Trinity before a basis of trust has been built. Basically, the message of the Kingdom is at stake. Jesus encouraged the disciples to get rid of the dust on their feet if this message is rejected (Matthew 10:14). Instead of diving into a heated argument about any debatable doctrine, it might be wiser to back off. It is better to look stupid than to loose your (wo)man.
            In similar vein, Paul moved on from the synagogues and towns where the message was rejected, in Acts 13:51 symbolically removing the dust from his feet. We note in this passage how the influential people of the town were instigated against the messengers of the gospel. Through the ages the wealthy and the intelligentsia were usually the least responsive to the gospel. So easily one can waste precious time with academic disputes that bring one nowhere.
            Zinzendorf made an interesting deduction from the questions of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:20,26: ‘Where are the rich? Where are the eminent?’ In his sermon at the Moravian fellowship of London on September 4, 1746 he said: ‘Thus Paul demonstrates to them how to proceed in preaching the Gospel, to avoid fruitless work and threshing empty straw. The rich and the eminent are not excluded; but they do not have any prerogative. They have no privilege before others with respect to salvation but rather a hundred difficulties which others do not have, and therefore one must not stay too long with them; one should not go to them first ... it could result in a great loss of time.

The Issue of ‘Re-Baptism’
Discussions around baptism have caused perhaps more church splits than any other doctrinal issue. Whether it was the mode - immersion or sprinkling; or the number of immersions - only once or thrice in accordance with the idea of the trinity or seven times likening Naaman who had to go the Jordan seven times; whether a pool in a church is good enough or whether it must be a natural setting like a lake or a river (some people give special value to be baptised in the river Jordan)! And what about the emotive discussions around ‘re-baptism’: Satan has often abused this issue to cause divisions among Christians on a grand scale. It is not surprising that violence and brute force were used hand in hand when Constantine ‘Christianised’ big areas in the 4th century through enforced mass baptism. The tragic seed sown brought right into our day via Augustine, Ambrose, Muhammad and ISIS.[1]
            The followers of Luther and Calvin have sometimes become very legalistic on the issue of ‘re-baptism’. Pastors have even been defrocked and church members ex-communicated because they dared to follow their understanding of the Word in obedience. Baptists on the other hand have often refused church membership to those believers who haven’t been immersed. In both cases an unloving legalism was the order of the day. Conversely, not only the Jehovah’s Witnesses and New Apostolics insist on their own baptism. Also the Coptic Church requires (re-)baptism of every person who joins the denomination. In Scripture itself, there is an instance (Acts 19, 1-5) where the believers were baptised a second time. It would serve no purpose to stress that these people have previously been baptised with the baptism of John. The legalism and arrogance of Baptists and Pentecostals as they (ab)used Scripture to convince others that christening of infants is unscriptural, have so often been very uncharitable.

2. The Master was principled but not legalistic


            Someone could suggest that our Lord walked away cowardly when He was confronted with the rumour that He made more disciples than John the Baptist. This is completely refuted when we look closely at the remarkable verse John 4:4. It squashes any idea that He dodged difficult issues: ‘He had to go through Samaria’. If our Lord had been of the sort to circumvent problematic things, then here was an opportunity. No one from the ranks of His disciples - or anyone from the Jewish community for that matter - would have held anything against Him if He had suggested that they should take the alternative route with a detour to exclude Samaria. The Samaritans were people whom a good Jew would rather not see. During the time of King Ahab a pagan temple had been built and an altar for Baal worship erected (1 King 16:32). There the Samaritans worshipped.
            John 4 contains an object lesson in facing conflicts head-on. Later in John 4 Jesus showed the disciples that He preferred to be known as someone who networked with others. What better reply could He have given the Pharisees and His disciples who were perhaps disappointed that He did not respond but only walked away? He and the disciples were reaping where John the Baptist and the prophets had sowed.
This is a good opportunity to have another look at how the Lord handled conflicts generally. Right from the start of His ministry, Jesus was involved with conflict. The narrative of the temptation in the desert in Matthew 4 is a high-powered confrontation between the forces of darkness that wanted to woo the Lord into a compromise in an exchange for power. His challenge to the fishermen to follow him was likewise conflict-laden. The report of the changing of wine into water (John 2:1-11) contains a clash of priorities between His earthly mother and His heavenly Father. In absolute obedience to the heavenly Father, the Lord dared even to be ‘disobedient’ to the earthly mother (John 2:4). In Matthew 12:50 He made it clear however who is His real relatives: 'whoever does the will of my Father in heaven.'

Principled, obedient and flexible
Jesus was not only very principled, but also obedient to the Father. The wording in the Greek original indicates a divine compulsion to go through Samaria. Though the Samaritans claimed that they were the true Israel and prided themselves in the purity of their worship, the majority of them were in fact Gentiles, the descendants of the heathen colonists transferred to Samaria by the King of Assyria from five Mesopotamian cities. Of course, there were originally some high priests, sons of Aaron, who fled from Jerusalem to form a separate congregation, claiming to be the real Israel. Their capital city had once been Sichem, a holy place since the days of Abraham. Nearby the little village of Sychar was situated. On the mountain above Sichem the Samaritans built a temple that was in their eyes the continuation of the ark of the covenant, just as the Jews had their temple in Jerusalem. Even though their temple was destroyed by the Syrian kings in 128 BCE, they still regarded the mountain, Mt Gerizim, as a sacred place. The 
Passover is celebrated by the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, and it is additionally considered by them as the location of the near-sacrifice of Isaac. We can compare this with the Islamic veneration of the Ka’aba in Mecca that is purported to have built by Abraham and Ishmael.
In Sychar there was the well of Jacob and the grave of Joseph. In the defence of their religion as the only truth, the lie and hatred became part and parcel of the Samaritan religion (Schlatter, 1987 (1965): 67). They thus pre-empted the Muslims of all ages, along with  the Mormons and other cults, building their religion on lies and deception.
            When other Jews avoided contact with Samaritans, the Lord said that they are also children of Abraham!’ Similarly, Jesus was flexible enough to invite himself to the house of the hated Zacchaeus, the traitor who collaborated with the Roman oppressors - with many people listening! He called the diminutive chief tax collector ‘also a son of Abraham.’ It is not difficult to imagine that many of them might have been offended. Of course, the notorious tax collector first called Jesus Lord. This gives another connection to Muslims. They are also the spiritual descendants of Abraham via Ishmael.
            Jesus radically broke the stranglehold of exclusiveness of the temple in Jerusalem to which no Samaritan had access. He taught in his altercation at the well that meeting God was not restricted to a place, neither Jerusalem or Mt Gerizim (John 4:25). The Almighty can be worshipped and approached at any time and at any place. In fact, the Father is constantly on the look-out for those who worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. It is not important at all where we worship but how we worship. The Spirit would become freely available through faith in Jesus, who is the Truth and the Life ultimately personified. In this way the previously aloof Almighty becomes 'our Father'. In Jesus the prophetic Isaiah 9:6 became fulfilled in a special way. The son to be born would also be 'eternal Father'. Followers of Jesus can thus pray with liberty to 'our Father ... in heaven ....'
By the way, it is not without significance that the Lord also went through Jericho, just like He was going through Samaria. If others were still evading Jericho because of Joshua’s curse on the village, the Lord displayed by His action: the curse has been broken.

The Primacy of the House of Israel
The end of the narration in John 4 shows however that the Master knew the limits of flexibility. One should not lose direction and a sense of purpose. Jesus remained with the Samaritans for only two days - not more, because His mission was primarily to the Jews.
             On at least two occasions the Master had made it clear that He was called to the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5+6; 15:21ff). With the request of the Canaanite woman for the healing of her daughter (Matthew 15:21ff), the deduction could be made that the Master initially brushed her brutally aside. We should not forget that the Master did help her in the end. That the Master addressed the Canaanite, the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:26ff) fairly harshly - that He was only sent to the lost children of Israel (Matthew 15:24) - has sometimes been mistakenly interpreted as nationalism. Rather it should be seen as Jesus’ complete commitment to His calling in obedience to the Father. And he taught that salvation comes from the Jews (verse 24), whether one likes it or not.
            There is a special anointing on the Jews as a people group. We do well to remember that God had destined them to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:10). Whether one likes it or not, the Word teaches that Israel is the apple of God’s eye (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8). Instead of quarrelling whether this statement is repulsive or whether it is favouritism or not, we would do much better to use the anointing of the Jews positively. That Jesus affirmed that salvation comes from the Jews, may sound arrogant, but he was merely stating  fact. It was not favouratism at all. The OT affirmed the heart of God as having a special 'favouratism' for the lowly. Matthew 13:52 points to the possibility though, that the teacher of the (Jewish) law has a special faculty to unearth treasures from the store-room of 'OT' Scriptures, which we Gentile Christians could use profitably. To suggest however that God practised partiality would not only be unfair, but it is also not in keeping with Scripture as a whole.  A much better way to look at it is to see God’s justice behind it. Just like God ‘favoured’ the poor because they were despised and discriminated against, God blessed the minute nation that has been hated and reviled by all and sundry down the centuries.
            Although the Master was principled and almost dogmatic about His calling, He did the pragmatic thing to go through Samaria - without a detour. The church universal on the other hand - definitely to her own peril - has sadly neglected the biblical primacy of Israel and the Jews. What could have happened in terms of evangelism if the Jews had not been brushed aside by Constantine and his cohorts and kept in limbo by Christians ever since?

The cultural Divide between Samaritans and Jews
We South Africans can comprehend the cultural divide between Samaritans and Jews very well. It was not that long ago when no ‘White’ in his right mind would have dared to go through Langa, a Xhosa stronghold, en route from Bonteheuwel, a 'Coloured' township to Pinelands, a posh white suburb. Jesus did not make a detour – as so many of his Jewish compatriots were doing to evade going through Samaria. He simply walked right through Samaria, although He knew that the Samaritans hated the Jews. Not only did He dare to enter the Samaritan town of Sychar, but also our Lord went right into the ‘lion’s den’, sitting next to the sacred but cultic explosive well of Jacob (verse 6). No ordinary Jew would have done a thing like that. That was definitely looking for trouble under all circumstances! This was dynamite, very risky indeed. But it was midday. At that time of the day it was less risky to stay there all by himself!
 However, the Master was definitely not a provocative trouble-shooter. In John 4, far from evading major issues, the Master addressed a major rift of His society, viz. the animosity between Jews and Samaritans. In His trip from Judea to Galilee He did not circumvent Samaria in any way. He took the shortest route between Judea and the province of Galilee, without avoiding the disliked and despised Samaria.
The dislike was mutual. The Samaritans in the region of Sychar, near to the historical Shechem, had ‘reason’ to be proud. They not only had the visible heritage of Jacob’s well, but also the grave of Joseph (Joshua 24:32) in their vicinity. In Luke 9:53 we read how Samaritan villagers turned messengers of Jesus away merely because they were heading for Jerusalem. This demonstrates their pride, regarding the ‘invaders’ as disrespectful towards the revered city. Jesus was careful in His consideration of small cultural details. When He entered Samaria He went in a northerly direction (John 4:3). At the occasion mentioned in Luke 9:53, the disciples had not noted how important this little detail of cross-cultural outreach was. When they thought they could also go there in the opposite direction, they ran into problems. At all times one should try to minimize the risk of unnecessary confrontation in cross-cultural outreach. This does not imply that all confrontation can be avoided. By its very nature the message of the cross elicits opposition from natural man and the flesh in us.
So often, great damage has been done to the cause of the Gospel by well-meaning Westerners who barged into areas without sufficient prior consideration of the culture of the people they tried to evangelise. (Also Easterners have become guilty of the same mistake, for example when Korean missionaries working in Kayelitsha, a Black township of Cape Town, used acupuncture as a way for treating patients in the 1990s.) The good news can thus become bad news because of the insensitivity of the messengers.

Jesus spoke to Friend and Foe alike
Even though the Lord's message was rejected because of His claim to be the Son of God, He was ultimately crucified.  Jesus spoke to friend and foe alike, without evading the likes of Pharisees and Scribes. Although He had problems with the attitude of the Pharisees, He nevertheless had no qualms to accept an invitation to dine with one from their ranks (Luke 7:36). Jesus in this way demonstrated yet again how wrong it is to fear socializing and association with so-called enemies. He was flexible enough to meet ‘enemies’ on their own turf.
            That the dislike of foreigners was quite deeply ingrained in the Jews – despite teaching to the contrary - is shown by the mirror image of this confrontation in the Hebrew Scriptures. Boaz, as the owner of the grain field, broke the custom by openly and wilfully speaking to a stranger. The reaction of Ruth, the Moabite, is typical. Not only did she prostrate herself with her face to the ground that shows reverence, but it is also a clear sign of subservience. But even more striking, she also expresses her surprise that he showed mercy to ‘me, a foreigner’ (Ruth 2:8-10).

The Submission of Jesus to His Father
Jesus very clearly did not evade difficult situations in a cowardly fashion. His clashes with the religious establishment, calling the leaders white-washed tombs with dead bones and His overturning the tables in the temple are well-known examples. We know that He was nowhere the softy as some people with doubtful hidden agenda’s tried to suggest. Because He taught us to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, some people deduce that Christians should be willing to be trampled upon, to be a sort of doormat. This is definitely a wrong conclusion.
            There is a subtle difference between biblical submission and bondage of servility. Matthew recorded a whole chapter (23), which highlights how the Master criticised the influential religious people of His day. In no uncertain terms He attacked religious leaders. Through His scathing public attack on them He was surely courting with trouble. Biblical risk-taking is serious business. He came down very hard on those leaders who put a burden on their followers, which they were not prepared to carry themselves (Matthew 23:4). On another occasion, the Master also said that (religious) traditions could nullify the power of the Word of God (Mark 7: 13). This has happened in many churches down the ages. Even today all too often only empty rituals and a glorification of the past remain.

Uncomfortable Targets
Collectively the Samaritans were definitely not an easy group, a comfortable target in terms of the gospel. If the other apostles at first did not grasp the message of uncomfortable targets properly, this cannot be said of Paul. He made a habit of starting His outreach in cities with a visit to the synagogues (Acts 17:2), thus also seeing the Jews as a priority. We find that Paul used the 'OT' scriptures to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ (e.g. Acts 17:2). Even after he had been rejected and shunned in the one town, he would nevertheless start in the synagogue of the next town as if nothing had happened. Paul thus also displayed tenacity and perseverance as part of His armour in the conflict with the resistant Jews.
            Paul, arguably the greatest missionary of all time, was a Jew. It just cannot be ignored that there is a blessing on the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob up to this day. Therefore it should be high on the list of our priorities to pray and work that the Jews’ eyes may be opened to the one who was pierced on the Cross of Calvary. Let us pray that they may discover in a big way that He is really the pierced one, the promised Messiah (cf. Zechariah 12:10).
            In the same vein it should be remembered that the Muslims also have a special place in salvation history. They are not only likewise children of Abraham, but we should remember that Ishmael was not cursed but blessed by Abraham. Then God said 'YES' (Genesis 17:18). In Messianic prophecy, for example Isaiah 19:23-25 and Isaiah 60:6+7, there seems to be a special role for Egypt, Assyria (modern-day Syria and Iraq) and the descendents of the Midianite-Ishmaelites, the Muslims (Kedar and Nebaioth were the two eldest sons of Ishmael). Many Christians and Jews might be surprised to read that Israel will only be third (in rank?) in the end-time after Egypt and Assyria (Isaiah 19:24).
            For some Christians it might be another sobering thought that Arab Christianity began already at Pentecost, when there were representatives from different people groups from around the known world. Arabs are mentioned by name (Acts 2:11). This was long before Paul got to Europe, to Macedonia (Acts 16:11ff). It is interesting for all three modern day religions that revere Abraham as the prime arch father, to remember that Muhammad’s original intention was to bring all Arab pagans to faith in the God of Abraham, the one creator God.
            In general, the Jews and the Muslims have been neglected where mission work was concerned. The great exception was Count Zinzendorf and his Moravians who had an eye for the Jews (and the Muslims). In fact, Zinzendorf had a special affinity for the Jews, because the Master was also a Jew. He had their corporate conversion as his goal. When he was still a student he included the Jews in his prayer lists.  Later he specifically included a prayer for the Jews and Muslims in a church litany to be used on Sundays.

Mission Strategy
In going from Judea to Samaria, we see the strategic path of taking the Gospel from one’s own Jerusalem to the next region, to another culture. In His last message to the disciples, the Holy Spirit was promised to proclaim the message in that order and ultimately to the end of the world (Acts 1:8). In all evangelisation it is good strategy to evangelize in your own culture first, before taking on another one, even if it is a culture where no language learning is needed, like reaching out in love to Muslims or Jews from your own city.
            In missionary work, Jesus’ initial concentration on the Jews has hardly been taken seriously. It is not completely clear why the Master instructed the twelve to stick to the house of Israel in Matthew 10:5+6 and leaving out this specific instruction to the seventy (Luke 10:1ff).  Or is here already the expansion - ultimately to the ends of the earth - implied? But it is recorded that He started with the Jews, and Paul followed him in this. It could be argued that Jesus’ involvement with the Jews was not missionary, not border-crossing at all; that He concentrated on His home culture. The disciples were initially very reluctant to obey the Great Commission, only staying in Jerusalem. Bosch (1990:60) demonstrated very convincingly how Jesus, right from His very first public appearance in Nazareth, paved the way to the acceptance of the other nations and the mission to them.  In fact, Bosch suggested that this was one of the main reasons why the inhabitants rejected him. According to the Gospel of Luke, the examples of Jesus refferring to the Samaritans seem to have been intended to soften up the nationalistic Jews because of their prejudice. The Gospel message for example emphasises that the leper who returned to thank Jesus and who praised God with a loud voice, was a Samaritan (Luke 17:15f).

A Blessing as a ‘Foreigner’
But we also see how Jesus was used as a ‘foreigner’ to become a blessing to the Samaritans. Down the years God has used people from other nationalities to be a blessing to South Africa. The missionaries who came from Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries brought the Gospel and in the process they contributed extensively to the liberation of the oppressed, often confronting the colonial powers of Southern Africa. But it also happened in the other direction. Many of them were blessed and changed as they worked with the downtrodden. One of the best examples is probably Ds. Van Lier, the young dominee of the Groote Kerk who was so deeply impacted by the peaceful passing to higher glory of one of the five converts of Georg Schmidt. Van Lier’s passionate letter to his uncle Professor Hofstede in Rotterdam swung the former opponent of Moravian missionary work to such an extent that this finally led to the formation of the Rotterdam Mission Society, thus preparing the way for Johannes van der Kemp, the great missionary to our part of the continent.
            An aspect of recent history that is not generally known is the role of Billy Graham in the reconciliation in our country. The renowned preacher refused persistently to come and preach before segregated audiences in the apartheid years.[2] God also used the famous evangelist in the 1950s to challenge Michael Cassidy, the founder of Africa Enterprise, to devote his service to the Lord when he was studying in Cambridge in the UK. Cassidy was later powerfully used by the Lord, for example in the work of racial reconciliation leading up to the Rustenburg Convention of 1990. To all intents and purposes this event prepared the way for the elections of 1994. When the country was heading for civil war, Cassidy defied critical and fearful Christians by organising a mass prayer meeting in the volatile Durban just prior to the elections. This - along with other prayer meetings all over the country - effectively turned the tide, ushering in the miracle of reconciliation in our country, and ultimately to a democratic dispensation.
            Furthermore, South Africa’s ‘Mr. Pentecost’ Du Plessis (along with the refugee Bishop Festo Kivangere of Uganda) was divinely used in breaking down the denominational barriers between Christians worldwide. Du Plessis operated at a time when the enmity and hatred against White South Africans was universal.
            Following their Master to tackle difficult issues head-on, these men of God were used to change the course of history decisively, not only in the South African subcontinent.



3. Jesus taught honesty by example 


            Isn’t it strange that Jesus remained at the well while the disciples went to buy bread in the town of Sychar? Would not that be typical of a negative lording attitude, that reminds one of the terrible past in South Africa where the maid has to do the menial tasks while the madam plays bridge or golf? I think it is very easy to refute such an accusation. From other scriptures we know that Jesus had a servant attitude. For sure, the Master demonstrat servant leadership par excellence. I think we can learn from this that not everybody must do the same thing in the Kingdom of God. There is such a thing as networking or cooperation. Everyone must just be at the right place at the right time. In this chapter I would like to highlight something else, viz. that Jesus taught honesty by example. 

Our Lord did not hide that He was Human
We read in John 4:6 that Jesus was tired. It is quite an encouragement to me that John reported this as straightforward as this. I see a clear pointer here that our Lord never saw any necessity to hide that He could also get exhausted. He was too poor to afford any transportation. And He was no superman who could walk kilometres on end without getting tired. The group probably had a brisk hike, leaving early in the morning and trying to get through Samaria as quickly as possible.
          With regard to exhaustion, some people have suggested that the disciples rebuked the people who tried to bring children to the Master because He was tired. This rendering, which is however not covered by the Bible verse, would be in line with John 4:6,7. Although Jesus was exhausted, He took time for the Samaritan woman, actually initiating the conversation (confrontation?). He was however flexible when a needy soul came to the well. Because our Lord did not go shopping with the others, the Master could be divinely used. One can miss out on a unique opportunity for service if one always goes with the stream, if one always wants to be with the crowd.

Jesus did not exaggerate
On the other hand, Jesus did not make any effort to exaggerate either. He was just himself. We must be wary of the temptation to put some ‘juice’ to our experiences. There is always the danger to inflate our testimony to make a bigger impression on our audience. The lesson to be learnt from Jesus - also for cross-cultural inter-action - is that we should just be ourselves, without exaggeration or undue dishonest modesty.
          Jesus’ humanity is thus clearly depicted. This is a problem to many people. The New Testament does not hide it in any way that Jesus had emotions like any other human being. He cried and had compassion with the shepherd-less mass and in the Garden of Gethsemane He perspired. In the portion of Scripture we discuss here, Jesus wanted something to drink because He was thirsty.
The letter to the Hebrews teaches us to put the humanity of Jesus to good use. Because Jesus was tempted just like us and beset by weaknesses - yet without sinning - He is capable of helping us to be victorious in these areas. Islam displays some ambivalence with regard to the humanity of Jesus because the Qur’an (Surah Mariam 19:19) acknowledges that Jesus was sinless. In fact, because of this very reason it is argued that Allah would not have allowed him to die on the cross. Allah took him away and Muslims then believe that someone else, who was turned into the likeness of Jesus, was crucified on Calvary. Some say this was perhaps Judas or Simon of Cyrene.

The wise Use of Common Ground
By sitting next to the well of Jacob, Jesus conveyed the unspoken message: this is our common heritage, our common ancestry. Jesus utilized the common ground to reach out cross-culturally. His mission to Samaria was a fine example for His disciples. Jesus was sensitive to the culture of the Samaritans, but simultaneously His action represented a fundamental break with traditional Jewish concepts. Their custom was not to have contact with Samaritans. It was like a taboo!
          By coming from the direction of Jerusalem, Jesus’ conveyed to the Samaritans the clear message that Jerusalem was very important to him. Furthermore, the group was not repeating the earlier mistake of heading for Jerusalem (Luke 9:53). The Samaritans had changed the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Samaria. (This is one of the reasons why we can see them as spiritual ancestors of the Muslims. Muhammad changed the qibla (the prayer direction) from Jerusalem to Mecca. The mutual dislike of Jews and Samaritans would be another reason to regard Samaritans as religious forerunners of Islam. When the Samaritans wanted to help with the rebuilding of the temple, their motives were doubted, probably not without good reason (cf. Ezra 4:12). On the other hand, the rejection by Esra and Serubbabel of their offer of aid apparently nurtured a one-sided nationalism that seemed to have forgotten God's inclusion of people from other nations when they believe in him. (This happened for example in the case of the Cushite wife of Moses, as well as with Rahab and Ruth. Sadly, this foreshadowed the rejection of Muhammad by the Jews.)
          Sometimes fear is linked to prejudice. I vividly remember how we were afraid of an occult backlash when our Muslim friends in the Bo-Kaap invited us to their Eid-ul Adha festivity (They call it Labarang Gaddji here at the Cape). At this occasion sheep are slaughtered in commemoration of the sacrifice of Abraham. How we were blessed in the end, discovering a key for loving outreach to Cape Muslims.
           While He attached great importance to Jerusalem, Jesus exploited the sentiments of the Samaritans, even as He demonstrated His bond to their common ancestry. Instead of harping on the differences between Judaism, Islam and Christianity, we may look how we can use common ground, for example Abraham and His sacrifice.  To win the trust of Muslims and/or Jews one could point to the common ground to show how Abraham took his son to Mount Moriah. This surely is a pointer how God allowed His Son to die on the hill of Golgotha. According to a Jewish tradition in the Midrash (the rabbinic commentary on the Torah which was initially primarily passed on orally), Isaac carried the wood like someone would carry a cross. That the third day is specifically mentioned (Genesis 22:4) as a turning point in the story, can be highlighted, pointing to the resurrection faith that Hebrew 11:19f refers to. The Talmudic tradition also includes the passing out of Isaac when Abraham heaved the knife, to be resuscitated when the voice from heaven said ‘Abraham, Abraham’. This reminds one of the double instance when a voice from heaven referred to Jesus as God's beloved son (Matthew 3:17, 17:5).
          However, we should not expect that the followers of the two other world religions will accept this without any ado. In Judaism another tradition has effectively crossed out this message. According to the latter tradition only the blood of an animal - contrasted to human blood - can atone for sin. We should pray that the Holy Spirit would illuminate Jewish minds and hearts to be prepared to be more flexible and less rigid, less academic or legalistic. The fact that Jesus was described as the Lamb of God - thus as an ‘animal’ - might help the one or other Jew to discover in him the Messiah, who is still awaited by many among them.
          In Islamic oral tradition the son of Abraham who was to be sacrificed, became Ishmael. This is in spite of the fact that the Qur’an (Surah 37:102-112) mentions Isaac and not Ishmael; in spite of the fact that Muslim Encyclopaediae point out that the earliest Hadith - i.e. the oral traditions coming from the companions of Muhammad - refer to Isaac and not Ishmael. I believe this is part and parcel of the strategy of the arch-enemy to sidetrack Muslims from the pointer to the ultimate sacrifice of God on Calvary when Jesus, the Lamb of God died for the sins of the world.
Between Jesus and the Samaritan woman there were the big differences between orthodox Judaism and the beliefs of the Samaritans. From Jesus we can learn that if we practise sensitivity in our dealings with the adherents of Judaism and Islam, the Lord could use the common ground to weaken or even remove some of their prejudice against ‘offensive’ Christian doctrine.
Isn’t it interesting what dynamics open up if we practise sensitivity to other religions and cultures, if we are willing to bury our pride for a moment?

The Christian doctrine of Jesus as the Son of God
Between Jesus and the Samaritan woman there existed significant differences, those between Orthodox Judaism and the beliefs of the Samaritans. Even greater was the cultural rift that was marked with great hostility. It is significant that the only other use of the word Samaritan in the gospel of John is found at the place where he reports how Jesus was accused of being demon-possessed: 'Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?'
            Likewise, the common ground does not remove the problem that the two world religions, Judaism and Islam have with the Christian doctrine of Jesus as the Son of God. Basically only the Holy Spirit can illuminate the loving Father-heart of God to adherents of these religions. To many of the Muslims it may only be a matter of misunderstanding, for example where they have a literal understanding of Jesus as the physical Son of God. Some of the sharpness of their hostility could be removed by showing for instance that ‘only begotten’ Son comes from the Greek word monogenes. This is ideally translated as the unique Son of God. Alternately, the use of son as a metaphor - in this case for His Godly character - is not completely unknown. To some Muslims it might be a help to know that the revered Arabic language makes a distinction between the figurative use as ibn and walad for the physical son. Jesus is called ‘the Son of God’ by the Arabic Christians in a legal sense using the word ‘ibn’. The Qur’an only rejects the assertion that Jesus is the Son of God with the meaning of ‘walad’ as a son born by a sexual act between God and Mary.
            For many Jews and Muslims it might be quite a revelation that on two occasions a voice from heaven referred to Jesus as His ‘beloved son with whom He was well pleased’ - at His baptism (Matthew 3:17) and at the transfiguration on the Mount (Matthew 17:5). Last not least, Jesus himself conceded that He was the Son of God (John 9:35-37), apart from the many instances where He called himself the Son of Man. The latter term was a deliberate euphemism that conjured up in the mind of devout Jews the picture of the returning Son of Man on the clouds of Daniel 7:13.

Rationalizing of discrimination
There may have been rational grounds for Jews to look down condiscendingly upon the Samaritans. They were not regarded as ritually kosher (or ritually hallal ). In John 8:48 we read how Samaritans were put on an equal footing with those being possessed by demons. In apartheid era South Africa pragmatic reasons have likewise been forwarded for racial prejudice. The positive traces and characteristics of the other races than our own are so easily and conveniently ignored.
            In the perception of the Jews, the common heritage of the Samaritans, going back to their common ancestor Jacob, has been conveniently overlooked. In a similar way, orthodox Jews up to this day completely forget that Joseph was saved by Ishmaelite traders and that Moses had a good relationship to Jethro, a Midianite (Ishmaelite) priest. Samaritanism - a major religion until it was all but annihilated in 529 A.D. - also saw Moses as their major prophet. This somehow escaped the attention of Jews down the centuries to all intents and purposes. It seems as if modern Jews are also ignoring the close initial relationships through marriage between the peoples of the Middle East, for example that Esau married Ishmael’s daughter and that David married Ruth, a Moabite. It might surprise many people - also from the ranks of Christians - to discover that the descendants of Ishmael, stemming from his two eldest sons Kedar and Nebaioth, are included in the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 60:6,7.
            We should however not romanticize the differences. The Bible is very realistic about these problems, but they are not exagerrated out of proportion. Genesis 43:32 mentions for example candidly that the Egyptians hated the Hebrew people and did not eat with them. Yet, the wall that would finally be broken down between the Jews and (Egyptian) Gentiles in Christ, has already been penetrated when Joseph married an Egyptian. And before that, Abraham begot Ishmael by Hagar, an Egyptian slave.

            In the interaction at the well of Jacob Jesus was himself: He was fully man and yet also God. Because He was fully human, He can empathize completely with our weaknesses and frailty, but because He is God, He lived victoriously. By allowing him full control over our lives, also we can live victoriously. Because He has taken our sin onto himself as a ransom and paying the penalty, we can go away scot-free. Because He is God, He could conquer sin and death.  Because through faith in Jesus we have become sons/daughters of God (John 1:12), we need not fear death or judgment. 



4. Our Lord dared to take Risks


            I think that almost all of us prefer the known. It’s so natural to get into set ways, all too often we fall in a rut, in spite of new year resolutions and that sort of thing. We don’t like to be taken out of our cosy zones. The taking of risks is not everybody’s cup of tea. Whosoever belongs to the category of those resenting risk-taking is not in bad company at all. There are Biblical figures like Gideon who first had to be reassured before they ventured out in faith. ‘Taking risks’ is perhaps not the best wording to be used. Stepping out in faith is not quite the equivalent but perhaps more appropriate. Nevertheless, I am sticking to the term taking risks. We keep in mind that it is a lesson, something that one may learn from the Master Teacher.
            When Jesus went to sit at the well of Jacob, He took quite a risk. But it was in a sense calculated. The elements of common ground between Jews and Samaritans reduced some of the risk involved up to that point in time. They had the same forefathers and the same prophets.

Breaking through rigid Custom
The Jewish custom prescribed hatred and condescension towards Samaritans. The main reason for their rejection - because they mixed worship of Yahweh with idolatry and had added to the law the prescript of worshipping at Mt. Gerizim - was not even generally known.  2 Kings 17 describes how God allowed the Assyrian king to remove the Jews into exile for that very reason. Thereafter the people were settled there who were later called 'Samaritans'. After their offer of help was turned down to help rebuild the temple in Jerusalem – without a clear reason - they became the inveterate foes of the Jews, thereafter trying to prevent the temple to be rebuilt and later also opposed the erection of the wall around the Holy City.
The pagan people who were settled there in Samaria were later called 'Samaritans'. After their offer of help was turned down to help rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, they became the inveterate enemies of the Jews, thereafter trying to obstruct and even prevent the temple to be rebuilt. The same thing later happened also in respect of the wall around the city. (And this also happened to Muhammad in Medina in 624 AD. History might have taken a completely different course if someone would have corrected him lovingly. Instead, he was mocked. He turned on Jews and Christians as never before. The qiblah, the prayer direction was changed in the opposite direction. Instead of praying in the direction of Jerusalem, his followers were commanded to pray in the direction of Mecca.)
To all intents and purposes, Samaritans were regarded as the visible enemy of the proud Jews. It amounted to a great risk that Jesus asked the woman for a drink. Jesus’ request was almost suicidal, soliciting problems from both sides of the racial divide. To drink from a cup that had been used by a Samaritan, was tantamount to getting defiled, it was almost like touching a leper. His request implied His willingness to drink from the same cup or jug that she had with her.We are reminded of the Muslims and Jews who also do not eat from utensils that could have touched pork. Orthodox Jews even have three sets of eating utensils to make absolutely sure that the various products don't mix, not even at cleansing.  Jesus surely knew that He risked getting a rude answer or even rejection from someone whom the Jews regarded as the pariah’s of their society, possibly not much better than lepers. Jesus did not have a drawing bucket with him to pull up the water. This was no calculated risk any more. He deviated radically from prevailing custom.
South Africans of the older generations can understand this very well. Some of us may still remember the days when people of colour were not allowed in the dining room of Whites - let alone share a cup with the ruling class. In showing respect where everybody else from the superior race would have shown disdain, Jesus showed the way to start breaking down the wall of racial prejudice and hatred.
Being a Samaritan, the woman would certainly have been completely flabbergasted already that He spoke to her. And on top of that, this Jew was willing to drink from her cup. Every Samaritan knew how their forefathers were rejected when they wanted to assist the Jews to rebuild the temple. A vicious snipe from the anonymous Samaritan woman would have been a possible normal reaction. We know this from the South African setting in the old days! Many a race-conscious, embittered or hurting person of colour may remember how he/she might have been tempted to react unlovingly when he/she got the chance. We may safely surmise that the question of the Samaritan woman was possibly not articulated in a completely loving tone: ‘How do you as a Jew ask me a Samaritan for water to drink?’ Apart from surprise, her reply possibly included the hate-filled response of someone who was happy to get the chance to hit back fiercely at a representative of the group that oppressed and despised them. ‘Wat vir ‘n cheek! Wie’s jy om vir my te vra?’ (What a cheek! Who are you to ask something from me?) She might have enjoyed the opportunity to refuse the request with as much venom as possible.

Reacting in the opposite Spirit
Jesus however did not allow himself to be governed by revenge. But He also did not allow her hate-filled reaction to put him off either. Instead, He started a natural conversation about water. This is conveying the message: ‘I don’t despise you.’ If one starts to reach out in love to people from another culture, one must not be surprised at all, when the initial reaction is one of rejection. In cross-cultural outreach where language learning is part of the preparation, the humiliation of becoming like a little child, is a very healthy spiritual exercise. Asking questions about the religion and culture from people - rather than acquiring it from books - can help much to counter an initial defence mechanism: up with the shutters! However, a simple mundane question, like the request of Jesus for some water to drink, can also break down the traditional animosity and hostility.

Turning the other Cheek - an 'Old Testament' Tenet!
The reaction of Jesus to the woman’s exclamation could be interpreted as an example of ‘turning the other cheek’.started a discussion about water. By the way, in the radical suggestion by Jesus to ‘turn the other cheek’one finds an excellent example of a crooked misconception, that developed out of the elevation of the 'New Testament' (in respect of the 'OT'). Theologians have misled so many of us as Christians to regard the Hebrew Scriptures as inferior, that the 'NT' is superior! The Bible is a unit, 'OT' and 'NT' belong together even though 90% or more of sermons in churches are taken from the 'NT'. For years I thought that Jesus’ instruction to ‘turn the other cheek’ was innovative, new. How big was my surprise to discover that Jesus was actually only quoting 'OT' Scripture, and not even fully at that. In Lamentations - of all places - Jeremiah identifies himself fully with the sins, the idolatry of his people, which resulted in the exile. He wrote: ‘Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him and let him be filled with disgrace’ (Lamentations 3:30). The suffering servant of Isaiah, who is widely accepted as a prophetic foreshadowing, a type of the Messiah, likewise displays these characteristics: ‘I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting’ (Isaiah 50:5-6).
            Often Christians think that Jesus departed from 'OT' thinking by refraining from revenge.
His correction of the the one-sided oral notion of 'eye for an eye' and hating the enemy blurred our perception, thinking that this is consistent with Mosaic law. A superficial comparison of Luke 4 with Isaiah 61 where Jesus actually stopped short of quoting 'the day of vengeance of our God' (Isaih 61:2), this perception may even be enhanced. However, with His example of the refusal of vengeance, Jesus actually stepped in the footsteps of David. Because someof his Psalms call for revenge on his enemies, Christians tend to forget that David had also displayed refusal of revenge. When he had the chance to kill Saul, David only cut off a piece of his robe (1 Samuel 24). On another occasion he spared the king at a time when Saul was once again after his own scalp. David refused to take revenge because he had respect for God’s anointed.
            Some Christians have the impression that it is solely a 'New Testament' trait, when we think about leaving the revenge over to God (e.g. Romans 12:19; Hebrew 10:30). Not only are these verses a quotation of Deuteronomy 32:35, but there are also quite a few other 'OT' verses with the same message.[3] In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the spirit of revenge, which is sometimes ascribed to the Jews (and from there possibly emulated by the Muslims), is actually a distortion of God’s plan with His people. We are taught in the Torah: ‘do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord’ (Leviticus 19:18).
            Nevertheless, Jesus surely did not endear himself to His Jewish compatriots by quoting Leviticus 19:18 (‘love your neighbour as yourself’) when He narrated the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is only recorded in the Gospel according to Luke.

Border-crossing Hospitality
By socialising with a Samaritan woman Jesus radicalises the issue of hospitality. The Greek word usually translated with hospitality, philoxenia, means literally love for strangers. In its oriental setting it implies a two-way direction, a giving and taking of hospitality. Jesus ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them’ (Luke 15:2). We note that the three parables in Luke 15 about the lost (sheep, coin and son) are the reply to the accusation of the Scribes and Pharisees. They were extremely unhappy with the Lord's interpretation of hospitality, to eat with the likes of tax collectors and 'sinners'.
            After the build-up via the lost sheep - which could have conjured up for His Jewish audience the image of Yahweh as the great Shepherd of His flock (cf. Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34!) - the lost coin had to prepare the audience for accepting the repentant lost sinner. And then Jesus hammers it home that true hospitality also includes the stranger, the enemy - the despised like the prodigal son, like the wayward Samaritans who – in their view - had distorted the Scriptures. The way Jesus showed respect for the Samaritans in general, should be an object lesson to Christians and Jews who look condescendingly at the Qur’an. It can be shown easily that the sacred book of the Muslims contains many examples of what we would regard as ‘distortions’ of Bible narratives. Muhammad most probably heard the original version from His Jewish contemporaries. (By the way, the accusation of the Qur'an that the Jews had actually distorted the Scriptures can be readily explained.) Yet, Jesus taught by His example that this does not cancel out the necessity of respect and love for any supposed opposing party.

‘Looking up’ in stead of hate-fully ‘looking down’
Jesus entered the house of the hateful chief tax collector Zacchaeus - the collaborator who connived with the Roman oppressors - and He used a despised Samaritan (Luke 10:30ff) as an example of border-crossing benevolence. By His example He was actually teaching His audience to 'look up' to people like tax collectors and Samaritans - literally in the case of Zacchaeus. The whole society of His day was conditioned to 'look down' and despise these groups. A Samaritan leper who was healed, was used as an example of a heartfelt gratitude. This superceded even obedience to the command to get the ‘clearance certificate’ from the priest (Luke 17:14ff).  Jesus had requested the lepers to show themselves to the priest in the temple. Thus it is very clearly simultaneously a teaching on ‘enemy love’. The other gospels also bear out that love was the top-most tenet of Jesus’ teaching, which He called ‘a new commandment’. Even though it was not stressed in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), the message must have come over very strongly. The first church radiated so much love that contemporary secular history reported this as a major characteristic among the followers of Jesus, namely how they loved each other.  

The radical Quality of Jesus’ Love
Jesus not only taught ‘enemy love’. He showed by His life-style that the teaching of ‘enemy love’ was not only a theory. His speaking to a woman from the ranks of the ‘enemy’, and at that one with obvious immoral habits, was revolutionary. As we have seen, He definitely risked extreme repudiation at the very least.
            It is sad that some Christians regard Muslims (and to a much lesser extent Jews) as enemies. The essence of divine love, agape, is the sacrificing of yourself, putting your own interests on the back seat to the advantage of the other person. Because of our sinful, fallen nature - slaves of sin - we have become enemies of God. But exactly that is where God displayed agape in sending His Son who ‘...did not come to be served, but to serve’ and to set us free from the bondage of sin, ‘...to give His life as a ransom for many.’
            The other 'NT' writers stressed love in their teaching. After listing the various gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul continues by showing them a more excellent way, viz. love. Paul articulates this by way of the beautiful and well-known song on love in chapter 13. In Romans 13:8-10 and Galatians 5:14 the law of love - ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ - is described as a summary of all other commandments. Coming from the King of Kings it is not surprising that James called it the royal law (2:8). James himself was possibly one of those bowled over by that love. To some Pentecostals it might be a big surprise to discover how Paul rates issues like charismata (gifts of the spirit) in the body of Christ as ‘ordinary’. In Romans 12:4-8 - the corollary of the more prominent gifts of the spirit of 1 Corinthians 12 - the interlinking of different parts of the body of Christ are mentioned. Next to ‘special’ gifts like prophesy, ‘ordinary’ gifts like encouragement, leadership and compassion are listed.
            By risking His own life, Jesus started the upliftment of the despised Samaritans. Thus He actually gave an example of working towards reconciliation with the ‘enemy’. Jesus was really the Master at getting beyond disputes, making friends out of enemies.
            The quality of Jesus’ love is especially shown by some of the incidents at His crucifixion. His first words of love from the cross - even before He addressed His friends - were forgiving words directed at His enemies. After His resurrection the Master rushed to those who had denied and rejected him in the hour of His deepest need. Jesus has every right to expect of His followers the high standard of sacrificial love because He has demonstrated this through His life and even more so through His death. He showed the way to be prepared to sacrifice your life for your friends ... and for your enemies.
            Within this framework the beatitude that encourages us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), follows naturally. Paul echoed this injunction in one form or another in almost every epistle, with the apt central summary in Ephesians 2:14 ‘because He is our peace...’ Jesus is the one through whom the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile has been broken down.

            The risk Jesus took at the well of Jacob was completely in line with the rest of His life where suffering and persecution was always a very real possibility. In fact, Jesus declared us happy if we are persecuted and vilified for no other reason than that we are His followers (Matthew 5:8). He taught His disciples that they should not be surprised to be hated by the world (John 15:20).  In a variation James (1:2-advised: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience…’


‘No’ to all Quick-fix Methods of evangelisation!
Jesus took a big risk to speak to the lone Samaritan woman. We will look again (chapter 7) how the Master actually put His reputation at stake. The Holy Spirit surely led John to report in such detail about the conversation between Jesus and the woman. The message is clear: Jesus did not abuse the situation just to get water, but He took time for her. Thus Jesus gave a clear caution to all quick-fix methods of evangelisation. We have to take people seriously enough to devote time in sharing the Gospel with them. I dare say that the scalp-hunting way of short-term outreach can be more harmful to the cause of Christ than direct opposition to the gospel.
            The sowing of the Gospel seed entails suffering. The Psalmist wrote: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Yes, they go out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, and return singing, carrying their sheaves’ (Psalm 126:5). This is certainly prophetic of the Gospel seed to be sown with the expectancy of a rich harvest. It comes to mind how Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. His call for prayer for workers in the white harvest was done after He had deep compassion over the shepherdless mass of people. All too often those who sowed with tears did not see the harvest. To this category we reckon missionaries like the Roman Catholic Mallorcan priest Raymundus Lullus (commonly referred to as Raymond Lull), who died as a martyr in North Africa. It would take almost a thousand years for the Gospel seeds that He sowed, to germinate. Even His visionary ideas of training prospective missionaries to the Muslim world and teaching Arabic to them, took many centuries to take off.
            We should note that the quick-fix methods of evangelism - without tears and toil - becomes very doubtful in the light of the above biblical references. In some circles there is such an emphasis on ‘decisions’ in revival meetings that it is hardly emphasised that the hearer should also count the cost before deciding to follow Jesus. Many people ‘raise their hand’ and ‘go forward’ without knowing clearly what they are doing.
            The high rate of backsliding in South Africa - perhaps also in many other countries - might be attributed to these ‘still-born’ Christians who bring more shame than honour to His name. Their being born-again is a sham that is not so much because of their own doing. The blame is often to be laid at the door of result-seeking evangelists, who don’t know what it is to travail in prayer, to pray people through into radical new birth. (Some of these ‘evangelists’ are experts in manipulating, using mass psychology to coerce people into ‘decisions’.) Follow-up and discipling are often neglected. The result is Christian cripples or babies who never grow spiritually. The many denominations - which are in reality the result of splits - testify to the fact that the churches were impregnated and birthed by spiritual infants. Paul saw in the petty bickering immaturity, the need for spiritual milk (1 Corinthians 1:10ff).

Perseverance is called for
In the same vein it is not surprising to find many people who have started off trying to reach out to adherents from other religions, but stopped when success was not forthcoming. The frustration of not seeing people coming to Christ after a lot of hard labour for the Lord is not easy to handle.
            Where do we go from here as a Church? Are we going to back off in the light of the strongholds of our city? Or are we just going to accept with resignation that others have already tried and failed. I suggest that we go for it with open eyes but with a positive mind-set. Sure, this is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, if we attack spiritual strongholds, we must not be surprised to be attacked ourselves. Remember however, we are on the side of the conqueror! He that is in us is more than him that is in the world! We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us (Romans 8:37).
            The book of Revelations gives us a glance of the martyrs at the end of the times and of their defeat of the enemy: ‘they defeated him by the blood of the Lamb, and by their testimony...’ (Revelations 12:11). Second century theologian Tertullian coined the adage: The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The truth of this motto has been borne out during the last quarter of the 20th century. The seed of harsh persecution under Mao Zedong in China made him the most effective evangelist of all time. In the Islamic world the maltreatment and persecution of former Muslims under the Ayatollah Khomeini and in other Middle Eastern countries can be seen as seed that has already started to germinate in a significant way.


                               

5. Jesus was prepared to be the Least


            In complete contrast to the prevalent custom of looking down on the Samaritans, Jesus showed that he was prepared to accept help from her. He was not too proud to acknowledge that he also needed something from her. In asking her for something to drink, he was humbling himself substantially. In fact, through His action the Lord was communicating that He needed something from her although she was a Samaritan. For any proud Jew this would have been extremely humiliating.
            Jesus offered fellowship to people who were despised by His own society. Seeing her deepest need, He spoke to the woman at the well who was so ashamed to be seen by others that she went to the well at midday, at a time when no one else would be expected to be there. In meeting her deepest need, Jesus turned the social outcast into one of the first evangelists of the Messiah, spawning a people movement from the Samaritans of the little town of Sychar.  

Jesus gave Dignity to the Despised
Jesus gave dignity to the despised of His society, a category to which women in general and prostitutes in particular, belonged. All the gospels depict that it is exactly with this sort of people that Jesus apparently socialized preferably. In Matthew 12:43 we note how a widow - another one of those nothings of their society - was used as an example of sacrificial giving, and in Luke 18:1ff the Master teacher put a widow in the limelight: this time as an example for persistent prayer.
            The question of the Samaritan woman How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria has major ramifications. As referred to by John Marsh (1968:210) the comment added by the evangelist for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans is actually an understatement. First of all Samaritan women were regarded among the most despised and unclean of their society, 'menstruants from their cradle'.  Then the meaning of the phrase have dealings with is actually to 'use together with'. To drink water from a common utensil with a Samaritan was to a Jew tantamount to getting defiled. Jesus thus made himself very vulnerable. Because of this the evanglist hastily added that the disciples had gone away. The Master would have been in great trouble if they had witnessed this. Marsh continues: 'So the simple request for a drink of water itself raises all the questions of uncleanness and purification with which the gospel has been dealing ever since it mentioned for the first time the baptism of John.'

The Master put Women in the Limelight      
Jesus once asked a multitude of people who had touched him. He sensed that healing power went out from him. Terrified, a woman with a blood haemorrhage owned up to have touched him (Mark 5:24ff). This was revolutionary for His day. The bleeding probably referred to problems with menstruation. Muslim women, who have inherited all the purification rituals that came to them via the laws of Moses, know a lot about the isolation they experience because of this. They incur harsh penalties like 40 days of consecutive fasting if they only touch their husbands while they menstruate. Jesus not only allowed the ritually unclean person to touch him, but hereafter He praised her for her faith.
            Women belonged to Jesus’ most dedicated followers who stood with him to the end, right up to His crucifixion. When the disciples had already returned to the order of the day after the traumatic occurrences leading to the crucifixion, the women went to the grave. Mary Magdalene - who had formerly been demon-possessed (Luke 8:2) - was the first evangelist of the resurrection according to the Gospel of John. Luke’s Gospel is likewise remarkable in this sense. It was completely extra-ordinary to entrust the resurrection gospel message to women whose word in those days had no authority in a court of law.

Taking it up for the Lowly and Meek
To allow the good news of the presence of the Messiah to be conveyed by a woman with doubtful character like the one in John 4, was revolutionary in the extreme. Jesus upset the apple cart of His days by taking it up for the lowly and meek. He rebuked the disciples who wanted to send the children away (Mark 10:14) and He used the sacrificial giving of the widow (Matthew 12:43) as an example.
Christians everywhere have the moral and biblical duty to side against injustice; to get actively involved for a more just society. Very rightly David Bosch said: ‘We must expose every form of economic injustice and exploitation in our society and witness against it - as part of our Christian calling.’ South African Christians could become modern pioneers in taking it up for the lowly, meek and downtrodden.

A Servant, but not servile
Jesus' first sentence to the Samaritan woman was a request for something to drink. In this way he complimented the teaching of John 13. He became a servant - the equivalent of a slave to the disciples - by washing their feet. Now he is prepared to be the least to be served with something which the woman could easily accomplish. The servant leader must never be too proud to accept service from the most lowly or despised of society.
            Sound doctrine has often been abused to bind people denominationally. Even a virtue like humility can be turned around in a negative way when someone becomes proud of that virtue. Under the guise of expecting submissiveness by wives or congregants, church leaders sometimes incur guilt. The Christian should display humility, but he/she is not destined to be a doormat. Humble submission is a virtue, but slavish servility is sinful because it robs both parties of their dignity. The believer in Jesus may assert His authority in humility, but he/she should not allow anybody to abuse him as a slave in a bad way (2 Corinthians 11:20). Those who are trampled upon in this way are however not blameless either, because the believer should be careful not to be brought under a yoke of slavery, under a new bondage (Galatians 5:1). After all, we may invoke the anointing of the Holy Spirit to break every yoke of bondage (compare Isaiah 10:27).
            If we have been liberated by the Son of God, we are free indeed (John 8:36). There is thus a subtle difference between biblical submission and a bondage of servility.

Jesus used social Rejects
The Western rational mind-set regards the speaking about ‘koeitjies en kalfies’ (trivialities), as wasting of time. Jesus demonstrated how the opening up of a conversation with a stranger about a mundane thing like water can break down walls of prejudice.
            Jesus was furthermore an expert in utilizing the low and despised for His service. Even before His birth Mary praised God in her ‘Magnificat’, that He ‘took notice of His lowly servant girl’ (Luke 2:48). This was to be repeated over and over again in the lifetime of Jesus. Born from extremely poor parents, His birth was first heralded to and relayed by the lowly shepherds, who were socially not rated highly because they were known for grazing their sheep at illicit places. He enters Jerusalem on an ass, an animal that even today is more known because of its obstinacy and stupidity than in any other way. He chose rough fishermen and one from the ranks of the traitor tax collectors as His first disciples.
            And here in John 4 a woman with low morals from the despised Samaritans was used as the first witness to an ‘unreached people group’. The only condition for Divine service seems to be that men and women surrender and dedicate their lives to His service. Jesus himself was regarded as a very unlikely candidate to be the Messiah, coming from the ‘platteland’, from the rural backwater called Nazareth (John 1:46). The learned Paul very significantly discerned that God has deliberately chosen those whom the world regard as nothing at all (1 Corinthians 1:27-29) to put the high and mighty to shame.
            It is indeed an important Scriptural principle that God specifically chooses to use those people who are completely committed to him. The Bible is full of examples of ‘inferior’ despised/rejected people who were used by God. What distinguished them was their availability for God. Joseph was initially discarded by his brothers; Moses was a fugitive and murderer when he was called by God. Jephtha was the despised bastard son of a prostitute and initially shut out (Judges 11:1+2); Saul, the first King of Israel came from the weakest tribe and the smallest family in the tribe (1 Samuel 10:21).
            It is recorded in the book of Esther Mordechai, an insignificant Jew from the minute tribe of Benjamin, distinguishes himself through patriotism for which he did not seek any reward. Prime was however his loyalty to the king and to Yahweh even though he was far away from his home country Israel. At a time when the prayerful Daniel reminded God in the exilic Babylonia about His promises through the prophecy of Jeremiah that the end of the 70 years was on hand (Daniel 9:2), God gave favour to His people. The Persian king fell in love with Esther, the Jewish orphan who was raised by her uncle Mordechai.
            The three women mentioned in Matthew 1 would normally never have qualified in the ancestry of a King. Rahab made her living as a prostitute, and Tamar disguised herself as one after her father-in-law Judah had forgotten his promise to give his son to her in marriage. Ruth, a Moabite and a widow, was grafted into the family tree of Jesus.
            Although women and slaves were generally regarded as nothings in the contemporary oriental society, Naaman - a prominent commander of the Syrian army - was healed due to the services of a lowly unnamed Jewish servant girl (2 King 5:2). Jesus rubbed the synagogue congregation clearly up the wrong way by pointing to the foreigners used by God in 'OT' times, including the Palestinian widow of Zarefath (Luke 4:14ff).

Jesus consoled and uplifted the Discarded
In John 4 we also see how those are uplifted who had been given up by society like the lame man in Bethesda (John 5). This man had literally been ‘decaying’ away for 38 years. But Jesus expressly uses those who have been rejected and despised by others as powerful instruments - people like the Samaritan woman. When they believe in him, their lives are changed radically. Many others can be and often are touched by such people. Too often influential people - much higher on the social scale - are challenged through their testimony and Christ-like lives.
            Every time Jesus spoke about Samaritans and tax collectors, about the poor and public women, He took it up for the under-dog. He praised the tax collector Zacchaeus without including any accusation whatsoever. A repentant prostitute harvested praise from him without reservation (Luke 7:36ff). In the process Jesus did attack the self-righteousness and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (e.g. Luke 18:10ff). But He did not pull them down in the mud either. Like the prophets of old, Jesus attempted to lead them to repentance rather than scoring points. Samuel had similarly highlighted the fact that God looks at the heart, disregarding an outward show of religiosity (1 Sam. 15:22). Jesus’ comparison between the prayer of the Pharisee and the tax collector is not meant to aggravate the differences, but rather to facilitate reconciliation after repentance.
            David Bosch notes with regard to the tax collectors that it is especially this group - which was gravely despised by the Jewish establishment - which Jesus uplifted and rehabilitated. He risked contamination in getting very close to, yes also possibly touching lepers. This was very revolutionary for His day! Jesus socialized to such an extent with the pariah’s of His day that He was called a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34). This was definitely not meant as a compliment!
           
The Despised as God's choice Instruments
In discovering the potential of the rejected Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus was just consistent with the teaching that He practised, our Lord chose the likes of despised fishermen and tax collectors as His disciples. The result is spectacular: Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony (John 4:39). So blessed the pure witness of only one person could be, and that of a despised woman! She led many to a personal interaction with Jesus.
            Paul echoed this wisdom in a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 1:27-29: God has deliberately chosen to use ideas the world considers foolish and of little worth in order to shame those people considered by the world as wise and great.  In fact, we may be thankful in a certain sense if we are not so clever, because ‘We are glad that...in all our dealings we have (depended) ...not on our own skills (2 Corinthians 1:12, Living Bible). Paul also bluntly states that among the church at Corinth there were not many wise.
            Paul referred to his own unimpressive stature and lack of lustre in his speaking (2 Corinthians 10:10). God deemed it fit in His wisdom to save those who believed through the preaching of ‘inferior’ people, through what was being regarded in the world as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:21). Furthermore, Paul also stated clearly not only ‘when I am weak, I am strong’ (2 Corinthians 12:10), but also that the foolishness of the cross is God’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18). It seems as if this has been forgotten nowadays. The ‘wisdom’ of some of the eloquent jet-setting big names sometimes does not rise above well-sounding cliché’s. Their ‘wisdom’ is too often using a well-oiled public relations and fund-raising machinery.
            God uses the foolish to confound the wise. This happened again and again in history. Thus the missionary movement started in 1731 when the Count Zinzendorf chatted to a slave at the court of the Danish King. Here at the Cape the ministry of Georg Schmidt among the Khoi at Genadendal impacted world missions.
            An indirect result of the revival that swept throughout England in the 18th century was that the putrid conditions in the British prisons were looked into. Evangelicals were at the forefront of social reform at a time when the industrial revolution caused all sorts of misery. William Wilberforce, an evangelical parliamentarian was instrumental in the abolition of slavery when Britain took the lead in cleaning the world from this scourge. In turn he had been influenced by the unorthodox missionary Dr. John Philip, who had returned to England after a stint in South Africa where he had seen the effect of slavery. 

Two positive Examples from History
I would not be surprised at all if through the loving outreach among the poor and needy of Cape Town or amongst drug addicts or prostitutes, God would trigger something special that would have an impact on missionary work throughout the African continent. In recent history, three 'Bushmen' (San) believers from the Kalahari gave the example to Christians worldwide to look for the roots of generational and other curses, spawning a prayer expedition from Cape Agulhas in July 1999.[4]
            We do have to note that in all these cases the actual ministry was backed by faithful prayer, especially the 24-hour prayer watch in the German town of Herrnhut. It has been reported how Count Zinzendorf, the founder of the renewed Moravian Church, devoted particular attention to those members that were ‘weak, simple, ungifted, and thus - according to the usual mode of thinking - worthless and despicable; and if he discovered that they loved the Saviour, they were much esteemed by him. He could especially value gifts in lowly placed individuals. Thus we can read in a diary entry about their servant: ‘I ...was deeply humbled by his testimony concerning himself. He is far in advance of me.’ Zinzendorf led the Moravian Church at Herrnhut to shatter the indifferent eighteenth century established Christianity and the polished polite society. He taught: it was the meek Lamb and the Blood that bring deliverance to the poor and refuge to the outcast.
            The disdain with which mainline churches still tend to look to the African Independent Churches in this regard needs urgent revision!

The Lord sided with the Weak and Oppressed
Jesus upset the apple cart of His days by taking it up for the lowly and meek. Wherever missionaries clearly sided with the weak and oppressed, without a clear political agenda, spiritual fruit usually followed. One of the best examples of this is the missionary work of the Herrnhut Moravians in their first missionary decade (1732-42). They put themselves on an equal footing with slaves and those people who were treated as hunting objects in certain countries, such as the Khoisan, the reviled ‘Hottentotten’ and ‘Bosjesmannetjes’ of the Cape. Their stand on racial equality and their treating ‘Hottentotten’ as human beings harvested scorn and abuse from the colonists. But first and foremost the Moravian missionaries wanted to be true followers of Jesus.
The actions of some missionaries were attacked. Here at the Cape and in South Africa at large their stand on racial equality and their endeavours to see the Khoi and Blacks treated as human beings, harvested scorn and abuse from the colonists. Dr Philip in particular was branded as being too political for taking it up for the lowly and those who could not fend for themselves.
There is still so much inequality in our so-called post-apartheid society that no Christian should be complacent about it. An actualised position would be opposition to corruption and immorality amongst the ranks of those who govern us. They speak about working for the ‘agtergeblewenes’ from the comfortable couches of the gravy train, not even considering to dirty their hands in the work of upliftment of the Reconciliation and Development Programme, except possibly where they can score a political point here and there.

                               






6. The Master Teacher goes from the Known to the Unknown


            It is striking how Jesus took the Samaritan woman from His need to her need, from the mundane to the heavenly. By simply talking about common water, Jesus started to relate to her on a level where she was completely comfortable. In all communication there are positive and negative terms. If we translate this to evangelisation: positive terms will draw people to Christ and negative connotations would drive them away. Starting off with speaking about water, Jesus laid the basis, the foundation to point her to the real deep thirst, of which she was possibly not even aware. By speaking about plain water, Jesus prepares her for receiving the living water. The life giving water to which Jesus referred, could be equated with the Word. The need of Scripture in the language of people groups where it is not yet available, is thus amplified.

Living Water of another Sort
Living in the beautiful city of Cape Town,  my wife and I have been blessed more than once to be able to retreat to a seaside resort for aday or two. As I once stood on the beach shore looking at the waves, Rosemarie suddenly said excitedly: ‘Why do people preferably go to the beach?’ I sensed that she tried to drive a point home: The main difference between a swimming pool and the sea is that we have living water in the latter case. The water to which our Lord referred in His conversation with the Samaritan woman had a similar quality: living water, bubbling from a fountain from which eternal life flows that also quenches spiritual thirst.
            The water that the Lord gives is not merely running water,  contrasted with water drawn from a well, but the water of eternal life, of which flowing water, well-water and bashing waves are true and proper analogies. Paradoxically, the living water is also quiet waters, a place 'waar rus is' , where rest is guaranteed (cf. Ps. 23:2), because the Good Shepherd is the guarantor.

Leaking Water Containers
Many years before Jesus roamed the earth, the prophet Jeremiah (2:13) spoke about leaking water cisterns. People who live in sin - without entertaining thoughts about eternal matters - resemble such broken cisterns, which lose precious water continually. The Samaritan woman evidently did not sense Jesus’ claim to deity immediately. We should never expect people to grasp eternal truths in one go. The allusion of Jesus to the spring of living water welling up to eternal life was clearly a riddle to her. At another occasion He invited: ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him (John 7:37-39).
            The Samaritan woman was probably also one of those people who operated with the ‘leaking buckets’ of which Jeremiah was speaking. That she had been living with five men prior to the one with whom she was co-habiting, came to the fore as a problem of sexual morality. She had no notion of the figurative living water to which Jesus was referring. Therefore she had not yet been longing to ‘come to the waters…’ (Isaiah 55:1). Her misleading reply that she has no husband - after the instruction of Jesus to fetch her husband - could even be interpreted as an effort to entice Jesus. But exactly at this point Jesus took her from the known to the unknown - He uncovered her deepest need to be liberated from her addiction to sexual perversion.
The Lord as the Shepherd of His flock leads the sheep to quiet waters (Psalm 23:2). Dirty waterholes quench thirst temporarily, but one can get infected there, apart from parasites that can suck life out of one. The prophet bemoans on behalf of God: ‘They have forsaken me, the spring of living water’ (Jeremiah 2:13). Blessed are they who find the source of the living waters!
            When Jesus exposed her sinful life-style, she professed him as a prophet. The Samaritan woman had been trying to quench her ultimate thirst by changing bedroom relationships. The Good Shepherd offered her living water: ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’(John 4:13f). She was challenged to disclose her need of salvation. She recognised Jesus as a prophet because He has laid bare her sin. That is a prime function of a prophet in the Bible. Foretelling happenings, for example as a result of the disobedience of the Israelites, is secondary to this function. A prophet 'exercises primarily a negative ministry. He discloses sin and calls men to repentance'.
            This is one of the reasons why Muhammad cannot be acknowledged as a prophet in the biblical mould. I have not yet read of occasions where the Arabian leader unmasked the sinful life of strangers. But one could perhaps meet Muslims halfway on this score. Muhammad surely was acting prophetically when he called the pagan Arabs from idolatry to faith in the God of Abraham. It is unfortunate that the Yahweh of the Torah, whose name the Jews would not even pronounce, got the name Allah, which was probably not Muhammad’s original intention. His initial idea was evidently to signify one god as opposed to the many gods in Mecca. (Allah simply means the god.) However, the issue was clouded when the original pagan pilgrimage to Mecca was given a new content. The visit to the Ka’ba was hereafter seen as a pilgrimage to honour Allah, but basically it was still idolatry. This is especially the case since Muhammad did not remove the black stone from the building, although he did so with 360 other idols.
            Unfortunately the seeker Muhammad was deceived and confused by the wrangling Christians and Jews, some who embraced heretic ideas.

Jesus exposed false Alternatives 
In almost classical style Jesus could unmask wrong alternatives; we should say more correctly that He often radically exposed false alternatives. When Jesus was for example put to the trial - when His questioners evidently tried to corner him - He coolly replied that both God and the Caesar had to get the due for their respective allegiance (Matthew 22:21). When the disciples got involved in petty bickering about position and rank, Jesus challenged them with service as the qualification: the greatest of all is the servant (Luke 22:24ff).
            The cronies of Ahmed Deedat, the well-known Durban Muslim apologist of yesteryear, have been abusing the question of John the Baptist in Matthew 11 to suggest that Jesus could either have been a prophet or the Messiah. Jesus himself gave the answer that He was more than (merely) a prophet (Matthew 11:9). The narration in John 4 unmasked the false alternative. Jesus is both, a prophet and the Messiah.

            At first the Samaritan woman did not discern that Jesus was using metaphorical language when He spoke of living water. Yet, she neither responded to His request for water from the well nor did she respond to His offer of living water. With His divine eye of truth Jesus saw right into the heart of the spiritually thirsty woman. He is however not so sad that she refused to give him water  than because she had no eye for what He had to give - water for the soul that could quench the deep thirst that she tried to lessen through sexual experiences. Her reference to His not having a bucket to draw water from the well, is followed by the proud pointing to their great ancestor Jacob who drew water there. The Swiss theologian Schlatter suggests that she still had the suspicion at this point in time that Jesus was looking down at the Samaritans like a typical Jew, despising the cultural riches of the well of their ancestor Jacob. Schlatter goes on to marvel at the lively sensitivity with which John highlights the 'begging poverty' of this holy shrine.
            When Jesus offers her living water that could lead to eternal live, she initially only sees the convenience of not having to come and draw water day by day. But she did say 'give me this water!' She had opened herself up. By making himself vulnerable, Jesus broke through her defences.

Confession, not Defence
Because Jesus confronted the woman with her sinful living, He caused her to recognise Him as a prophet. In the conversation of Jesus with the Samaritan woman she soon described Him as a prophet. The proclamation of the Samaritan woman, by calling Jesus a prophet, comes quite close to a confession of her own guilt. Notably, she did not try to defend her adultery. Thus she came into the same mould as the great King David, who did not try to put the blame on someone else when the prophet Nathan made him face the music of his adultery and indirect murder (1 Samuel 12). Psalm 51 was the result, one of the most powerful prayers of confession. This Psalm has helped many people down the ages after they had been overcome by sexual and other temptation. Because he was willing to repent, David became a man after God’s heart. In stark contrast, we find Saul trying to belittle his disobedience and impatience, which is regarded as sinful (1 Samuel 13:11f). This would eventually cost Saul the kingship.
            Unlike the Islamic doctrine of isma, the Bible has no problem to see prophets as sinners. Also, biblical Christianity does not know big and small sin. Disobedience, impatience and uncontrolled anger are being dealt with by the Bible just as harshly as murder and adultery. When Moses gave the impression of doing things himself and not giving God the honour - striking the rock twice in his rage at the rebellious people, instead of speaking to the rock as God had commanded him - this cost him and Aaron the entry into the promised land (Numbers 20:9-12).

Divine hatred of Idolatry
We should never try to either give someone else the blame or belittle sin, for example by calling our greed materialism. God is enraged by greed (Isaiah 57:17), which is equalled to idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
            The hatred of idolatry can be seen as a common denominator of the three monotheistic religions. God hates idolatry, which is depicted as the one sin that he seems to have tremendous ‘difficulties’ to forgive. The Qur'an and Islam tteaches along these lines that shirk, i.e. attributing a partner to the Almighty, is utterly abonimable, idolatrous. (That Islam accuses Christians of doing this is however another matter).
            The Master teacher explained in the parable of the four-fold soil the effect of seed sown among thorns: ‘but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful’ (Mark 4:19). Our love of money and possessions makes our hearts like hard ground and full of thorns. No wonder we become cool, hard and hurting if these issues are not brought to the Cross. Philip Steyne, a South African theologian, who is perhaps better known in the USA and Germany, formulated the idolatry of materialism pointedly: When nobody prevent the rich to become richer and the poor to become poorer and when economic injustice and socio-political estrangements are tolerated, this is equal to Baal idolatry. 
            The prophet Jeremiah (4:3) advised the people of God not to sow seed on unploughed ground and among thorns. We should uproot these thorns through confession, repentance and restitution. 
            Confession (with repentance) is needed, for individual and for collective sin. Moses confessed the sins of his people after they had worshipped the golden calf, even though he was not involved himself. In the process he became a type of Christ, willing to bear the sins of others (Exodus 32:32).
            Here in South Africa the collective confession at Rustenburg in November 1990 by Dutch Reformed ministers on behalf of their church for the sins of apartheid, played unobtrusively but nevertheless a major role in change in this country. That one of those pastors, Professor Heyns, was killed assumedly by rightwing extremists, is part and parcel of the atoning suffering which is often needed in the redeeming of a sinful set-up. How many have been killed by the strong arm of the unjust apartheid government and its lackeys.
            At the present point in time there still exists a collective guilt in the Western Cape which I call the unpaid debt of the Church. The unjust repression and incarceration of religious and other community leaders, the rejection of slaves by the colonial church at the Cape in earlier centuries and the apartheid measures of yesteryear are but a few examples of how the spread of Islam was boosted through people who were perceived to be respected Christians. In fact, this is the case worldwide especially, when one considers the origins of Islam where Muhammad was misled by Christian leaders.. It is quite possible that many more innocent casualties may be part of the ‘payment’ of the debt in the times ahead of us.

No Compromise with Sin
Jesus addressed the sinful life of the Samaritan woman very pointedly. In all types of evangelisation we need to be sensitive to the culture in which we operate, but this does not mean that we must compromise with sin. Muhammad became a prophet after he had been put on a pedestal by his wife Khadija and her cousin Waraqah, a Christian priest. According to Muhammad's own testimony he was not very much impressed by the words of the supernatural figure that masqueraded under the name of Gabriel, that invited him to 'recite' and which also suggested that he was a prophet. For two years he remained convinces that in stead of having been celestially called, that he was demon-possessed. Waraqah, the Christian priest, appears to have been quite impressed by the dedicated young man who emulated the practice of retreating to the mountains for prayer just like the Christian hermit monks. The initial revelations of Muhammad, which later became known as the first Meccan Surah’s, sounded very much like the language of 'OT' prophets.
            A few hundred years after our Master had left the earth, the North African church father Augustine discovered where real rest and fulfilment can be found. Although he had a completely immoral life, he started searching for truth. Sometimes sexual immorality is a camouflage, a way of trying to satisfy spiritual hunger or thirst.
            Many a young man or woman landed in vice-like drug addiction, after they had discovered that some so-called Christians are wearing a mask. This does not exonerate them, but it may help those of us who are so quick to condemn hapless addicted people. When the religious establishment wanted to stone the adulterous woman of John 8, Jesus challenged them about their own sin. 
            Augustine’s searching for truth likens that of many Muslims who ended up reading the Bible. Being the scholar he was, he was initially impressed by the sermons of Mani who had presented himself as the revealer whom Jesus had promised. The teachings of Mani about asceticism and vegetarianism were especially attractive. Salvation through insight was taught. At the same time the notion in Manicheism that man was not really guilty of his own short-comings, gave Augustine latitude to continue his immoral life-style..
            A major difference between Augustine and Muhammad was their ability to read. The North African was challenged by the voice of a child calling ‘take and read’. This he promptly followed up, reading Romans 13:13 and 14. It led to his conversion, which was however first and foremost the result of the faithful prayers of his mother Monica.
            The Arabian religious leader on the other hand could ‘recite’. He encouraged his followers to read ‘the books’, referring to the Scriptures of the Christians and the Jews. But he could not check for himself what the Bible actually taught. If this had been the case, much confusion could have been prevented.





7.  The Master put His Reputation on the Line


            To speak to a woman in public, is not common for Middle East culture, to put it euphemistically. Even today this is not regarded as morally correct in that part of the world. On this level Jesus flouted just about every convention of His time. He really risked His reputation when He was speaking publicly to the woman with doubtful morals.

Jesus in bad Company
Jesus got a bad reputation because of His habit of dining with shadowy figures like tax collectors and prostitutes (Matthew 11:19).  To do this most uncommon thing was almost suicidal; to ask anything from a woman - and the sort of female at that who had to come in the middle of the day – shying away from meeting other townsfolk, was just not done. 
          Even in our day the advice is generally given that men should counsel the same gender and women should stick to their kind in all evangelism. It is known about Billy Graham that he would never travel alone in a car with a woman, lest a wrong conclusion might be drawn by anyone.
          This is no isolated case where Jesus put His reputation on the line. If anybody would try to assert that the conversation at Jacob’s well was not so risky, because the twosome were not near to the village, and thus to be seen by others, the story of Zacchaeus proves the contrary. When nobody even wanted to speak to the reviled tax collector, Jesus called him by His name. When the little man was so ashamed to be seen by others, that he hid himself in the lush leaves of the sycamore tree, Jesus puts him in the limelight.
A very similar thing was happening at Jacob's well. That the Samaritan woman was going to the well at the unusual time probably had its reason - to escape the condescending and resentful gazes of the townsfolk. She had possibly wrecked a few marriages, known as someone who liked to entice men into sexual adventures.
          Jesus gave the example of upgrading the outcasts of His society by having close fellowship with them like sharing a meal. In the South African context we are called to risk approaching gangsters, drug addicts and prostitutes in a way, which is different to our society. Instead of despising and hating them like the rest of our environment, we are challenged by the example of Jesus to risk our reputation by ‘looking up’ to these hapless people. Even though we are sad that generations of Cape 'Coloureds' are affected by the abuse of drugs, Jesus calls us to have understanding for the many gangsters who are the products of rejection by the ‘Christian’ establishment. 

Jesus challenged the Establishment
In speaking to a woman publicly, Jesus risked even the fury of His own disciples. (South Africans need little imagination to sense the tension when the disciples came back from their shopping spree. We recall how Whites, who socialised with people of colour, were rejected and ostracized by other people from the condescending race that regarded themselves as superior. They were scorned upon and referred to as ‘kafferboeties’.[5] On the other end of the population spectrum, the houses of Blacks were sometimes burnt down merely because they had contact with Whites.) From the viewpoint of the disciples they would have been very unhappy that their Master was now speaking openly to one of the enemy, to a (public) woman at that! That the disciples found it ‘strange’ that Jesus spoke to a woman (V.27), is a gross understatement! That they did not say a word was most probably a case of ’n mond vol tande - they were so embarrassed that they did not know what to say. It is quite surprising that the gospel writer John did not mention indignation. It was this sort of thing, which made it very difficult for people like the zealous Judas to continue following Jesus. Because of this type of behaviour Judas probably thought that Jesus was betraying their cause, that the Master was creating disunity in their ranks. The disciples were most probably united in their rejection of the woman. The bulk of them possibly knew intuitively that He may have done a very unconventional thing, to put it politely. But they also knew that it was right. Jesus was so different, so much more pure and truthful.
          They dared not ask Him why He acted in the way He did. One thing is sure: they would never have taken time for such a person. Most of all, they would have been quite perplexed by His reply when they tried to encourage him to eat something. I have food to eat that you know nothing about... My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish His work. If He were required to choose between that what they had bought and that what the conversation with the woman had given him, He would have chosen the latter. The work of God in the life of the woman is real food to him. Jesus took the time to sow into her life. The harvest that ensued from this 'trouble' is spectacular. But that was still to come.
          Jesus challenged the establishment of His society by bringing them in contact with the gifts of the marginal people. In the Gospel of Luke it is recorded how a highly respected Pharisee Simon became a witness to the devotion and dedication of an ex-prostitute (Luke 7:36-40). Common prejudice would hardly have expected anyone to find Jesus in normal company with Simon, a Pharisee, let alone to dine with him. Jesus’ presence brought a very improbable visitor into the house of Simon. What an example the Master gave; what a challenge for Christians to be catalysts and conduits for the breaking down of walls of prejudice. In the logical extension of this, followers of Jesus should be instruments to bring together social extremities of the body of Christ. The Church of Jesus transcends all man-made boundaries, without regard for social status!
          To crown it all, Jesus dared to praise the unnamed prostitute in this case. But he was also brave enough to reprimand the Pharisee Simon. What a reappraisal of their prejudicial value systems must have followed from this encounter!
         
Priorities changed and Fear removed
The Samaritan woman must have felt the tension immensely when the disciples arrived with the food. She left her jug just there and returned to the town. There can however be more than one reason for her action. One of these reasons may probably have been to break the uneasy, icy atmosphere. Another better possibility is that her sense of priorities had been changed. She came to fetch water, and now she left her water jug there but filled with inner joy and a special message! She was not governed by fear for her townsmen and their resentful condemning looks any more.
          We have just illustrated the risk Jesus took by speaking openly to a Samaritan woman. But also for the woman it was very dangerous. In the ensuing return to the village she displayed tremendous courage. By putting His own reputation at stake, Jesus challenged her to do the same. It was far from easy for her, the equivalent of the sort of demeanour for which some people in this country were ‘necklaced’, burnt alive with a tyre around their neck, merely on the suspicion that they connived with the ‘regime’.
          I dare to suggest that Jesus knew that quite often women have more courage than men when the chips are down. It would have been very risky indeed for the Samaritan woman to concede that she had socialized with a Jew at the cultic explosive well of Jacob. In an earlier programme in this series we have already referred to the three women who are mentioned in Jesus’ ancestry in Matthew 1. What really distinguished Rahab and Ruth was their courage. They were prepared to risk all for their faith in the God of Israel. In Hebrews 11:31 Rahab is listed among the heroes of faith. Tamar, the only other woman mentioned by name among the impressive list in Jesus’ lineage, had the guts to challenge Juda, her father-in-law, because of his failure to honour His promise to let his youngest son marry her. In the process she reverted to the unusual tactic of disguising herself as a prostitute (Genesis 38:11-30). What courage this must have required! The Samaritan woman likewise displayed exceptional guts.

          After the Samaritan woman had left, the disciples probably still had a lot to chew. Their question directed at our Lord - whether He had eaten in the meantime - was perhaps only a polite way of hiding their ‘inner feelings’. More than one of them would probably have thought: ‘What on earth had gone into Him to go and speak publicly to a questionable Samaritan woman?’
          The faith of Jesus as He invested time in the strategic woman was completely vindicated. She was open to be challenged. When Jesus said to her ‘The hour is coming and now is’, she probably got the message. This is Messianic. This is more than merely prophetic language. Since the Samaritans shared in the hope of Israel, the woman was convinced that Jesus was speaking about the Messiah. It was only logical that she would refer to the Messiah who would come. The reply of Jesus ‘I am He’ may sound like merely an ordinary affirmative to Westerners, but it must have been the confirmation in her heart that this was indeed the great ‘I am’, an allusion to Yahweh. To the oriental this must have sounded very much like the translation of the ineffable name of the Almighty into German by the learned Jew Martin Buber: ‘Ich bin der ich sein werde’ (I am who I shall be). Jesus was implying that He is the representative of the Almighty - (part) fulfilment of the prophecy: ‘They shall know... that I am He that does speak; behold, it is I’ (Isaiah 52:6). The latter prophetic sentence occurs in the context of the messenger whose wonderful tiding resounds on the mountains, the one who brings good news and who announces peace.

Time for the Individual
Jesus showed us the way in taking time for the individual, even if it entails some risk. On more than one occasion He had compassion for the individual sick person, but also for the crowd of people without proper guidance, the crowd without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). On other occasions He demonstrated clearly that He had an eye for the individual in need, although there were scores of others around him; He noticed Zacchaeus up in the tree (Luke 19:5), He noticed the touch of the woman who desperately needed the healing for her haemorrhage (Mark 5:24ff). In spite of the masses Jesus heard the desperate cry of the blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:49). Fellowship with the twelve is to him more important than the thousands who are clamouring to see him. We read in Mark 9:30,31: ‘...He tried to avoid all publicity in order to spend more time with His disciples, teaching them.’
          The unnamed Samaritan woman rose to the occasion by showing her mettle. She left to challenge her compatriots to come and see the surmised Messiah themselves. In Jesus’ attention for the ‘hard soil’ – difficult targets for evangelism of whom this woman is an excellent example - ‘harvest vision’ is demonstrated. The Samaritans were regarded as stony soil in God’s vineyard, a stronghold of darkness. On top of it, she was an outcast of her own town. Harvest vision implies that soft targets may even have to be skipped on purpose. The concentration may have to be shifted to those where the natural man would least expect quick results. Jesus knew that a big number of followers is not as important as strategic committed people.

Marriage and Family Life
The Samaritan woman was probably very much aware that her life-style was completely detrimental to stable family life. In our day and age it is not always realised sufficiently that the family unit and fidelity between husband and wife are biblical priorities. Living together with a partner before being legally married, along with divorce for flimsy reasons, have almost become the new norms of our society. In ancient history - and very especially so in the history of the Middle East - Israel has been the leading light with regard to the emphasis on family life. Nowadays all religions take the protection of the family, the sacredness of marriage and the care for children are concepts for granted.
          Israel was taught to refrain from marrying the peoples of Canaan. The reason given was the temptation to fall into idolatry. It became especially clear as an immediate result of the marriages of Solomon with pagan women.  However, even at the time of the inception of this prohibition, the racial issue was never at stake. Although Miriam and Aaron were not happy that Moses had taken an African wife, from God’s side there was evidently no disapproval as such (Numbers 12:1ff). Instead, God reprimanded the rebellious siblings because they would not accept the leadership of Moses. It seems that nationalism does play a role with them, but in God’s sight also this is tantamount to sin. (In fact, Jonah was rebuked for his nationalism.) This is further proved through the inclusion of Rahab and Ruth in the salvation history of Israel.
          The lack of a strong biblical base in churches became fertile soil where the dire economic situation of the townships could entice many a young woman into prostitution. If the adaptation to this sexually permissive life-style - which contradicts the NT ethos - continues unchecked, it will have predictable disastrous consequences for family life. Or do we expect children to get hardened and immune to hurt? We should not be surprised when teenage suicide starts to increase dramatically!  In certain European countries like Sweden it is happening already.

Jesus a Friend of Children    
Every biblical reference to children highlights the creation intention and that they belong in the context of a family. Heterogeneous parental couples with children are the biblical norm. We are not surprised at all that instances where death caused a drastic change in this status, God ordained special care. The widow and the orphan were to be subjects of special protection and care (e.g. Deut. 10:18; 24:19; Psalm 68:6).
          Jesus has rightly been described as a friend of children. The Bible takes children in a stable family environment for granted as the good norm. Christians should unite in opposition when inroads are made into family life, for example through legislation allowing abortion. From a biblical point of view the law recognizing homosexual relationships must be seen as a gruwel, an abomination. The best way of opposition is a positive verbalisation and demonstration of what we stand for; namely stable families. This is an area where fruitful co-operation between religions is really not out of place.

Addressing marital Infidelity
In the narrative of the Samaritan woman we see how Jesus addressed marital infidelity in a positive way. Instead of condemning her outright, the Lord clearly put his finger healingly on that part of her life that caused all her problems. 'You speak the truth...' was actually only half the truth, the other half was that she was living in an adulterous relationship with another woman's husband. He could have said 'you are lying! ...', but starting with the truthful half the Lord nevertheless exposed her sinful life-style.
           The best way to handle the sexual promiscuity of our day and age is probably not to demonstrate publicly against pornography and the rest. It seems to be much better to be positive, to take the own family as a high priority. An investment in time for your own children, where the contentious issues are discussed, could save much distress for parents and guardians. The older generation of married people should give an example in transparency and honesty in their dealings. Empty promises may turn out to boomerang harshly! A stable hospitable family is possibly one of the best missionary tools if the unit operates as a loving entity. Conversely, if the harmonious life at home is lacking, the impact of evangelistic outreach is effectively blunted in the spiritual realm.

Unbiblical Deductions
We should be on our guard for deductions which are not biblical, but which have developed from tradition. Thus the Bible nowhere gives an injunction that males should not be involved with the rearing of children. Sometimes even Bible translations helped to cement misleading traditions which have no sound biblical basis. Thus the original wording in the Greek text of Mark 10:13 nowhere states that mothers brought the children to Jesus, but the Living Bible happily translates “some mothers were bringing their children to Jesus...”
            The five men of the Samaritan woman bring us to an issue which is very much a problem area for African Christians. Polygamy is a special case. In the 'OT' there are many examples of polygamy, but it is usually not mentioned positively. The 'NT' clearly outlaws it. In traditional African societies a legalistic application of Scripture has estranged many a tribe from the gospel. This has become one of the major causes of the establishment of independent churches. Tribal African leaders found it uncharitable to send away one or more of their wives after their acceptance of faith in Jesus Christ. In our dealings with Muslims it is however grossly insensitive to highlight the moral weakness of their great prophet.
It is quite typical that people flee into religious talk when they are cornered by the truth. In our portion of Scripture we see how Jesus uses the words of the Samaritan woman to challenge her. It is probably not too far-fetched to suggest that she tried to seduce Jesus, by replying that she did not have a husband. He radicalised her statement, accepting that as the truth, albeit that He knew that it was a travesty of the truth.



















8. Jesus recognized the Trap of theological Bickering


            It is quite typical that people flee into religious talk when they are cornered by the truth. In our portion of Scripture we see how Jesus uses the words of the Samaritan woman to challenge her. It is probably not too far-fetched to suggest that she tried to seduce Jesus, replying to His request to fetch her husband that she did not have a husband. He radicalised her statement, accepting that as the truth, albeit that He knew that it was only the half of the truth.

Sanctuaries as a Cause for religious Quarrels
When Jesus confronted the Samaritan woman with her sinful living, she was evidently convicted:  ‘I see you are a prophet’. It is significant that she was readily acknowledging that He was a prophet although He was not belonging to her group.
          But then she hits back, reverting to her own religion: ‘Our fathers worshipped... on this mountain... and you say that Jerusalem is the place where one must worship.’ The woman was initially not keen to break with her immorul life-style, but she also displayed her bondage to her religion. She was implying: only here on this mountain proper worship can take place. How sad that people so often flee to places of worship when their consciences are addressed. Instead of accepting the living water free of charge, man so often tries to quench the spiritual thirst with pilgrimages, offerings at altars and visits to shrines. Perhaps they are also abused as an alibi to cover up sin.
          The Samaritans regarded their way of worship as superior to that of the Jews. Jesus however did not allow this nor the issue of the locality of worship to divide them. This is another example of false alternatives. The proper place of worship is not completely irrelevant, but Jesus rejected both Gerizim and Jerusalem for this purpose. In fact, he referred to worship as an entity which supersedes petty theological bickering, to point her to the true way of practising it. The true worship of God surpasses both possibilities mentioned by her. Jesus definitely had no interest in converting her to Judaism. He wanted to bring her to the heart of worship.
          We can look at her pointing to the place of worship from yet another angle. Biblical prophets called people to repentance, to a turn around to God. Having recognised that Jesus was a prophet, it is possible that she was also faintly looking to him to show her where forgiveness could be found, since this was also the work of a prophet. It sounds very tolerant to say that one cannot be sure of salvation, but it is not good enough anymore in the light of biblical revelation. Islam does not provide an answer for the forgiveness of sins. The Qur’an speaks of God as ‘oft-forgiving’. Yet, a Muslim can never be sure whether Allah forgives him or not.
            Jesus forgave and forgives sin because he is God. Through accepting in faith His death on the cross as the payment for the penalty of our sin, with which the enemy could have accused us, we need not fear judgment (Colossians 2:14). Instead, we may be ‘confident and unashamed before him at His coming’ (1 John 2:28).

Religion as a leaking Cistern
Like other wells of the usual sort, Jacob's well gathered its water by infiltration. It could thus be regarded as getting filled by 'running' water, if it were compared with water stored in a container or cistern. By a single stroke Jesus and the Gospel writer would thus bring to the mind of the attentive Jewish reader the comparison by the prophet Jeremiah (2:13) when 'living water' is mentioned. My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters. And hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water.
            Living water also calls forth the ambiguous status of Samaritan religion – in quality somewhere between paganism and Judaism – just as the infiltrated water of the well is worse in quality than running water from a mountain stream but better than water that has been stored in a cistern. 
            Jesus, weary from the journey, sat by the well. Would the weary traveller find real refreshment from Jacob's well? Marsh (Saint John, 1968:210) puts the dilemma pointedly: 'Can the religion of Israel offer real renewal to Jesus in his weariness? Significantly the evangelist states that it is the sixth hour, teh hour at which Jesus was handed over to be crucified (John 19:14). Within the context of ritual cleanliness (see also p.18), the question is also raised with regard to rival claiments to the true inheritance of Jacob (Israel). 'What can Israel do for the Israelite in his sixth-hour weariness' (Saint John, 1968:210).


Worship in Spirit and Truth
We see in the enfolding narration how Jesus handles confrontation in such a skilful way that the Samaritan woman is completely turned around in the process. He discerned quickly that she was a leaky cistern Jeremiah (2:13). With his loving divine quality he of course also knew that broken people have a deep longing for God. When the Samaritan used religion as a cover up - after He had cornered her on her lifestyle - The Lord challenged her in a respectful way. To this day His reply challenges religious people everywhere: The Father seeks true worshippers... those who worship in Spirit and in truth. Worship is an attitude of the heart, more than merely an outward demonstration. I suggest that the Samaritan woman started worshipping in spirit and truth through her question to her townsfolk, even though she was severely handicapped by her history and background. On the contrary, even in evangelical churches we could find Christians who idolise the act of worship instead of the triune God. Worship has so often been diluted to the repetitive singing of a few choruses.
          It is interesting how Jesus combined worship, spirit and truth in His reply. That is the kind of worship that the Father is seeking. However, often one of these elements is missing. In the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches the visible worship has traditionally been emphasized - complete with processions, icons and the like, but without the distinct expectation of the work of the Holy Spirit. Many Protestants worshipped the truth in the wake of the Reformation, but went overboard when they hero-worshipped Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. Martin Luther apparently did not understand fully that the truth must be spoken in love. We note that this Pauline advice was mentioned in the context of the unity of the body of believers in Ephesians 4. It is definitely valid what Edwyn Hoskyns said in his commentary to John 4: ‘Without faith in the power of the Holy Spirit of God, all worship is meaningless and must of necessity degenerate into ecclesiastical competition and sectarian controversy.’ However, where worship, truth and spirit have been stressed, for example in the Pentecostal churches - but with the addition of an unbalanced emphasis on some other insight like ‘speaking in tongues’ - all too often much damage was caused. Whole denominations have been sent off on a tangent in this way as they looked down condescendingly on other Christians who ‘have not yet arrived’, who don’t speak in tongues.

The bad Smell of Theology
Jesus knew full well that theologizing about the place of worship or related issues was worthless. An important snippet of advice from Paul, which he passed on through his letters, is not to indulge in fruitless theological discussion. Too often it merely divides the body (e.g. 2 Timothy 2:14ff; 2 Timothy 6:3-6). In the first letter to the Corinthians he wrote about the wisdom of the world, which the believers should definitely not strive after. The early church fathers latched onto this advice. Tertullian, a theologian who was also a jurist and who joined the Christians of North Africa in 207 CE, discerned that learned philosophy is a major culprit: ‘heresies are themselves prompted by philosophy ... After Christ Jesus we desire no subtle theories, no acute enquiries after the gospel...
            If the Church through the ages had heeded this advice, much tragedy could have been avoided. Here I refer not only to the many splits which account for the multitude of denominations, but especially also to the bickering of church leaders, which must have confused Christians in the days of Muhammad. This confusion is reflected in the Qur’an.  The deceiver abused this to mislead the gifted seeker from the Arabian Peninsula. Through him millions have been led astray up to this day, millions who look to Muhammad as their prophet. We should nevertheless not be blinded to see who is really behind it all. Things that Muhammad never said as clearly, have been attributed to him. Thus, whereas there is only one verse in the Qur’an which vaguely gives the idea that Jesus did not die on the cross, there are three others which clearly take Jesus’ death for granted.
            Satan abused even the great reformer Martin Luther through his writings. Hitler cited Luther for his attacks on the Jews. The call ‘back to basics’ which resounded throughout South Africa during thje mid-1990s, is still as valid as ever. Perhaps we should say ‘Back to the unadulterated Word of God’.

The good News as a Power of God unto Salvation  
The Qur’an proclaims Jesus as God’s Word (Surah 4:171). Paul referred to the Gospel, the good news, as a power of God unto salvation for those who believe in Jesus (Romans 1:16). As John Marsh (p.220) so aptly stated in his commentary, the word truth in our context (v.23) could be replaced with reality. The Spirit 'is not a vague spirituality but the power that filled and possessed Christ and wrought the works of God in him.'
            At the same time, we should note that people could fail to hear the preached word as good news if we get entangled in theological and doctrinal wrangling (compare Romans 10:15, “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?”). In fact, the sharp edge of the Word gets blunted through unbecoming quarreling and superfluous discussion.
            Count Zinzendorf’s views in the 18th century on such issues, to let love prevail instead of doctrine and the letter of the law, was surely in line with the spirit of Jesus. Much pain since then could have been avoided if the church universal had taken these views seriously. He stated that ‘all the essential theology can be written with large characters on one octavo sheet’. ( i.e. half an A4 page). Zinzendorf referred to the vain quest of academic theologizing as odium theologicum. The inconvenient count detested the bad smell of theology. Many a theological student lost out on biblical truth when the quest after worldly academic learning got a grip on his mind.
            We should however put the record straight in this regard: The Bible does not teach that intellect should not be appreciated. Paul sat at the feet of the famous Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). But he only became a spiritual giant after his mental capacity came under the rule of Christ. In fact, before this he was an arrogant fundamentalist, endeavouring to kill all Christians.

Abuse of Religion and Tradition
Jesus discerned that the Samaritan woman was abusing religion and tradition as a way to cop out. It is interesting to note the role of heights in religion. The actual battle against the Amalekites was fought out on Mount Horeb when Hur and Aaron supported Moses (Exodus 17: 10+11). This has become a major model of spiritual warfare for Christians, to support the ‘soldiers’ who face the brunt of the battle. The law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
            Jesus started its 'New Testament' counterpart - the law of true worship - in His days of fasting when the enemy tried to tempt him from a high mountain. It is not very surprising that the devil twice tempted Jesus there to prove that He was the Son of God (Matthew 4:3,5). It is typical of the strategy of the arch-enemy to distort or emulate what God had started. Similarly, it is not surprising that Islamic tradition made Ishmael to be the son taken up to Mount Moriah by Abraham. The death of Jesus on the Cross on the height of Golgotha and His being the Son of God are two main issues which are anathema to Jews and Muslims alike.
            It was the custom of Jesus to go up the mountain for prayer (Luke 22:39). Seen in this light, it is completely in character for the arch-enemy to imitate prayer on the heights. This happened with the Baal cult worship, when Israelites were tempted time and again. Therefore it was so appropriate that Elijah had to inflict the Baal worshippers a defeat on Mount Carmel (1 King 18:19ff). In Cape Town, Satanists have been gathering on the mountain tops, amongst others on (the slopes of) ‘Devil’s Peak’ at Rhodes’ memorial. That a monument has been built for Rhodes, a homosexual imperialist and freemason, shows how the devil attempted to create havoc in the foundations of the nation-building.
            We should pray for discernment to see how idolatry and occultism can be cleverly mixed with pious worship. The Qur’an approaches the Almighty’s ability to outwit the schemes of the enemy: ‘And (the unbelievers, the enemy) planned, and God too planned. And the best of planners is God’ (Surah 3:54). However, the ‘Goliath connection’ is not mentioned in the Qur’an, viz. how God used the diminutive David to kill the giant (1 Samuel 17). In vain we look in the Qur’an for shady figures like the prostitute Rahab and the incestuous Tamar to be fitted into God’s plan. Of course, the narrative of the red chord that saved Rahab and her house, just like the brazen serpent and the lamb slaughtered at the exodus, are all pointers to the salvaging blood of Jesus on the cross of Calvary. Very consistently, everything that points in this direction, is omitted in the Qur'an.

            Jesus did not mince His words when He noticed that the Samaritan woman attached more value to her worship on the local mountain than was spiritually healthy. The Word is clear that there is no salvation without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus said that no man comes to the Father than through him (John 14:6). The 'NT' sees the important blood shed to be that of the Lamb of God on the cross of Calvary.
            The Samaritan woman was evidently very proud of her own religion just like so many from her background. But Jesus said to her - whether she liked it or not - salvation comes from the Jews. These are biblical absolutes from which we may never deviate, whether other people regard one as intolerant or not. But the Bible-honouring Christian has no alternative in the final analysis than to say: this is what I believe.

The Pattern for doctrinal Bickering
The Samaritan woman evidently also subtly tried to use the common ancestry to digress, to get away from the topic of her life-style. Her intention was probably not to use the arch fathers as common ground, but rather to emphasize the difference in the location, hoping perhaps that Jesus will walk into the trap of a theological argument.
The reference to the local mountain set the pattern for a doctrinal argument. The possibility of a doctrinal quarrel about places of worship highlights an age-old problem. Soon after the apostles had spread the Gospel throughout the Middle East - possibly even as far as India - the sheer humanity of Jesus became a problem to some of those who believed that Jesus was only divine. Learned men argued that if He were God, he could not have become an infant. Consequently, he purportedly could not display human characteristics. This argument went so far that the early church soon ran into trouble about Jesus’ deity. Arius, an elder of the 4th century, deemed it necessary to state clearly that Jesus was made (i.e. created), not begotten.
The misunderstanding with his bishop Alexander - who suggested that Arius propagated two gods - set the pattern for doctrinal quarrelling in the Middle East, which continued for centuries thereafter. Islam picked this tenet up, with the Qur’an stressing that Jesus was created - like Adam – divinely, by the word ‘Be’ (Surah 3:59).
          Of course, Jesus had clearly taught ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30). That He displayed human qualities does not make him less divine. In fact, Jesus invited His audience to get a glimpse of the Father by looking at him (John 14:9-11). It should have been clear - even from the oral traditions - that Jesus did things like forgiving sins, which only God can do. Uncovering the sinful life of the Samaritan woman was of course another divine quality - to look right into the inner precincts of the heart of man.

Deification of Mary
The early church went overboard in many ways. Thus the mother of Jesus very soon got more reverence than what the Bible ascribes to her. The main culprit at this time was the idolatry that followed the worship habits of the Orient. Isis and Astarte were mother gods that were worshipped by surrounding nations.
          The enemy of souls had a field day when the theologians started quarrelling, not only about the deity of Jesus. The agreement of the Council of 325 in Nicaea, just South of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) - that Jesus had ‘the same substance’ as God - appeased the conflicting parties temporarily. A little more than a century later other churchmen agonised with the problem, coming up with the title of 'theotokos' (God bearer) for Mary. That became 'Mother of God' in the mouth of laymen and -woman. However, the pattern of differing on doctrinal issues became almost endemic. When the Church in the early Middle Ages started to call Mary the mother of God and theotokos, meaning the bearer of God, the intention was basically good, but the effect was catastrophic. It resulted in a veneration of Mary, which led to idolatrous worship at the cost of her Son.
          The title of Jesus as ‘the Son of God’ was derived from the Bible. However, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was one of the doctrinal issues that caused splits. The Collyridians were a Christian sect which worshipped Mary almost as a goddess, spreading the notion that the Holy Trinity consists of God the Father, the Mother of God and the Son. It is no wonder that the result of these quarrels also found their way into the Qur’an.
It should have been clear for all and sundry that Jesus is both man and God. In fact, this is what the theologians of the early church came up with in the end. It had been a case of looking at false alternatives.
          Intellectualism not only often leads to unprofitable quarrelling (2 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 6:3,4) but it also supplies an opening for the demonic, just like the fine arts and the sensual faculties (We compare Genesis 3:6 ‘The tree had luscious fruit, was a feast for the eyes and able to impart wisdom’).

Exploiting Tradition and Custom
It is probably not improper to suggest that the Samaritan woman attached some value to the cultural heritage of the well that they regarded as sacred. Her reference to the worship of their forefathers on the mountain brought the issue of tradition or custom into the picture. The fact that Jesus also went there does indicate that traditions as such need not be wrong. In fact, we discover how Jesus either followed the prevalent custom or made a good habit into custom (cf. reading in the synagogue, going up the mountain to pray, see Luke 4:16; Luke 22:39; Mark 10:1.) He knew that it was the Kairos, God’s appointed time. If however traditions become an end in itself, if the past is glorified in a wrong way, danger signals should flare up! In the case of Jesus’ going to Jerusalem, He might have followed the custom more frequently if He had not known that the Jewish leaders were trying to assassinate him. When He eventually did go, following the custom, He was following the divine must, although he knew that he was going to die there.
          It is a sad fact that many Christians got into bondage via religious practices. This does not only occur in the Roman Catholic Church where traditions with an occult background have been passed on from generation to generation. Also in Protestant-evangelical circles, practices that have brought legalism in by the back door are still prevalent, keeping believers in bondage. Of course, many don’t even realise it. The best example is probably those traditions that were dubbed sacraments. The practice in churches often deviates considerably from the obvious scriptural tradition. The corrupted usage as a rule necessitated a lot of unnecessary ‘theology’ to justify the practice of the ‘sacrament’. Church splits were all too often the result.
          A case in point is baptism. It seems that some flexibility still existed in the mainline churches with regard to the mode of baptism of adults at the Cape. Although he was a Lutheran, Count Zinzendorf had no hesitation to encourage Georg Schmidt to baptise his first converts where he shot the rhino, it is at or in the river. In the last quarter of the 19th century Dr. J.M. Arnold, an Anglican missionary, who was specially brought to the Cape because of his knowledge of Islam, had considerable success in his ministry. He wrote in May 1876: ‘I have now in three months baptized about sixty adults ... A vast number are still waiting to step into the pool ...’ In stead of flexibility, a rigid legalism came in its place in many churches, when people were still expelled or ex-communicated at the end of the 20th century because they were immersed in baptism after having been christened as babies. Pastors feared problems from their denominational authorities if they dared to honour the request of congregants to be 'baptised' a second time.

Bondage caused by pseudo-religious Activity
Walter Lüthi, a Swiss theologian, suggested that the faith of the woman was bound to the well of Jacob, thinking that proper worship could only took place there. Her salvation depended on the well and the mountain. As they were talking they probably had the Mount Gerizim in front of them that rises from Jacob's well just like Signal Hill, the Twelve Apostles and Table Mountain rise from the sea in Cape Town. In Samaria this mountain was worshipped just like Jerusalem was venerated by the Jews. Her faith was completely bound to the locality and the traditions. This viewpoint is fully understood when one considers how people get into bondage, regarding their traditions. Some people see their church or religion as the only way to salvation.
          Pseudo-religious activity has brought many in bondage. Because of ignorance many a Christian has inadvertently come under the spell of the enemy through the use of horoscope and ‘white magic’. Many people have come under occult bondage through healing practices that sound religious. A so-called alternative healer without a personal relationship to God may use the word 'Lord'. He may practise ‘laying on of hands’, but basically he would be only interested in getting money out of the patients. There are psychologists who carry the tag of ‘Christian’ without daring to use sin and repentance in their vocabulary. It has become the vogue to play down genuine feelings of guilt instead of simply advising what the Bible teaches: to confess your sins and get cleansed from all impurity (1 John 1:9). Sometimes needy and desperate people are required to pay for prayer. Instead of healing, queer practices often lead to bondage.
            Due to Jesus’ close connection to God, the source of light - He said that He is the light of the world - this would evidently lead to a conflict and confrontation with the forces of darkness. That the Samaritan woman chose for a half-truth about her husband, who is of course in God’s sight equal to a lie, is only natural. It is typical that Jesus uncovers the lie with the truth: The man with whom you are now living is not your husband... this you have said in truth’.
            Adolf Schlatter, a Swiss-German theologian, made an interesting comparison between the conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus on the one hand and that with the adulterous Samaritan woman on the other hand. He discerned darkness with the latter and false light with the Jewish clergyman. Both would have regarded the respective imagery of living water and being born again as 'märchenhaft' (like a fairy tale). Schlatter concludes that the turning from false light is more difficult than turning from darkness to light.
            Because Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) the tempter tried to catch him out through a distortion of the Word.  Not for nothing Jesus called the enemy the father of the lie (John 8:44). Right from the very first distortion of God’s Word in Genesis 3:1, Satan has kept people in bondage of all sorts. It is no surprise that sects and religions distort biblical truths - for example by using phrases out of context, to keep their adherents in bondage. Conversely, Jesus said, “I am the truth...” (John 14:6) and somewhere else “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Even if the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not explicitly taught in the Bible, it is interesting to note that John said that the Holy Spirit is the truth (1 John 5:6) and Jesus described the same as the “Spirit of truth” (e.g. John 14:17).  In addition, He taught that the Spirit would lead us into the full truth (John 16:13). It goes without saying that God is light; God is truth (Isaiah 65:16). There are quite a few qualities like these that are attributed to the three persons of the Godhead.

Heights in Spiritual Warfare
That heights are a factor in spiritual warfare is highlighted by the fact that Satanists of Cape Town worship on the heights above Rhodes Memorial and very fittingly, have Devil’s Peak as another stronghold. On the other hand, the famous Table Mountain of Cape Town, prayer mountain in Seoul (South Korea) and heights in other places have been used in the service of the triune God for breaking down strongholds of the enemy through prayer.
            The spiritual renewal that started as the Oxford Group in the 1920s used their centre in Caux, situated high up in the Swiss Alps, to challenge many people to godly living. The four moral absolutes were derived from the sermon on the Mount, but the enemy high-jacked the Moral Re-armament Movement (MRA), abusing it to become a fore-runner to New Age ideology. In South Africa the arch-enemy took over Ekuphakameni, ‘the high and elevated place’, for worship that got further and further away from being christocentric. In fact, in so many words Jesus Isaiah Shembe (1870-1935), who can be regarded as the founder of the South African Zionist tradition, became regarded as ‘God for us black people.’ Ancestral veneration still happens when Cape Muslims go and pray at the ‘Kramats’. These shrines - graves of Muslim religious leaders - are situated on the heights of the Cape Peninsula in the form of a crescent from Robben Island to Macassar. Christians sometimes visit cemeteries in a way that often resembles ancestral veneration. President Nelson Mandela frequented the Kramat on Robben Island, possibly unwittingly of its occult content.

Ancestral Worship and Enculturation
In a sense we cannot blame Africans who feel themselves tricked on the issue of ancestral worship. They feel that they should have the right to call on their ancestors because the apostolic creed speaks of ‘communion of saints’. It has not always been comprehended fully that there is a major difference between communion with saints and communication with saints. The latter has much in common with Spiritism.
            Another problem is that other interpretations are being given to a notion that the theologians of the early church wanted to stress. Some of them meant to emphasise the unity of the body of Christ -  definitely not communion with the deceased. When the 'New Testament' speaks about saints, it always refers to living people and not to the dead. The Bible actually forbids communication with the dead (Deut. 18:19; Isaiah 8:19). Saul was clearly reprimanded because he consulted a medium to call up the spirit of Samuel (1 Samuel 28:7ff). In the Roman Catholic Church all the saints are deceased persons.
            At this point the issue of enculturation - the use of indigenous cultural elements in worship - should be addressed in some more detail. It is surely a very healthy matter that the African Church is coming of age in throwing off the shackles of cultural colonialism. Many mainline churches only began to wake up when the young people started leaving the churches in droves. Even in the Moravian Church of South Africa that could have become a leader in the field of enculturation because of their spiritual heritage, a major crisis developed between traditionalists and charismatics in the 1990s. Zinzendorf had taught his missionaries not to apply the Herrnhut yardstick wherever they went, adapting to the local culture.
            It is a good thing that African Christians started to claim for themselves the right to interpret the Bible, as they understand it. A major problem in this country is however that the occult is so often mixed with cultural patterns. The pioneer of enculturation in South Africa is the afore-mentioned Isaiah Shembe. It is typical that he was initially challenged in dreams and visions to get rid of sinful ways, which were the normal practices of Zulu culture. Struggling with this inner conflict he went to pray and fast for 14 days at the Nhlangakazi Mountain. He developed a system of ‘strict adherence to Zulu socio-cultural thought patterns and his adaptation of the Bible to fit the Zulu way of living’. Ekuphakameni became the headquarters of the Church of the Ama Nazaretha. This church surely led the way of blending Christian beliefs with Zulu traditions and practices, but the problem seems to be the priorities. Death got into the pot when the Word of God was not the prime priority any more.
            If the cultural pattern becomes the norm instead of the Bible, a bad compromise is apt to follow. Nobody should have major qualms when someone suggests: ‘The rituals we value - initiation, marriage, burial - must be examined and incorporated into our celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.’ But when the same author goes on to say ‘the gospel does not ask us to live separated from the dead of our families and with no possibility of contacting them in times of illness, famine, homelessness and senseless killings’, it becomes problematic.
            The fact is that the Lordship of Jesus has not been taught and lived out sufficiently. The practice of a distorted gospel has misled Africans to revert to witch doctors and Spiritism. This would never have happened if every new believer was taught that one’s faith in Jesus as Lord gives one supernatural ability to face adversity.
            That a wrong tradition can be rectified has been illustrated in Zaire. Professor Marie-Louise Martin, a Swiss missionary with a Moravian background, helped the Kimbanguist Church in the 1960s to stay on a biblical track when the veneration of Simon Kimbangu, an African charismatic, could have resulted in a similar occult veneration of their founder. He was and still is regarded as a twentieth century prophet by many Congolese.

I have my Church!
What has transpired between the Samaritan woman and Jesus could have caused a spiritual desire in her innermost. When the conscience speaks, man often tends to look at sanctuaries. Every year people go in their millions to places like Lourdes and Mecca to be nourished, to get their spiritual thirst quenched through sacrifice and prayer at shrines. Often people react in a way similar to the Samaritan woman after she had been cornered. “I have my church, I’ve got my religion” are typical reactions when they are challenged by the absolute claim of Jesus as the Truth, the Way and the Life. Paul clearly taught that religious practice can develop into bondage, into slavery. The letter of the law kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). Instead of a guideline, God’s laws then become a choking legalism. Coming from the background of being a Pharisee, the apostle Paul discerned how the law can blind (2 Corinthians 3:14ff): ‘the same veil remains when the old covenant is read’. He had to become blind first, so that his spiritual eyes could be opened. That is why Jews and Muslims find it so hard to break through to faith in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. 
            Paul had to warn against the abuse of grace as a licence to sinning, for example in the letter to the Romans (6:1ff). Coming from his background in Judaism, he knew that the Torah basically meant direction and teaching, very definitely not restriction. The overall picture is a fine balance, where the original function of the law as instruction stays intact. In fact, in the letter to the Galatians Paul stated that the law is an educator, a teacher, an encourager towards Christ (3:24) so that we need not remain under the reign of the Law (3:25).

A Half-Truth as the Equivalent of a Lie       
Instead of engaging in fruitless theological bickering about places of worship, Jesus brought the unnamed woman to a higher plane. The issue is not the locality of worship, it is about the heart of it: those who worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Jesus highlighted the difference between empty ritual - whether it be that in a Samaritan temple, Jewish synagogue, Muslim mosque or Christian Cathedral on the one hand and that which only the Holy Spirit can achieve on the other hand. Empty ritual is the fruit of the father of lies that brings people into the most deceptive kinds of all bondage, namely a religious one. Someone can attend and return from the respective sanctuary spiritually empty, without having peace at heart. The Kingdom of God is not of this world, not in Jerusalem nor on this mountain, not on the corner of this or that street. The Kingdom cannot be defined by times and places.
            Because Jesus made the absolute claim that He is the truth and the (only) way so that nobody can come to God by any other means (John 14:6), the enemy had to come up with lies to deceive people. It is thus absolutely no surprise that many Muslims believe for example that the promised paraclete, the Holy Spirit and the comforter of John 16:7, is Muhammad (Surah 61:6). This should give all of us as believers in Jesus Christ an even greater sense of urgency to pray for a lifting of the veil in all religions where the spirit of the lie rules. However, we have to be compassionate because Muhammad was by no means the first to claim being the paraclete. A few centuries before him Mani, the founder of a heretical Christian sect that spread over to Mongolia in the East, had already made similar claims.
Two contrasting examples should suffice to illustrate the principle that a half-truth could be the equivalent of a lie. The ecclesiastical dispute in the third century around the deity of Christ caused the followers of Arius to be side-lined. Later it spawned the development of a teaching, which became one of the major problems that Islam encountered. Loving ‘agreement to disagree’ between Arius and his bishop or a settlement on a personal level might have averted the rift which led millions subsequently into deception.
 Similarly, we have to question the wisdom of Luther’s fiery confessional attitude of ‘Here I stand, I cannot help it’. His courageous bold stand is laudable, but we should not forget that it caused the rift, which brought perhaps more damage to the unity of Christianity than the neglect of the Word in the Middle Ages. How deep the schism still is, is demonstrated by an Orthodox leader who described Protestantism as the ‘biggest heresy in Europe.’
            In no way I would like to suggest that Luther should have diluted his confession. What I do however maintain is that a less dramatic but more loving stand could possibly have avoided the split, which played in the hands of the enemy of souls. In my opinion, this caused unnecessary separation between Christians to this day.




9. Jesus is the Messiah, to all and sundry


            It is striking that the Samaritan woman immediately believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Of course, she knew that she had to wrap the message to her people in a manner, which they could accept. She was one of the least from whom the townsfolk of Sychar would normally have taken anything. Possibly very few people wanted to be associated with her, let alone listen to what she had to say. To expect them to react positively to a proposal from her about someone who could be the long awaited Messiah, would really have asked a lot.  The confrontation with Jesus had however been so mind-boggling that she left her water jug at the well. Her priorities had changed. The jug standing there was the proof of it. She now had only one thing in mind: to share her ‘suspicion’ that the person to whom she was speaking, was indeed the Messiah. Anyway, she needed all the speed she could muster. A water jug on her head would have slowed her down tremendously. She had the Gospel, that means good news!
            The unnamed woman became an agent of God's sovereign work among the Samaritans. She ushered in the spreading of the Gospel around the world! Nothing was planned beforehand. This was God's sovereign work. The destination of Jesus and His diciples was Galilee but they 'had to go through Samaria', so that God could inspire a despised woman who went to fetch water. She was destined to spread the good news of the Messiah!

Sending Believers back to their own People
Even though Jesus did not order it expressly in her case, our Master set the pattern of sending converts back to their own people. This is certainly a divine strategy. Because the villagers knew the Sychar woman, they were not blinded so much by cultural prejudice. It is striking how the Holy Spirit often uses so-called uneducated but strategic people. One could surmise that she could have been God’s special instrument that prepared the revival in the region of Samaria about which we read in Acts 8.
          The Gospel seed appears to have germinated when Philip, the evangelist, one of the seven deacons and another example of the less prominent persons to be used by God, came to the nearby city of Samaria. In the preaching to the Samaritans, Philip proclaimed the Christ, it is Jesus, as the Messiah (Acts 8:5,12). The white harvest for which the disciples had no antenna some time before in nearby Sychar (John 4: 33), became a reality when men and women were baptised. It is striking that it is specifically mentioned in Acts 8:12 that also women were baptised. In that society females were normally hardly taken seriously.
          Philip followed the example of the Master teacher obediently when the Holy Spirit led him away from the revival in Samaria to the lonely road of the Gaza desert to meet the African eunuch (Acts 8:26ff). It is significant that he caught up with the chariot, just as the eunuch was reading aloud the portion from Isaiah 53 that spoke of the lamb that did not open his mouth. Around the world this portion has been used in many Muslim countries to share the Gospel because the sheep slaughtering of Eid-ul-Adha is so important to them.
          Muslims can be regarded as the spiritual descendants of the Samaritans. At the annual Korban, the offering and slaughtering of the sheep at Eid-ul-Adha, Muslims commemorate how Ebrahim (Abraham) was willing to sacrifice his son in obedience to God's command. Possibly no other prophetic scripture points to Jesus as the Lamb of God more detailed.
          Similarly, the African eunuch and Ethiopian finance minister who could read but who was not discipled at all, possibly became the first evangelist to Africa. With their finance minister as the carrier of the Gospel, the nationals from East Africa were saved the fear of ulterior motives.

Divine Over-ruling overcomes Prejudice
The Moravians of the 18th century have generally been quite exemplary with the vision to empower the natives wherever they worked. However, not everybody from their ranks learnt this lesson well. Although Count Zinzendorf had the vision to put women in leadership positions, not everybody acknowledged the message properly. The dynamic missionary Georg Schmidt was one of them. He was the first missionary to Southern Africa and a Moravian who founded the mission station at the Sergeants River that was later named Baviaanskloof and still later Genadendal. He was evidently initially still too pre-occupied by the sexist prejudice of European society. It seems as if Schmidt could not discern the special gifts of Vehettge Tikkuie, who got the name Magdalena, simply because she was a forceful woman. What a blessing it turned out that he overcame his prejudice to baptise her along with the four other converts in 1742. The intelligent prayerful Magdalena learned to read Dutch quickly. After Georg Schmidt had to leave the Cape in 1744 because of pressure of the colonial church, she was the one to plant a congregation, using the Dutch 'New Testament' that the missionary had left with her. As the equivalent of the Samaritan woman, she probably evangelised the resistant Khoi much better than the German, Georg Schmidt, could have done.
            In His divine wisdom God continued to use Georg Schmidt who so dearly wanted to return to the Cape. It is recorded that he continued to pray for his tiny Khoi flock he had to leave behind at the Sergeant River until his death in 1785 . Another result of his prayers was surely when Ds. van Lier was impacted so deeply when he saw how Africo, one of the four Khoi males whom Schmidt had baptised, died 'in volkome rus en vrede' (in perfect rest and peace). Van Lier was to become God's instrument not only to cause a mighty evangelical prayer movement at the Cape, well before similar moves took off in Europe, but also the one to trigger the founding of the Rotterdam Missionary Society, and indirectly the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire. The correspondence of Van Lier with Rev. John Newton, the former slave merchant and author of the song Amazing Grace, impacted the cleric who had a major hand in the move to stop the trading in slaves.

A new Breed of Leadership
The Samaritan woman displays a rare breed of leadership, when she led her townsfolk to Jesus. Magdalena from Baviaanskloof/Genadendal in the 18th century would be another example from this category who led her people single-handed. But in the back-drop there was the sower. Jesus who had sown into the life of the Samaritan woman and Georg Schmidt who sowed first with sweat and then with tears when he had to leave. The missionary who so dearly wanted to return to the Cape, finally sowed prayer for his flock in Baviaanskloof from Niesky in Eastern Germany where he died in 1785.
            If anyone is singled out for leadership, the biblical understanding implied is that of primus inter pares, first among equals. If honour has to be dished out, the insignificant and less honourable should get it, because the presentable parts of the body need no special treatment (1 Corinthians 12:23f). Jesus said for example on the one hand ‘I and the father are one’ (John 10:30) but also that the Father is greater. It is not surprising that proponents of fundamentalist Islamic doctrine - like Ahmed Deedat - used these verses out of context to suggest a so-called contradiction.
            Biblical criteria like a good reputation, being spirit-filled and having wisdom (see Acts 6:3), may never be regarded lightly in the appointment of church officers. The Moravians of Herrnhut under Count Zinzendorf practised this principle: the first bishop to be elected was a non-theologian, the carpenter Nitschmann. They thus discerned that the biblical term of bishop of overseer was not so much a title than a function. In Herrnhut neither rank, wealth, learning nor age were special recommendations. It was spiritual maturity that mattered. Thus Mordelt, a tailor and Gottfried Hahn, a gardener, were respectively made a teacher and an overseer. Anna Nitchmann was given the leadership over the single women when she was only fifteen. The new breed of leadership has only been rediscovered in recent years in the house church movement.[6]

A new Type of Missionary
The enemy has surely blinded the eyes of the Church universal to this biblical truth for centuries. A condescending attitude of (Western) missionaries became the pattern. Even to-day we have not learnt this lesson properly. Thousands of Rands, Dollars, German marks (you name the currency!) are spent on foreign missionaries who are all too often misfits, instead of investing in nationals (or at least people from the same continent) who know the language and culture much better. The mistake of estranging nationals from their culture is still going on. A major aim of our strategy in evangelistic and mission work should be to see strategic people saved: those who could be used effectively among their own people. With so many refugees from different parts of Africa in Cape Town (and in the other cities of South Africa), the gauntlet has been thrown to the South African Christians. Are we going to avail ourselves of the opportunity to pray for strategic recruits from the African continent? Are we going to extend ourselves to reach and equip the refugees to return to their own countries as evangelists to their people? (A personal note: I was blessed and equipped to a great extent during my years of (in)voluntary exile in Germany and Holland.)
            We are gradually learning. In the 20th century many more women missionaries than men have been used by God all over the world. Furthermore, thousands have come to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ through the ministry of Asian evangelists and missionaries, notably from Korea, and India, in recent years also from China and other countries that were more known as mission fields like Myanmar. In the continent of Africa, Nigeria and Kenya have been coming to the forefront as missionary sending countries. Massive growth in Protestant and Independent churches in Ethiopia developed which match the situation of Herrnhut 1727.       South Africa could lead the pack of missionaries from the 'dark' continent if the different races in the country could be tackling the task together. White churches in this country have already been sponsoring Indian missionaries to minister in the Asian subcontinent for a number of years. Increasingly, they will hopefully soon be doing it for their countrymen from the formerly disadvantaged communities. And if the vision of the Samaritan woman and the Ethiopian eunuch who evangelised their own folk catches on, South Africans may be financing returning sojourners to go and spread the Gospel in their countries of origin. (A personal note: I was blessed and equipped to a great extent during my years of (in)voluntary exile in Germany and Holland.)
            We should pray for the eyes of Muslims to be opened to the crucified one; for the Middle East to open up for Christian missionaries; that converted businessmen from Cape Islamic background may become the financiers of new missionaries sent from the Cape. Similarly, South African messianic Jews could in due time become the advance guard of a major move to reach their Jewish family and friends in Israel, America and many parts of the world. With a sizeable representation of Hindu and Buddhist adherents in this country, the goldmine of future missionaries may be exploited to send nationals from Asia back to the vast continent. What a challenge!
            However, this is by no means to be regarded as soft targets. The issue at stake is strategic people to whom we must be led. This we should ask from the Lord. Let’s not think for one moment that it is a bed of roses to evangelize among one’s own people. As a rule persons must almost be handpicked by God to be effective for this arduous job. Jesus himself experienced and stated that a prophet is usually not appreciated by His own people. Nevertheless, the primacy of nearby mission activity is clearly enshrined in Scripture. Even though He did not do it expressis verbi, in so many words, Jesus actually sent the Sychar woman to share the gospel of the Messiah in her hometown. The biblical strategy is apparently to start with your own people and then move out to other cultures.

The Primacy of Missions and Evangelism
The primacy of missions and evangelism in the teachings of Paul has often been overlooked. Workers of wonders, faith-healers and speakers in tongues are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and 29 as ‘also rans’. Those ministries who got the medals are – I quote from 1 Corinthians 12: ‘first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers.’ We should note the order. First apostles, it is those who have been sent. The word apostello is the Greek version of the Latin word missio from which mission has been derived. In the so-called five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11) apostles and evangelists are included in the top three (next to prophets, pastors and teachers). Yet, it would not be correct to read hierarchy into this system.
          It might be good to be reminded that the original word for pastor means shepherd and definitely not lord. In the quest to revive the title of apostle, there is a new danger looming. The NT seems to have outlawed a hierarchical structure. Instead of the high priest and lower officers in the old order, Paul taught the five-fold ministries in functional equality and parity - apostles as well as prophets, evangelists as well as pastors and teachers, with the emphasis on service (Ephesians 4:11f).  All five functions should have as purpose to build and equip the body of believers in unity.  If anything, the order to which Paul refers would highlight the primacy of the functions (e.g. missions and evangelism) and definitely not the titles. It goes without saying that deacons and elders seen as title of honour or inventions or recent times like senior pastors are not biblical. The main function of the deacon(ess) is to serve the community of believers.
          In churches it is often just the other way round: missions and evangelism feature as the outposts of the budget, something that one can easily dispose of when the finances are tight. In how many churches support for missions and evangelism don’t feature at all. The missionary is too often only called in as an entertainer and stopgap when the pastor needs a day free from preaching. (Often the minister is not even present on such occasions. Wose still follows when many regular congregants stay away when a missionary has to fill the pulpit in the absence of the pastgor). An evangelist is often condescendingly looked upon and regarded as a preacher with inferior academic qualifications.

The suffering Servant
The Samaritan woman could not reckon with acceptance by her townsfolk after hearing of her discovery. Possibly with some trepidation she carefully wrapped her suggestion as a suspicion, a question. Instead, she was probably ready to be mocked and scoffed. The prophet Isaiah described the coming Messiah among other things as the suffering servant. But we must also be realistic enough to acknowledge that exactly this prophecy is quite repugnant to Jews and Muslims alike, even though there is no need to make any apology for it. Even among the disciples there was evidently disappointment that Jesus did not display the Kingship of a ruler and army general who would drive away the Roman oppressors.
            Jesus was prepared and willing to take suffering and the sins of men upon himself, yes even to the extent of being prepared to become a curse, by allowing himself to be crucified and to die like a base criminal. His whole life was a rebellion against illness, disease and bondage of all sorts, especially against the bondage of sin. An objective reading of the Gospels will make it absolutely clear that prayer for the sick and a deliverance ministry in the name of Jesus should be part and parcel of the teaching of the church. God paid a costly ransom to set us free from the bondage of sin: the blood of His son, the perfect Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18f). The prophet Zechariah foretold the ramifications of the liberation, which would come through the fountain that would be flowing from the house of David: it will cleanse from every sin and impurity in the last days (Zechariah 13:1f). One immediately thinks of the living water, the abundant life of which Jesus spoke (John 7:38).

            The missionary text par excellence, John 3:16, speaks of God’s love for the world which culminated in the sending of the Son. Christians should however be careful in their handling of this verse. It is resented by Jews and Muslims, the two world religions, which are the closest to Christianity, because both of them cannot accept Jesus as the Son of God, let alone as the begotten Son of God.
            Nevertheless, the context of John 3:16 gives us some idea of the missionary heart of God. The verse is located between the narrative of Jesus’ ministry to Nicodemus, a high-ranking Pharisee (John 3:1-17) and that of His ministry to the Samaritan woman. The message is clear: the Gospel is meant for all social strata, for the influential people of His day, for the clergy and the intelligentsia, but also for the ethnic minorities like the Samaritans and the outcasts - and everything in between.

Cape Muslims and Jews as potential Missionaries?
Messianic Jews and Christians from a Muslim background would do well to imitate the Sychar woman because they would likewise hardly be able to ‘preach’ at their family and friends who are still in the bondage of their respective religions. These two religious groups should be strategically targeted for future mission work. Cape Muslims and Jews may be seen as potential missionaries to the Middle East when they believe in Christ as their Lord - ideally after they have been discipled and trained - but more important after they had been divinely called. Both groups have major traditional baggage: Messianic Jews are often burdened with national pride and Muslims who have been converted to faith in Jesus as their Lord might be tempted to think that they owe it to their former religious peers to treasure hatred towards the Jews. If Christian believers who have come from these two groups, can join forces with those from the churches in a city like Cape Town that has significant communities of both religions, it could have a world-wide spin-off in terms of missionary outreach to the Middle East.
            This might sound a little bit like Utopia, but I feel blessed to have been able to experience gigantic answers to prayer, which also would have sounded very weird and unrealistic a mere twenty years ago. Who would have thought in 1988 that Communism and Apartheid would become past tense within a few years?



















10. Jesus lodged an Attack on Sexism


            A woman was worth nothing in the days when Jesus walked the earth.  A female with the reputation of the Samaritan woman of Sychar could hardly expect to get a hearing from her townsfolk.  Yet, in the attack on sexism that Jesus lodged, he could draw on 'OT' precedents.

Special Women in the Bible
The Bible makes it very clear that faith is not the prerogative of men. We have already highlighted how the non-Jewish women mentioned in the ancestry of Jesus in Matthew 1 distinguished themselves through their faith in Yahweh, the God of Israel. Even though Rahab was a whore who belonged to Israel’s enemies before they took over Jericho, she got a vision of His power (Joshua 2:8ff). Ruth, a Moabite, qualified to become an ancestor of the Messiah primarily through her faith(fullness).
          Even though the OT (Tenach) was written and passed on at a time when women really had very little to say, there are some examples in the Bible of remarkable initiatives by women who listened to God and who acted accordingly in obedience.
          The actions of Abigail (1 Samuel 25) display ample evidence of a sharp mind. She showed respect for her husband, even though this meant that she had to do something behind his back. We note in this regard that David praised her behaviour. The Bible does not support the slavish obedience of wives to their husbands. In fact, we see another principle at work. When the husband does not lead properly, the woman has the responsibility to correct him in a discreet way. Thus Abigail upheld the dignity of her husband although he had acted foolishly.
          Young Esther demonstrated that maturity is not limited to age. Soon after she had become the queen, she displayed extraordinary wisdom. She sensed that the venture - to go to the king without His invitation -was a case of all or nothing. But she was no individualist, recognising that the effort had to be undertaken in conjunction with her people.  She needed the prayerful support of the Jews. She prayed and fasted with them. In the process she became the example for the bride of Christ, the Church, as she ‘waited’ on God’s timing, twice inviting Haman to a special meal, breaking down his defences. (Haman depicts the arch-enemy, who works through scheming, deceit and lies) And then, God uses a sleepless night of the king, her husband, to intervene supernaturally. Finally, her authority and status as wife of the king, moves her husband to rage. The result: God’s people were saved from extinction. (In a similar way, Satan went one step too far when his tools tried to massacre worshippers at St James Church, Kenilworth in July, 1993. I suggest that this was probably the turning point of the threat of a ghastly civil war in our country, sparking country-wide prayer arguably unprecedentedly.)

The Equality of Men and Women
The equality of men and women in God’s sight can be amply deduced from the fact that Eve was made out of the rib - and not the feet - of Adam. The summary of the creation of male and female in Genesis 5:2 as ‘man’ further underlines this. The application is of course to see human beings as equals in the sight of God.
          When Israel moved through the desert, the leadership of the threesome Moses, Aaron and Miriam also demonstrated the principle of primus inter pares (first among equals). God had clearly appointed Moses as the first among three equals. But before the Israelites left Egypt, God used Aaron as the mouthpiece of Moses (Exodus 4:14; 5:1). The principle of a leader amongst equals is clearly repeated when Miriam and Aaron had difficulty to accept it (Numbers 12:1ff). They were severely reprimanded, even to the extent that Miriam became leprous. But she was nevertheless not deposed as a co-leader.
          Deborah is another case in point. She was the leader of Israel at a time when the people of Israel were in complete disarray. Men were not fulfilling the leadership role. In fact, when she approached Barak to lead the army, he was only willing to do it if she went along. This is in spite of the fact that she had given him the assurance on behalf of the Lord that he would achieve the victory (Judges 4:6-8). Deborah also demonstrated that marital status does not disqualify for leadership in God’s view. As the wife of Lappidoth she was a prophetess and the acknowledged leader (Judges 4:4,5). Miriam on the other hand was part of the leadership threesome as a single woman.
          That neither sex nor age is the issue, but rather obedience to God, is demonstrated by the wonderful way in which Esther and her uncle Mordechai were used in tandem to save the Jews from extinction. An unnamed servant girl who had been taken along as a captive, became God’s instrument to direct Naaman, the Aramaic army officer, to Elisha as a prophet of God (2 Kings 5).
          Many Westerners would be surprised that Muhammad had actually introduced measures towards more gender equality which were quite revolutionary for the region from 622 -624 AD in Yathrib, as Medina was known. Muslim feminists have been trying to highlight this down the decades, however with very little success because Islam is a religion where men still have much more than merely the last word. Some Muslim theologians and scholars are said to have reversed many of these reforms of Muhammad’s. The assertion that the prime Islamic prophet intended the revolutionary measures of gender equality and female in Yathrib to be permanent Islamic features is however also conjecture without proof. Conservative Muslim theologians will of course always come with the doctrine of abrogation to claim that this was cancelled. Furthermore, there are so many hadiths – which have in their view equal validity compared to the Qur’an – which contradict all this. The fact of the matter is that women in Islam are generally notoriously inferior to their male counterparts regarding human rights.
          On the other hand, the interaction of Jesus with the Samaritan is not the only instance in the Bible where our Lord gave dignity to females.
         
Maternal Qualities of God
It is generally taken as a given that women were regarded as second-class citizens in oriental societies (and still regarded as such among certain groups). The view of some believers, that women should be ‘kept in their place’ because Eve caused the fall into sin, is still prevalent in some circles.  This view could have originated in the church of the third century. No less than the well-known North African theologian Tertullian, said the following about women: ‘Woman, you are the devil’s doorway. You have led astray one whom the devil would not dare attack directly. It is your fault that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and rags.’
          On the other hand, the prime feminist viewpoint - according to which every masculine notion, for example of God as a Father, should be eradicated from the Bible - also displays a very myopic conception of what the Word actually teaches. (Of course, in feminist circles the authority given to Scripture is usually contrary to that of most Christians.) Even though the Bible reflects the male dominance of ancient society, Isaiah does describe how God wants to console us like a mother (66:13), remembering his people like a mother who cannot forget her nursing child (49:15), carrying his people on eagles’ wings, bringing the strayed and hurting lamb back to the fold. Doesn’t all this express so clearly maternal qualities, the same compassion and love?
Jesus picked up the maternal love of God through the image of the shepherd who would go after the lost sheep in Luke 15.      In a similar way, Jesus spoke in a motherly way about Jerusalem: ‘...How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me’ (Matthew 23:37). Even Paul, who has been reviled so much by feminists, wrote that ‘we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family,’ and a little further he stated that the creation is in labour, in pain before giving birth to the revelation of the children of God (Romans 8:15,19). The imagery of ‘bosom’ and ‘giving birth’ are female qualities, which definitely allude to the picture of God as a mother. The concept of ‘travailing in prayer’ likewise conjures up the birth-giving process.  In fact, the Scripture records how the prophet Elijah had his head between his knees as he prayed (1 King 18:42). This is a very unusual position, but on the other hand completely in line with the process of giving birth, of travailing in prayer.

Was Paul, the Apostle, a Woman-hater?
For a purported woman-hater Paul wrote exceptionally positive about Phoebe (Romans 16:1f). He regarded her worthy enough to take along the letter written to the Romans for the half of Asia Minor.  He spoke about her as an elder, as someone in leadership. In fact, in Romans 16 Paul mentions quite a few women. Nowhere does one get the impression that he regarded them as second class Christians. In fact, about Junia he noted reverently that she had been a Christian before him and she may even have been an apostle. The positive references to the mother and grandmother of Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5) underline the general tendency in the NT that some women possess exceptional gifts. They control big areas at home, see to their households, educate people in the faith and spread the Gospel all at the same time. There is also the implication in the Pauline writings that Priscilla and Aquila operated as a married couple, the first evangelists of whom we know that they augmented each other. In commendable language Paul noted how they risked their lives for him and how all Gentile Christians treasured them.
          The Pauline inference about the church leader in a monogamous situation - to have one wife - (1 Timothy 3:2+12; Titus 1:6) may not be the perfect way of addressing certain cultures, but the injunction of fidelity has eternal quality. In a similar way, Paul’s expectation that the women should ‘keep their peace’ in the fellowship of believers may radiate the culture of his day, but it is not fair to call him a woman hater as some feminists have done. In 1 Thessalonians 2:7+11 Paul addressed the believers for example in the same context with the qualities of both a mother and a father.
In yet another respect it is unfair to term Paul a woman hater. Ephesians 5:22-33 is so often abused to substantiate the role of the woman to be subordinate to her husband. This verse is often quoted out of context. In this Scripture portion the submission of the woman is related to the love of the man to his wife. Thrice the wife is taught to be subordinate, but five times the husband is exhorted to love his wife. We note further in this regard that the husband has to be told to love. To women this comes natural. This should make men think again when they glibly expect women to be subordinate in a negative way.
This should not hide the fact that the leadership in churches was kept away from women for centuries. The Tenach especially describes the role of certain women in leadership positions and the NT does also mention positively the contribution of people like Lydia. We tend to overlook how revolutionary it must have been that the early church had women in leadership positions. The disproportionate number of men attending the average church fellowship should however not be used as an argument. The modern idea of ‘democracy’ is alien to the Bible. The issue should first and foremost be whether those in leadership are ‘wise and full of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 6:2) and above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2,8,10).




11. Jesus changed an Outcast into an Evangelist


            Any meeting with the Master is apt to be life changing. The Samaritan woman was no exception.
At first she took the Lord to be an ordinary Jew (4:9). The paradigm shift in her mind became obvious as she discovered that he was a sort of rabbi, worthy of special respect (4:12, 4:15, 4:19). When he layed bared her life-style, she discerned him to be a prophet. Finally she senses that he might well be the Messiah!

A mind-boggling Discovery
The mind-boggling discovery sent her running to her townsfolk. It became so important to her that the original purpose of her visit to the well became secondary. Whether she was embarrassed when the disciples returned, we do not know. What we do know is that she had her priorities on target: She left her water jug just there, to shout it out from the rooftops, to point her townsfolk to Jesus. The confrontation with Jesus had been so mind-boggling that she left her water jug at the well. Her priorities had changed. The jug standing there was the proof of it. She now had only one thing in mind: to share her ‘suspicion’ that the person to whom she was speaking, was indeed the Messiah. Anyway, she needed all the speed she could muster. A water jug on her head would have slowed her down tremendously. She had the Gospel - that means good news! What we do know is that she had her priorities on target:  She left her water jug just there, to shout it out from the rooftops, to point her townsfolk to Jesus.
            Just as the disciples left their nets to become fishers of men, the Samaritan woman left her water jug to become an evangelist. And she was an exceptional one at that! In fact, we can learn from her that questions are one of the best tools of evangelism. By putting a question after her terse testimony, she invited investigation.  In a similar way the true seeker can be comfortably challenged with questions in a non-threatening way. Similarly it is healthy when questions are put to us. This challenges us to search the Scriptures to understand what we believe.  We may set our conversational partners thinking if we can ask in a natural, low-key way whether they have peace at heart, whether they know where they go to when they die. It should be understood that such questions should arise from normal conversation and not used as a gag to corner our conversational partners.
            It was probably not quite so easy for the Samaritan woman, because she did not really qualify to be a herald of good tidings. Through the encounter with our Lord, the veil of bondage to sin was ultimately lifted. In all likelihood the inhabitants saw a drastic change in the Samaritan woman.  There was surely now radiance on her face that had previously been darkened by the imprints of sin. This radical change in her, probably much more than her question, made her townsfolk inquisitive to meet the man about whom she was now speaking, who had claimed to possess water from which eternal life can flow.

Simple uneducated People as Missionaries and Evangelists?
In yet another way our Master teacher was revolutionary: by sending out simple uneducated people as evangelists. We may safely assume that the Samaritan woman had little or no formal education. What woman could enjoy that luxury anyway in those days?  Women belonged to our Master teacher’s most dedicated followers who stood with him to the end, right up to His crucifixion. When the disciples had already returned to the order of the day after the traumatic occurrences leading to the crucifixion, a few women went to the grave. Mary Magdalene - who had formerly been demon-possessed (Luke 8:2) - was the first evangelist of the resurrection according to the Gospel of John.
By including less-sophisticated Galileans in his group of disciples - guys like the zealot Judas Iscariot - Jesus displayed shrewd tactical insight. Zealots would be the equivalent of what we call terrorists to-day. We would do well to emulate Jesus in this regard. This kind of people is possibly much easier to mobilize for missions than the more sophisticated educated intellectuals. The gangster who has learnt by practice not to treasure his life too much, and the people from the townships who have become used to take hardship in their stride,  are apt to be better missionary candidates. (Compare Revelation 12:11 - They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.)       This category of people would generally be more willing to go all out for Christ, even to the point of sacrificing their life for the Lord if needs be; I dare say, much more than the rich people whose prime concern in life is often to hoard money and protect their own interests. (It could be a sobering thought that David was once roaming the countryside with a group of rogues, probably none better than the gangsters of our townships.)
          But this does not imply that Peter easily left his nets to follow Jesus. To leave your profession and security to follow Jesus full-time is a decision, which as a rule is never taken without an element of pain and heart-search. In fact, if it is done glibly, for example by simply imitating others, it is prone to end in disaster. Not everybody is called to full-time service.

Biblical Norms for Church Leadership
The narrative of the Samaritan woman highlights the issue of marriage fidelity. Morality in this area has plummeted in recent years. A pastor who got involved in an extra-marital affair was still expected to either resign or be sacked not very long ago. South Africa now however has a president known in certain circles as a Christian leader. He has many wives, has raped someone and yet he continues to be the president of the country.
          The Pauline ruling that the church leader ‘must have a well-behaved family, with children who obey...’ (1 Timothy 3:4), might sound harsh for our day and age. But where they have been adhered to, for example when office bearers stepped down after their children had turned their back on God and His Word, this invariably turned to become a blessing even for the children concerned. The fact of the matter is that those churches and leaders who endeavoured to adapt their life-style to the NT norm, were blessed. Where it has been the other way round - for example with compromise on homosexuality and morality - there has been a diluting of the scriptural authority, with catastrophic results. It has not become uncommon any more to hear of divorce and incest in the most unexpected quarters. Infectious diseases like AIDS have decimated many churches in Africa, partly because of infidelity.
            Repentance - a turnaround - could start a positive upswing. A beginning has been made among students in the USA and also elsewhere. The AIDS scourge has spawned many teenagers to refrain from pre-marital sexual intercourse in the movement called ‘True love Waits’. In the same vein married men of Promise Keepers, another movement which started in the USA, committed themselves among others things to fidelity in marriage. Peter Pollock, a cricketing Springbok of yesteryear, became the able spokesman of this movement in South Africa. The Alpha courses, which originated in Britain, along with the Willow Creek church model, were initially intended as modern evangelistic tools. The combination of these movements augurs well for the future. The spin-off would be more stable families and a return to biblical values. The question is only how general this trend will become. The Central African country of Uganda became a trend setter when they reversed the number of HIV/AIDS infected people as the very first country world-wide.

Eyesight 'Diseases'
The 5 men mentioned in the life of the Samaritan woman highlights the issue of marriage fidelity.
Jesus really rubbed it in when He referred to the harvest. Jesus challenged the disciples to have a good look at the harvest around them. They were so pre-occupied with the temporal need for bread - they had just returned from the shop - that they overlooked the harvest of Samaritans. Who would have thought that the harvest would start in Samaria of all places, an area they would have regarded as the least fertile! When they left Judean soil they had never expected that our Lord would be able to achieve anything of lasting value before they would reach the first Judean village of Galilee in the north. They were terribly wrong. The harvest was already there for the taking, right in front of them! They suffered from spiritual myopia or short-sightedness. Peter must have taken the lesson to heart because when he was ageing, he encouraged believers to add six virtues to faith like steps to increased spiritual growth, namely moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly love (philadelphia) and divine love (agápe). He advised that believers who do not have them would be near-sighted and blind (2 Peter 1:5-9).
          When the disciples returned from the village, they could not understand that our Lord was not hungry. Their eyes were fixed on the eatables. The disciples were myopic; they lacked harvest vision. Jesus challenged them to look beyond the usual, the customary. Using the proverb that prescribed four months to the harvest, He followed it up with I tell you, lift up you eyes (v.25). When he pronounced I tell you it is reminiscent of similar statements in the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5:22, 5:28, 5:34, 5:39, 5:44). We may deduce that he is about to say something new and authorative. The disciples must look up, the harvest is in a state of reaping. Samaritans were approaching the well! The impossible has happened. The sowing on what others may have perceived as hard soil, into the life of the improbable instrument, has delivered quick results. There was the fruit of His labours only minutes ago: the harvest of the advancing Samaritans.
            The gospel writer makes it clear that the parable of the Sower does not imply a long time to elapse between evangelism and the gathering of the fruits. In fact, even in the short term sower and reaper may rejoice together. But the injunction of the Master as recorded in Matthew 9:38 is just as valid. We must pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers to gather the ripe harvest. In these days we see here in Cape Town how God is turning things around. Satan has obviously been attempting through the centuries to remove Gospel seed, just like the birds take away the seed sown along the path (Mark 4:15). But just as seeds eaten by birds ultimately become manure, this is now also happening in the spiritual realm.

Swimming against the Stream
It must have taken a lot of courage for the Samaritan woman to take the Good News of the Messiah to her townsfolk. Obedience to God's Word is sometimes required where it does not make sense. Faith, trust in God and obedience are closely linked to each other. This is a divine tenet. She stood in the line of great men of faith, which have been highlighted by the author of the letter to the Hebrews in chapter 11.
         Noah’s faith was vindicated as he listened primarily to God, who strengthened him supernaturally when the scoffers tried to discourage him (Genesis 6:22; 7:5). When Abraham chose to oppose the idolatry in their home and even to leave his home region not knowing where he would go, his father Terah would have been very unhappy. Because Abraham believed the unseen God– we could say against all odds – it was divinely honoured, reckoned unto righteousness (Genesis 15:6). At the next major crossroads of his life, Abraham left early in the morning to sacrifice his unique, the one and only son of the divine promise (Genesis 22:3). Was this to prevent being influenced again by his wife or was it radical obedience after the early compromises? He might even have been confused somewhat by the divine command, which would have brought him back to the level of his pagan compatriots who offered children to the idol Molog in the fire.
         In the ‘New Testament’ radical obedience is highlighted when we read of actions by followers of Jesus that would not make common sense.  Philip left the successful ministry in Samaria, the revival (Acts 8), going in obedience so to speak on a ‘wild goose chase’ to the lonely desert road to Gaza. Peter needed a divine intervention to overcome prejudice towards Gentiles to take the Gospel to Cornelius. After Peter had been taught by God that he should cease despising those nations which he had regarded as ritually impure, he was prepared not only to act upon it by going to Cornelius (Acts 10), but also to defend his action before his colleagues.

A Tsunami of Opportunity    
Perhaps our prayer for workers in His vineyard should also include the request for healing of our ‘eye problems’: spiritual short-sightedness or even spiritual blindness! May we learn to see what the Lord has on His heart! In John 9:41 Jesus pertinently put it to the Pharisees that they were spiritually blind. He might tell us to look up at the harvest from the nations, to see the tsunami of opportunity that brought people from all over to Cape Town the last few years. Here they are usually more open to the Gospel than in their home countries. Scores of Zimbabweans have been coming to our city because of the demonic Mugabe rule and the corruption and ineptitude of Home Affairs officials in Johannesburg.
            How Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was evidently deceived and misled when he appeared to have been a seeker after truth, was typically demonic, a trick by the father of lies as he used Christians to bring it about. But the lies are being exposed in these days as Muslims all over the world discover that Jesus is much more than merely a prophet, indeed as the Son of God. In a similar way, the 9/11 al Queda) disaster brought Muslims from all over the world to Cape Town to learn English (rather than go to England or America). Here many of them probably heard the Gospel for the first time and some have already become followers of Jesus here. The atrocities of ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabbab and Al Qaeda have collectively not only spread horror, but it also highlighted the part of Muhammad’s Medinan teaching that has not been known by many Muslims. The bulk of them believed the one-sided teaching that islam is a peaceful religion.

The ripened Harvest 
It is not yet clear how deeply the film The Passion of the Christ influenced the Middle East. What is clear is that Satan must have been very angry at the effect of the movie! On Monday 22 March 2004 Israeli soldiers killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a prominent leader and founder of Hamas, the Palestinian resistance force, bringing the Middle East to the brink of all-out war. Surprisingly, there was not the immediate massive backlash that was expected. The possible reason was the impact of The Passion of the Christ. Many Muslims went to see the film because they 'heard' that it was anti-Semitic and since they hate the Jews, they wanted to see it. God used the movie to communicate the Gospel as never before. The very opposite spirit that motivated them to go and see the film came through. The message to love your enemies, and our Lord's prayer to His Father to forgive His prosecutors - while He was still on the Cross - impacted many a Muslim cinema visitor in a powerful way. Surprisingly, many Muslims hereafter seemed to start accepting the death (and resurrection) of Jesus as a fact, tenets that orthodox Islam denies. The DVD Magdalena has been playing a similar role subsequently all over the Islamic world as Muslim women especially have been discovering the dignity Jesus gave and gives to females. The testimonies of Muslims who came to faith in Christ, e.g. the two booklets Op soek na Waarheid/Search for Truth, along with some of these testimonies as tracts helped to rattle the belief of Cape Muslims that one can never change after being born as a Muslim. All over the world it surfaced that God gave Muslims dreams of a man dressed in a white robe. Invariably they recognized this to be Jesus. No wonder that the DVD More than Dreams turned out to be arguably the best evangelistic tool ever produced.
The tense situation in the world today could grip us so much that we become spiritually myopic, overlooking the ripened harvest: Many Cape Muslims became unsure through the violent and brutal murdering of people from their faith by drug lords, by gangsters and PAGAD members in the late 1990s. Especially the peace loving Muslims among them like the Sufi’s, who do not follow the ‘sword line’ of orthodox Islam, have a difficult time. Americans were rattled after 11 September 2001 and Europeans after the Madrid bombings of 2004. More Muslims worldwide came to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour in the last decade than in the previous 15 centuries of Islamic history put together! The dramatic increase of Islamist extremism may just usher in the final demise of the Islamic ideology. It has been reported that more than two million people turned there backs on Islam in recent months in Egypt alone.
           



12. Jesus sets the Enslaved free



            There is often only a very thin divide between religiosity and occultism. This is especially seen in ancestral veneration and the worship of saints. It does not take much to move from the appreciation of the work of a certain ‘saint’ to a position where the enemy of souls uses his grave - or his memory - in an occult way to bring people in bondage. One finds this kind of baggage across the board with different religions throughout the world.

Bondage caused by Pseudo-religious Activity
Walter Lüthi, a Swiss theologian, suggested that the faith of the woman was bound to the well of Jacob, thinking that proper worship could only took place there. Her salvation depended on the well and the mountain. As they were talking they probably had the Mount Gerizim in front of them that rises from Jacob's well just like Signal Hill, the Twelve Apostles and Table Mountain rise from the sea in Cape Town. In Samaria this mountain was worshipped just like Jerusalem was venerated by the Jews. Her faith was completely bound to the locality and the traditions. This viewpoint is fully understood when one considers how people get into bondage, regarding their traditions, their church or religion as the only way to salvation.
          Pseudo-religious activity has brought many in bondage. Because of ignorance many a Christian has inadvertently come under the spell of the enemy through the use of horoscope and ‘white magic’. Many people have come under occult bondage through healing practices that sound religious. A so-called alternative healer without a personal relationship to God may use the word 'Lord'. He may practise ‘laying on of hands’, but basically he would be only interested in getting money out of the patients. There are psychologists who carry the tag of ‘Christian’ without daring to use sin and repentance in their vocabulary. It has become the vogue to play down genuine feelings of guilt instead of simply advising what the Bible teaches: to confess your sins and get cleansed from all impurity (1 John 1:9). Sometimes needy and desperate people are required to pay for prayer. Instead of healing, bondage is sometimes the result of queer practices.
            Due to Jesus’ close connection to God, the source of light - He said that He is the light of the world - this would evidently lead to a conflict and confrontation with the forces of darkness. That the Samaritan woman chose for a half-truth about her husband, who is of course in God’s sight equal to a lie, is only natural. It is typical that Jesus uncovers the lie with the word truth: The man with whom you are now living is not your husband... this you have said in truth’.
            Adolf Schlatter, a Swiss-German, made an interesting comparison between the conversation between the Lord and Nicodemus on the one hand and that with the adulterous Samaritan woman on the other hand. He discerned darkness with the latter and false light with the Jewish clergyman. Both would have regarded the respective imagery of living water and being born again as 'märchenhaft' (like a fairy tale). Schlatter concludes that the turning from false light is more difficult than turning from darkness to light.

The Truth exposes the Liar
Because Jesus is the truth, the tempter just as naturally tried to catch him out through a distortion of the Word.  Not for nothing Jesus called the enemy the father of the lie (John 8:44). Right from the very first distortion of God’s Word in Genesis 3:1, Satan has kept people in bondage of all sorts. It is no surprise that sects and religions distort biblical truths - for example by using phrases out of context, to keep their adherents in bondage. Conversely, Jesus said, “I am the truth...” (John 14:6) and somewhere else “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Even if the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not explicitly taught in the Bible, it is interesting to note that John said that the Holy Spirit is the truth (1 John 5:6) and Jesus described the same as the “Spirit of truth” (e.g. John 14:17).  In addition, He taught that the Spirit would lead us into the full truth (John 16:13). It goes without saying that God is light; God is truth (Isaiah 65:16). There are quite a few qualities like these that are attributed to the three persons of the Godhead.

Occult Islamic Practices
The Cape Muslims have exactly those occult practices in common with the most resistant present-day Indonesian tribes from which they stem. These tribes have their roots firmly in all sorts of occult beliefs. To this day Cape Muslims visit the ‘doekum’ (a sort of witch doctor) to have curses removed or placed. The fear of the unseen ‘tokolosh’ - which probably stems from African black culture - has been quite common in Cape folk Islam.
            The religion itself is steeped in the occult, right from its roots when Muhammad declared Allah as the Lord of the Ka’ba, as the only one to be worshipped. This was intended to state that they worship only one god.  Even though his intention was worthy - to move away from polytheism - the religion was thus nevertheless based on idolatry at the retention of the Black Stone in the Ka’ba. We compare this with the faith in the unseen Yahweh of Judaism where not a single stone or tree was to be tolerated that was used in an idolatrous situation. After the brazen serpent in the desert had been idolised, God had to step in, requiring it to be demolished (2 Kings 18:4). Jesus used the example of Moses putting the snake on a pole to save those who looked up to it after they had been bitten by snakes in the desert to point as a prophesy to his own crucifixion. John 3:14f ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.’  This is then followed by the well-known John 3:16 God so loved the world… that He gave his unique (one and only) Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
            For a spiritual breakthrough in the Muslim world, we need people who are aware of demonic powers that keep people in bondage, people who have the insight and vision to set them free in the name of Jesus. Possibly one could think in the direction of using teams with a deliverance ministry, including ideally at least one former Muslim.

Praise, Worship and Fasting
A text which is rightly quoted quite often is Zechariah 4:6  ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord Almighty’. This is basic to spiritual warfare, but it is unfortunate that the context is usually not considered when the text is quoted. Other basic principles are contained in this prophesy of Zechariah 4, namely that of the power of the weak and the ‘few’ in building the temple. ‘Shouts of thanksgiving’ declare that ‘all was done by grace alone’ (v.6-8).
            Praise is used in the 'OT' a few times in the attacks of God’s enemies. The most well-known of them is probably Joshua with the priests and their seven trumpets leading the procession as the gathering marched quietly around Jericho, augmented by the triumphant shout after the seventh time on the seventh day. (We note the repetition of the number seven, the biblical number for the complete and perfect.) Sometimes fasting and praise occur in close proximity (e.g. Nehemiah 9:1+4). A lesser-known pericope about God’s intervention through praise is found in 2 Chronicles 20:21-24 where king Johashaphat exhorts his people to trust in the Lord. They had only praised God when two of the enemies - Moab and Ammon - joined forces to fight Seir, a third enemy. Thereafter they attacked each other and dimunitive Judah was spared.
            Satan furthermore saw to it that fasting as a tool in spiritual warfare lost its initial purpose. It was either completely neglected, or it became a ‘work’ to earn God’s favour, for example to fast during lent. Jesus himself fasted and prayed for forty days and nights before He started His ministry (Matthew 4:2). When His opponents pointed to the fact that His disciples were not fasting, He never cancelled the feasibility of it. He merely stated that the disciples would be doing it when ‘the bridegroom’ had been taken away from them (Matthew 9:15). He did however attack fasting as an outward show to impress others (Matthew 6:16; Luke 18:12). The Master was fully in line with 'OT' teaching where we read for example that God rejects fasting when those who are practising it are participating in evil pleasures and oppress (underpay?) their workers (Isaiah 58:3). But the 'OT' teaches just as clearly that fasting can be a sign of penitence (2 Chronicles 20:3; Ezra 8:21; Jonah 3:5; Daniel 6:18; Joel 2:15). It can also be used as a weapon in fighting the enemy (Esther 4:16). In recent years this has been profitably rediscovered. In South Africa Christians were challenged to fast and pray for 40 days in the period leading to a national day of prayer on July 7, 1996.
            A fallacy that has been doing the rounds is to call the mere repetitive singing of a few lines to hype up some good feeling of spirituality ‘worship’.  Similarly, to sing wonderful chorals with deep spiritual content ritually, but without meaning what is being sung, is likewise not to God’s honour.

The Need of Deliverance Ministry
Drug addiction - as well as other forms of addiction - is another area where a deliverance ministry is very relevant. It is no co-incidence that the root of the word for practising witchcraft in NT Greek is pharmakeia. It is not by chance that many Satanists are also drug users. The grand emulator who copied the idea of high places such as Mount Sinai where God gave the law to Moses, was likewise not innovative to abuse the creation of healing power in plants to intoxicate young and old.
            That people who were once in drug bondage can become missionaries after their deliverance is not only theory. The biggest evangelical church of Madrid consists of former drug addicts and their families. Under the auspices of WEC International, evangelists  (many of them former drug addicts) have gone out to various parts of the world i.e. to Italy, North Africa and New York. Many of them have led others into the Kingdom before they died from AIDS. Tiny Kuppen, a South African Indian, who came from a Hindu and gangster background, was involved with this ministry in Spain in its pioneering years.

            With regard to the tradition of ancestral veneration the Word is not ambiguous. With regard to funerals Jesus' comment would sound harsh in the ear of an average African: ‘let the dead bury their dead.’ The inference is clear: when there is a conflict of loyalty, following Jesus must have the priority. Also Paul emphasized that you cannot worship Christ and other religious powers at the same time (1 Corinthians 10:14-22).

Jesus displayed the Nature of God
The Lord displayed the nature of God. Rahab and Ruth are specially mentioned in the lineage of Jesus, although they were a whore and a despised Moabite respectively (Matthew 1:5); Gideon had an inferiority complex needing a ‘fleece’ in two different ways for reassurance; David was overlooked at first to become the future King of Israel; in fact, God had to teach Samuel in the process not to look at the outer looks and size, that God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:1-12).

Only the very Best is good enough for God
The church of Antioch sent their very best - Paul and Barnabas - on missionary endeavours. This seems to be a far cry from the modern-day short termers who profess having a ‘ministry’ of fund-raising to go to far-off lands without sufficient preparation. The importance of proper orientation for mission service cannot be stressed enough. And yet, the Lord was in Sychar only two days.
            The Bible repeats the message time and again that God often uses a single committed, obedient believer to effect radical changes, even in nations. God honours obedience, but compromise is seen as disobedience, as sin which incurs the wrath and punishment of the Almighty. God rejects even sacrifice if it is mixed with sinful behaviour, if it is not accompanied by contrition and repentance. Different forms of animal sacrifice and all ancestry worship are regarded as tantamount to diluting Scripture, whereas the appropriate reaction should be respect for God’s Word (Isaiah 66:2,3).
            Abraham discovered that it is not so easy to find committed believers as he wrestled with God on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:22ff). Ezekiel was frantically looking on God’s behalf for someone to ‘stand in the gap’, to intercede for the nation (Ezek. 22:30). Jeremiah likewise had God’s heartbeat recorded to find even one single person: ‘Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.’ (Jeremiah 5:1). When the Israelites looked down and out during the Babylonian captivity, God used committed individuals like Daniel and Nehemiah to bring the despondent people back to God.

Jesus, the (rejected) Messiah
Even the best news on earth is not readily accepted. What was true in the experience of the Lord with regard to the Jews in general, has been relayed to us with the following words: 'He came to what was His own but His own did not receive him' (John 1: 11). In fact, in the Gospel of John it is explained how it happened in practice. In Judea the Jews told the Lord in so many words: "We are children of Abraham and followers of Moses. We do not need you!" (John 8:39, paraphrased).
And the Samaritan woman herself had earlier expressed what her tribesfolk felt in respect of the group they hated so intensely: 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan. How can you ask me for a drink?' Implicitly she was perhaps saying: 'How dare you ask me.  I do not want to have anything to do with you!' Being rejected by her own townsfolk, she possibly enjoyed the opportunity to get at one of these Jews who always look down on them as a group. But by vocalising her rejection, she made herself vulnerable just as the Lord had made himself vulnerable by asking for a drink in the first place. In due course the tables were turned.
            The woman in John 4 was strategically evidently the right person: the local Samaritans listened more readily to her than to a Jew. She was one from their own ranks in spite of the handicap of her immoral background. It was possibly much easier to listen to what she had to say, to take such a radical suggestion from her than if they had to hear it from one of the Jews, their enemies. She was the only instance recorded in the 'New Testament' to whom the Lord conceded in clear terms that He is the Messiah. He usually confirmed it when others had already discovered it independently. After Peter had exclaimed: ‘You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.’ Jesus promptly replied: ‘...this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven’ (Matthew 16:16,17).  After Nathanael suspected in him the Son of God, the Lord did not deny it (John 1:50-52). Yet, in the case of the Samaritan woman we have an exception: Jesus replied in response to her question: ‘I... am he’, i.e. I am the Messiah. That is why he could say to His discipled that his food was to do the will of the Father. In respect of the Samaritan woman he 'accomplished' his work and the will of God while they were away. She had come to acknowledge – or at least suspect him as the Messiah! She made her discovery-suspicion the basis of her own evangelistic activity, inviting the townsfolk to come and investigate themselves if He was indeed the long awaited Messiah.

Jesus, the Saviour of the World!
I believe that it was the Holy Spirit that inspired the Samaritan woman to wrap her discovery in the form of a ‘suspicion’ to her townsfolk, in the form of a question: 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?' (v.30). It is like a pill that does not taste good but something we desperately need. If we want to share the Gospel in a way that is culturally acceptable, it is always good to wrap the pill in a form that our audience can swallow more readily. By putting the discovery in the form of a question, the woman made her townsfolk curious enough to want to meet the supposed Messiah. In the process she became the second evangelist of this message (after Andrew) according to the Gospel of John. In John 1:45 it is reported how Philip called Nathaniel to see the one about whom Moses wrote and in 2:11 of the same gospel the other disciples evidently came to the same conclusion. Unlike the unnamed Samaritan woman, none of them explicitly proclaimed Jesus to others as the Messiah. She was the first one to spread the news, albeit as a question, that Jesus was God’s anointed one, because that is what Messiah means. Her suggestion to the townsfolk was definitely even more mind-boggling than foreign Minister Pik Botha’s suggestion to White South Africans in the 1980s that the next President could be Black.
            Just as Nathaniel had done, the villagers of Sychar came to see for themselves the Man about whom the woman told them. This led to their invitation for him to stay longer. His two-day stay was long enough for them to get to a conclusion that had universal ramifications. First-hand experience brought the general discovery that He was the Saviour of Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles alike. In fact, ‘He is indeed the Saviour of the world’ (v.42).
            We keep in mind that Roman rulers claimed the title of saviour for themselves and that the city of Samaria, which was built on the ruins of the old city was called Sebaste, the Greek equivalent of Augustus. The title of saviour was well known by the inhabitants of the town. Now they understood that the title for the Roman emperors was merely an empty word, that Jesus was 'indeed the Saviour of the world.’  The townsfolk of Sychar sensed that the world needed the Saviour. Only He could give them what the Roman Emperor and the gods could never achieve. Thus the Messiah was not merely a saviour for individual persons. He was understood to be a King for all Israel, 'indeed the Saviour of the world.’ 











13. Jesus sends out Harvesters


            Through his divine character Jesus was always at the right place. The 'NT' teaches furthermore through the example of the apostles that we either have to go obediently immediately when we are called or actively and prayerfully wait for further instructions to serve those people who had been prepared by the Holy Spirit. An interesting aspect in this regard is the relationship between such waiting and going.

The Relationship between Waiting and Going
It is not described in John 4 exactly what caused the unnamed Samaritan woman to leave her water jug at the well. But it is immaterial whether the possible condescending or embarrassed gazes of the disciples caused her to leave her jug to set off to the town to share her 'suspicion' with her townsfolk. What is clear is that she set about it with an astounding urgency. This is reminiscent of the shepherds on the fields of Bethlehem. They also left their flock hurriedly to go and see what the angels had been telling them and thereafter sharing the good news with the townsfolk about the birth of the Saviour. Likewise the first fishermen disciples were challenged to leave their nets to follow the Master without any ado as once Elisha was called to join Elijah! The Samaritan woman evidently wanted to share the good news with others urgently, wrapped as a 'suspicion'! Her challenge to her townsfolk can be seen as the equivalent to the sowing of Gospel seed. This seed germinated in the regional revival a few years later when Philip, one of the seven deacons of Acts 6, visited the region. (His Greek name suggests that he may have been a lover of horses. He was possibly quite fit. Philip became a wonderful example of obedience to the nudge of the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless, the seed sown into her life and that of her fellow Samaritans bore fruit in the form of a mini revival that is recorded in Acts 8:1-25. The experience among the Samaritans may have encouraged our Lord that His work amongst His own people was not in vain, that He was preparing the great worldwide harvest to be ushered in when the Jews would recognise in him their Messiah! In typical relay fashion Philip was possibly taken away from Samaria supernaturally! He was suddenly taken from the action to go and wait on the desert road.
          In Acts 8 it is described how the Holy Spirit inexplicably took the deacon Philip away from the revival in Samaria to the forlorn road leading to Gaza. He was suddenly taken from the action in Samaria to go and wait for further instructions on the desert highway of his day. We have not been told how long he had to wait on the lonely road or if he was sitting somewhere. He might have wondered why he was led there. In God’s divine wisdom we are sometimes also inexplicably put on non-active. We don’t know whether he was trying to get some shade there in the desert or whether he was still walking when out of the blue one of the posh vehicles of his day came along, a chariot carrying the equivalent of the Ethiopian finance minister, possibly pulled by one or two horses. Yet, Philip was at the right place when he was nudged by the Holy Spirit to get to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-30), ready to run.

Waiting followed by ‘Running          
At the right moment we see the athletic Philip ‘running’ in an attempt to catch up with the chariot after the Holy Spirit had nudged Him to go towards the vehicle of the Ethiopian eunuch.  The Holy Spirit had been preparing Queen Candice’s treasurer to bring the Gospel to the African continent. The Ethiopian was reading out loudly about the lamb ready to be slaughtered from the scroll of Isaiah. (Later the learned Jews called this part of the scroll chapter 53). After Philip explained the Gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, he responded excitedly, requesting to be baptised immediately. (By the way, my wife and I were also specially blessed when we witnessed the slaughtering of sheep in Bo-Kaap at Labarang Hadji a few years ago. This prophetic message was driven home to us when we saw five innocent sheep slaughtered without any protest whatsoever. Through this experience we were enabled and empowered to explain the Gospel to many Cape Muslims in the past years).
          Throughout the Bible God puts a very high premium on obedience and humble waiting on Him. Although Moses had been thoroughly taught in the top ‘university’ of his time (see Acts 7:22), he still needed forty years of preparation in the desert before he had the required humility to lead God’s people out of Egypt. Joseph had to languish in prison for two extra years. The return of the disciples from the town with the eats was the cue for the Samaritan woman to get away hastily. Perhaps she even helped to prepare the soil for the revival about which we read in Samaria (Acts 8:1ff). In this way we could even say that the unnamed woman foreshadowed the expansion of Christianity to Africa and to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). We note that it was from there that Philip was called to the desert road in Gaza where he impacted the Ethiopian eunuch. The Ethiopian pressed ahead to his home country full of joy, the first indigenous evangelist to bring the Gospel to East Africa. 
Listening while Waiting
Also how we wait on God seems to be important. At Bethany Martha, the sister of Lazarus, had to get her priorities straight: not the waiting on the Lord in practical service, but waiting at His feet is required (Luke 10:41)! The Master had to teach her that only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better… Not our activism is required but our listening to his teaching and instructions. Not by chance we have two ears and one mouth! Listening is more important than speaking.
Through our Lord’s prayerful life and His unity with His Father, He could be used so powerfully. As the prophetic X-ray of His words fell on the life of the adulterous woman, she was radically changed. The sinner became a saint, the adulteress an evangelist who sparked off a revival in the little village of Sychar. This was a harbinger, an anticipation of the later apostolic mission. Waiting on the hour of the Lord became second nature to Count Zinzendorf. He ‘would not rush souls into a quick decision or push them, but left it over to the Lord... and thus he succeeded with many.’ 
            Often the right to be heard has to be earned. Zinzendorf radicalized the principle to such an extent that he taught: ‘... the Gospel may not be preached whenever it enters a person’s head to do so; rather, it too has its appropriate time.’ One of the best recorded accounts was possibly when the Count Zinzendorf not only paid for the voyage of the Jew Nunnez da Costa and his wife from the Caribbean to Holland, but he also sacrificed the comfort of his cabin on behalf of the couple.  They had long conversations about matters of faith, without any sign of the Jew responding to the Gospel message. Yet, it is possible that the seed sown might have germinated in some way. I could not yet find out whether the well-known Dutch convert from Judaism with the name of Isaac da Costa is any relative of Nunnez da Costa. What we do know is that Isaac da Costa impacted the two Cachet brothers which played such a big role here at the Cape with the foundations of the Dopperkerk and the Afrikaans language.
  
The Length of Stay is important
Only two days of the Master with them in Sychar were enough to trigger off a movement that led to a discovery with universal ramifications, namely that our Lord was the Saviour of the world (John 4:42). But also here we discover that instead of enjoying the favour of the Samaritans, the Master remained true to His calling. The German theologian Adolf Schlatter suggests that Jesus did not want to make it more difficult for the ‘old congregation of Israel’ to accept him if they would perceive him as a friend and comrade of the Samaritans.
            We have no record of what happened in the region after Jesus and His disciples had left. The seed sown into her life and that of her fellow Samaritans bore fruit in the form of a mini revival that is recorded in Acts 8:1-25. The experience among the Samaritans may have encouraged our Lord that His work amongst His own people was not in vain, that He was preparing the great worldwide harvest to be ushered in when the Jews would recognise in him their Messiah!
            I discern some similarity between the experience of the Samaritan woman and that of the troublesome and obstinate lady who became the church planter Magdalena of Genadendal whose life was changed by the Gospel. The years of toil and tears of the missionary Georg Schmidt and Magdalena after 1744, when he had to leave the Cape, bore fruit in the life and ministry of Ds. van Lier that would have a worldwide impact. In this sense the Khoi female church planter was very much the equivalent of the exceptional woman of Sychar.

Proper Timing of Things
In terms of missionary strategy we should carefully note the timing of things. The Bible makes a point to state that our Lord came to the earth at the kairos, at God’s appointed time (e.g. Ephesians 1:10).  With His divine nature Jesus obviously understood the relationship between waiting and going perfectly. Already as a child He knew that He had to be in the ‘house of His father’ (Luke 2:49). For His public ministry however, He knew that He had to wait for the divine approval. The Gospel of John reports how Jesus had to rectify His mother, who evidently expected some miracle from Him: His time had not come (John 2:4).
            This is also the case with other strategic people in the Bible. Moses was put ‘on hold’ for forty years as part of the divine moulding process. Joseph seems to have been God’s appointed vessel from the start. After his life had been wonderfully saved, God was with him as he displayed true mettle in the service of Potiphar. Yet, he had to languish in jail after grave injustice. Nevertheless, it looked as if his faith and obedience to God was vindicated when the butler promised to bring his innocence before the Pharaoh. But God in his own completely incomprehensible sovereignty deemed it necessary to keep Joseph in jail for another two years. A possible way to explain it seems to be that it was not God’s appointed time for his release. Did he perhaps needed some more divine moulding for the special task later?
Paul had to wait for 14 years before he could use his evident gifts (Galatians 2:1).
            Through the testimony of the Samaritan woman, the inhabitants of Sychar became not only curiously interested, but they made the revolutionary discovery of our Lord as the global Saviour (v.42).  Jesus had made friends out of former opponents by this time. He stayed in the Samaritan village for two days, possibly a world record at that time for the stay of a Jew among the Samaritans.  But that was also strategic. In that way he displayed identification with them.

At the right Place      
Under normal circumstances the well of Jacob would not have been a situation where one would have expected scores of Samaritans meeting someone coming from the ranks of the Jews. Similarly, by the law of averages a woman who was despised by her own people would not be the ideal person to lead many of her townsmen and -women to the Saviour. With the Master quite weary, He was probably not in the best of spirits either! Yet, because our Lord was at the right place at the right time, God brought about the unlikely scenario of the reaping of a major harvest from the ranks of the resistant Samaritans.
            A prayerful life can make us more useful than we could envisage ourselves. As Tennyson said: ‘More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of’. The utilisation of strategic people is demonstrated in our narration. Only God knows who these people are. The improbable cross-cultural evangelistic confrontation, in which someone is converted in the course of a single conversation, has evidently been divinely orchestrated. But we may safely assume that the Holy Spirit had already been at work, not only in the heart of the woman, but also in those of the other Samaritans who came to believe in Him as their Messiah.

Networking of the Sower and Reaper
But the Lord's challenge stretches even further. The relationship between sower and reaper blows apart any sinful boasting of any one of them. Both the sower and the reaper are happy when the harvest is brought in. The competitive spirit that was referred to at the beginning of chapter 4, gets the final blow. Jesus had ignored the comparison to John the Baptist, seeing himself in the row of others who have sown before him, people like John the Baptist and the prophets. Now he teaches his disciples that they must not think themselves remote of the prophets of old who sowed the seed of God's word. Rather they may know that they are in the relay team with them, having entered the Messianic age, to reap where others have sowed.
            The author of the Gospel may have thought about these words of our Lord as he was harvesting in Ephesus where Paul had laboured and toiled with tears many years before him. Paul sowed and John harvested.
            Jesus himself inaugurates a generation of sowers who are privileged to see the start of the  harvest when the Samaritan woman arrives with her townsfolk. Missionaries of our day and age are now able to see the start of the harvest in certain Muslim countries. They know that they are reaping where many others have sowed with sweat and tears, in some case for decades without seeing any fruit.
            But also into the future the challenge extends. When the Samaritans disappear, the apostolic mission to the ends of the earth appears on the horizon. That is harvest vision.
            All revivals through the centuries can be attributed to the faithful prayers of saints behind the scenes. In the early decades of the 20th century C.T. Studd, the founder of WEC International, coined the term 'prayer batteries' - little prayer cells that prepare the soil for missionaries to penetrate people groups that have not yet been reached with the Gospel.  Praying for rocky ground can now be seen as breaking up resistance to the Gospel, as preparing the soil (Compare the fourfold ground of Luke 8 and its synoptic parallels). The Moravians of Herrnhut  in the 18th and 19th centuries taught the world how the agonising in prayer for the lost is valuable Gospel seed.
            It is absolutely stunning that the seed sown by them from their prayer tower germinated once again in February 1993 when a group of American prayer warriors under the leadership of Jim Goll visited the site. It is special that the group included a native from St. Thomas, the island from where the slave Anton hailed. Anton had been used by God to ignite the missionary move from Herrnhut.  The group around Jim Goll which had a pentecostal experience in the tower at Herrnhut in February 1993 was possibly one of God's special instruments to start off the prayer watch movement that swept around the globe in the late 1990s. The resurgence of the house church movement since the beginning of the 21st century and the ‘Back to Jerusalem’ initiative of China is very much a result of this new move of God.

Harvest Vision needed
We should pray to get a harvest vision, to have our eyes opened to see the strategic people in whose hearts God has already planted the seed of the gospel. Let’s pray to be led to those Muslims and Jews who will invite their family and friends to come and see whether Jesus is not perhaps the Korban, the sacrifice, the
true Lamb of God. We may take for granted without any shadow of doubt that it is on God’s heart to let the Jews discover that the one whom their ancestors had pierced on Calvary, is really their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10). Perhaps someone from the ranks of these people groups who is despised and rejected - for example a gangster, drug lord or prostitute - is exactly the one God wants to use to make the others inquisitive. Where people like the unnamed Samaritan woman have been drastically changed, it has spawned people movements, sometimes from the most resistant people groups in terms of the gospel. (In his book Megashift James Rutz mentions a few examples).
            After seeing the movie The Passion of the Christ, more Muslims than ever (and possibly also many Jews) were ready to accept that Jesus did in fact die on the Cross of Calvary. The harvest from the descendants of Ismael indicated in Isaiah 60:6,7 is taking shape. The prophetic dimensions of Isaiah 19:23-25 which received its contours with the completion of the highway between Baghdad and Cairo still look very unlikely, but how quickly things can change, was already seen after the crashing of the Berlin wall in 1989. The Arab Spring of Janury 2011 was a watershed to bring the fulfilment of Isaiah 19:23ff closer. The Islamist brutalities of ISIS and its allies in Africa and Asia appear to be the latest spark to this end. For many Christians the idea that ex-Muslims and Messianic Jewish believers will one day operate together to spread the Gospel, may still not sound politically correct. It is high time that we get used to this notion. Kevin Greeson blazed a trail of house churches in the Muslim world using the Camel Method, whereby the Qur’an was used extensively to evangelize Islamic adherents in the beginning of the 21st century. Christian missionaries learned the method from Muslim-background believers. The limitations of that method have however subsequently been exposed., Still-born or at least very weak babies were delivered en masse, but who were not grounded in the Word.  Jesus commanded us to make disciples and not merely to get Muslims evangelized.

            The use of people like the Samaritan woman - as evangelists and missionaries - does not imply however that other selection criteria should be neglected. It merely means that we must shed our own prejudice with regard to certain people groups, professions and social standing. During the training and preparation of missionary candidates the calibre of these believers should have become clear, viz. that they are ‘hospitable, not addicted to alcohol and free from the love of money’ (1 Timothy 3:12-13). The first Christians set an interesting example to appoint predominantly Greeks as deacons, after there had been accusations that the Greek widows had been discriminated against (Acts 6:1-7). South African church and mission institutions could become the advance guard so that genuinely changed ex-prisoners get responsibility in state services (e.g. prisons) and converted prostitutes in the social services. A necessary and logical condition is that they are tested and tried to see if they are equal to the task. After all, Jesus was also arrested; Paul, Joseph and so many other biblical figures were prisoners somewhere along the line. A clear calling for this sort of ministry is also a condition.
            Yet, in the Church of the Lord there should be no place for nationalism and hierarchy. Among the seven there were at least two Jews, and even if Stephen started off as 'merely' a deacon, he grew almost overnight into a powerful witness of the Gospel. In fact, he was to become the first known martyr of the early church (Acts 7). And Philip, another deacon, became the powerful evangelist used by God in the revival among the Samaritans and the one to teach and baptise the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8). We note that the Ethiopian probably became the one to bring the Gospel to the more central parts of the African continent. And it all started with the revolutionary conversation of Jesus with a despised woman from the village of Sychar!



[1]     One can say that Augustine supplied the foundation for an ideology that made possible not only the theory of just wars, but also for Islamic jihad. Jews in Arabia also did their bid, making themselves obnoxious by a persecuting proselytism (Arnold, 1874:33).  Licence was given for the abuse of force to the ends of religious expansionism. The example of justifying war was duly emulated in Islam.
[2] There was a common bond that linked Martin Luther King Jr. and Billy Graham, who made it a mission to fully support the civil rights movement. In 1953, Mr. Graham personally moved the ropes that were in place to segregate his Crusade in Chattanooga, TN
[3] For example 1 Samuel 24:12,13,  2 Chronicles 24:22 or Jeremiah 15:15)
[4]     James Rutz (Megashift, 2005:56) attaches quite great value to the contribution of the three San believers of the Kalahari in the megashift happening in Christianity worldwide, suggesting  that they 'changed history' as they 'stood out from the crowd', takng light to the Dark Continent.
[5] This is the equivalent of nigger lovers in the south of the USA in the 1950s.
[6]     See e.g. Rutz, 2005:117ff

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