Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle John unto the saints which were at Ephesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses seven through twenty-one of the fourth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the late John again writing and speaking of something which he was well versed and well acquainted with. Having spent three and a half years following in the footsteps of Jesus, and having walked with Jesus for that time period, the apostle Hohn witnessed the incredible compassion and the tremendous love the Lord showed and demonstrated toward those whom He interacted with in a daily basis. Time and time again for three and ah ale years the apostle Hohn watched the miracle of love, as Jesus continually loved those who others would normally ignore, neglect, reject and forsake. For three and a half years the apostle John listener to Jesus speak unto the disciples, as well as to the crowds and masses concerning the incredible and tremendous need for love within the hearts and lives of men. Throughout those three and a half years the apostle John watched and witnessed love in action, as Jesus continually made Himself available and regarded those whom society would normally marginalize and castigate. Through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ we come face to face with the very love of God being manifested in human and bodily form. The apostle John wrote that the word became flesh and dwelt among us, but I would also emphatically state and declare that love became flesh and dwelt among us as well. It was the apostle John who wrote that God is love, and that Jesus was in the beginning with God, and was God. With this being true, we can deduce that since Jesus is God and God is love, then love took on flesh and dwelt among us here in the earth.
The more I read and the more I study this first epistle written by the apostle John, the more I can’t help but be drawn in and captivated by the overwhelming invitation to love. What we must find to be absolutely awesome and breathtaking about our capacity and our willingness to love those around us, is that the love we demonstrate, and the love we manifest is but an expression and manifestation of the Father—the love which the Father demonstrated and manifested toward us. We dare not get caught up in thinking and believing that we are capable of loving others the way we have been called and invited to without and apart from first understanding the love which the Father first demonstrated and manifested toward us. I am firmly convinced that we can only love others because of the love which was first demonstrated and manifested toward us by the Father in and through the person of Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that if God is love, then to the degree and measure we abide in God, to that same degree and measure we can and shall be able to love others. It is only when we first Recognize and understand the love of the Father, and truly abide in that love that we are able to love those who are around us on a consistent and daily basis. What’s more, is that there is a fundamental difference between the love which we as mere mortals and humans demonstrate and display, and the love which the Lord our God demonstrates and manifests, for it was the Lord who first taught and showed us how to love the unloveable, and those who would otherwise be marginalized and despised of society. Oh, we dare not miss or lose sight of the fact that Jesus wasn’t afraid to love the unloveable, and Jesus wasn’t afraid, or even ashamed to get down in our dirt in order that He might show and demonstrate His love for and toward us. It was Jesus who showed, and it is Jesus who shows us what it truly means to love, and to live without conditions, and to live without borders or boundaries.
Perhaps the single greatest question I am finding myself asking right now when I read the words which the apostle John wrote in this first epistle which was written unto the saints of Ephesus was whether or not I have lived without limits, whether or not I have lived without borders, and whether or not I have lived without boundaries. If I am being honest with myself, as well as with the living God, and you who are reading this—there have been limitations and boundaries on the love I have been willing to demonstrate and manifest toward others. If I am being with myself right now, I have to say that there have been conditions, and even stipulations on my willingness and availing to love those who are around me on a regular and consistent basis. I know that I have placed certain requirements and certain boundaries on my love, and I have not allowed myself to love freely, and love much. In fact, I can’t help but be reminded of Jesus’ words concerning loving much, for those who have been forgiven much will also love much. Those who have been forgiven little may also very well love little, and might not be as quick to demonstrate their love to others around them. I believe that we are not only called to love much, but we are called to love often, and to love loudly. Please note that I am not in any way stating that we should broadcast our love, or even demonstrate our live with a spotlight and megaphone, but rather that we need to love loudly so as to let our light so shine before those who are before and around us. What’s more, is that I must emphatically state and declare that one of the most difficult things for us as the people of God to do is to love others, and to live freely, and without stipulations, and without requirements. To love those around—to truly love them—without requiring anything in return is something that doesn’t come naturally or even easy to us. I can’t help but be reminded of three specific acts of divine love—both of which coincidentally are found within the New Testament gospel of John. If you turn and direct your attention to the fourth, eighth and thirteenth chapters of this New Testament gospel you will find three different and three distinct examples of the tremendous love which Jesus the Christ demonstrated toward those who would otherwise be despised, marginalized, ignored, rejected, and forsaken in society at that time. Consider if you will these three accounts—two of which describe specific encounters with two different women, and one which describes Jesus’ actions with His own disciples in an upper room:
“When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Thou Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into galilee. And He must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh He to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, say thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat). Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof Himself, and His children, and His cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus with unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for Thou hast had five husbands; and He whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that IN Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: For salvation is of the Jews. But. The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto Him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He” (John 4:-126).
“Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stopped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thing accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, NO man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:1-11).
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh He to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou kn owest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to Him, He that is washed needeth. Not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean” (John 13:1-11).
Each of these passages are different and unique in their own scope, and each of these passages bring us face to face with different manifestations of the love and the compassion which Jesus Christ demonstrated toward specific individuals. If you take the time to read and consider these passages, you will quickly find that Jesus demonstrated and manifested His love to one who was despised, rejected, marginalized, ignored, and perhaps even forsaken by the Jews. The encounter Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well was so incredibly intriguing and powerful, for the Samaritan woman herself was surprised and shocked that Jesus being a Jew would even entertain and acknowledge her. This woman could not by any stretch of the imagination understand why Jesus would consider entertaining her, and speaking directly to her there at the well which was in Samaria. What’s more, is that when you read the words which the apostle John wrote, you will find that Jesus had great need to go through Samaria, and as you read this passage of Scripture you will find that Jesus needed to go through Samaria in order that He might encounter this woman at the well—an encounter with one single woman in Samaria which would lead to an entire village coming to know and coming to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. As I am sitting here right now, I can’t help but be utterly and completely captivated by the tremendous reality that we are to never underestimate the power of a single encounter with those around us, for we never know what one single encounter can lead to, and what doors can be opened as a direct result of that encounter. It would have been very easy to look at this encounter with the woman at the well and to think nothing of it, however, as you continue reading this passage you will find this this woman was so impacted by the availability of living water, so intrigued by the reality of worshipping the Father in Spirit and in truth, as well as Jesus telling her everything she ever did, that she went back and spoke of the encounter to an entire village. Sometimes it only takes a single encounter with one individual to radically and dramatically alter and transform an entire household, an entire family, an entire neighborhood, an entire community, and even an entire city. Consider if you will the words which are written in the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John beginning with the thirty-ninth verse:
“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that I ever did. So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his worn word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:39-42).
Within this passage of Scripture we find many of the Samaritans believing on the Lord Jesus Christ because of the testimony of the woman whom Jesus encountered at the well, however, as you continue reading the passage, you will find that when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them. The apostle John goes on to write how He abode there with them two days. It would be during those two days when many more would believe on Jesus—and not because of the word and testimony of the woman, but because of the word which Jesus Himself spoke. In fact, the apostle John records how many in that city emphatically declared unto the woman how they believed—not merely because of her saying, but because they heard Him themselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Who would have thought that a single encounter with this woman at the well would ultimately lead to an entire village believing on Jesus Christ, and an entire village emphatically declaring that Jesus is the Christ, and is the Saviour of the world. What a wonderful account this truly is when you consider it, for Jesus’ willingness to love and show compassion toward this woman who would have otherwise been marginalized and despised which would completely transform this woman, as well as many within that village. It would be the word and testimony of this woman concerning Jesus telling her everything she ever did that intrigued those within the village, and perhaps they were even intrigued by the fact that Jesus would dare speak to Samaritans, with whom the Jews had absolutely no dealings. I am utterly and completely convinced that we cannot, we should not, we must not underestimate the tremendous the power of a single encounter—particularly and especially with those who would otherwise be despised and rejected. Furthermore, it is more often than not compassion displayed, and love demonstrated toward those who are perhaps used to being forsaken and rejected that can ultimately lead to and result in a wonderful and powerful testimony that has the ability to radically transform society around them. This woman went to the well to draw water as she had every other day, and yet on this day she met a man at the well who turned out to be the Saviour and Messiah of the world. This woman came to draw water to satisfy a physical longing, and a physical need, and yet what she would end up experiencing and receiving was something which moved her to the very depths of her heart and soul. There is not a doubt in my mind that this woman was so radically touched and altered by this encounter with Jesus who was the Christ and the Messiah, that she couldn’t help but bring report of that encounter to those within her village.
In the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John we find Jesus demonstrating and manifesting love toward this woman who was used to being marginalized and despised by the Jews due to her status in society. Instead of despising this woman because of her gender, as well as because of her racial status being a Samaritan, Jesus instead showed compassion and love toward her. It is absolutely incredible and amazing to consider the fact that Jesus chose to pass through Samaria in order that He might touch the life of this single woman—call it intervention if you will, for this woman had had five husbands, and the man she was currently with was not her husband. Undoubtedly this woman was seeking and searching for something, and it was Jesus who met her in that place of seeking and searching, and completely transformed her in that place of longing. TRANSFORMED IN THE PLACE OF LONGING! TRANSFORMED IN THE PLACE OF THIRST! TRANSFORMED IN THE PLACE OF DESPERATION! There is not a doubt in my mind that this woman was seeking and searching for something—something she tried finding in the arms—and even the beds—of five different men whom she would marry and enter into covenant relationship with. I have written about this woman before, and Scripture provides us with no details concerning this woman’s marital history, for we don’t know how long she was married to each of her five husbands, nor do we know why she ended up divorcing each of these five men, nor do we even know how much time had elapsed between each husband. It is quite clear when reading this particular passage that this woman was desperately searching for something to satisfy and fill the longing that was deep within her heart and soul, and she sought to find that in the arms of various men. All it took was one encounter with Jesus the Christ, and all of that changed, for I firmly believe that from that day forward this woman was radically changed and transformed. This woman was radically altered, changed and transformed by this encounter with Jesus at the well, for it was in that place of thirst and longing where she was brought face to face with an even deeper longing that was present within her heart and soul—a longing for love, a longing to be loved, a longing for affection, a longing for relationship, a longing for compassion, and the like.
When you come to the eighth chapter of the same New Testament gospel you will find the apostle John presenting us with the account of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and brought into the courts of the Temple where Jesus was. I have long been fascinated with and by the account of this woman, for not only was this woman caught in the act of adultery, but this woman was undoubtedly dragged forth from the place of adultery, and into the place of religion and worship. DRAGGED FROM THE PLACE OF ADULTERY INTO THE PLACE OF RELIGION AND WORSHIP! The account of this woman has for a long time intrigued me, for this woman was caught in the very act of adultery, and insisting on using this woman to tempt and test Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes brought this woman into the presence of Jesus, as well as into the courts of the Temple. How absolutely incredible and interesting it is to think about and consider the fact that not only was this woman brought forth from the place of adultery into the place of religion and worship, but this woman was brought into the very presence of Jesus. What’s more, is that this woman was brought by religion into the place of worship, in order that in that place of worship she might find condemnation. It’s worth noting that it was religion which brought this woman into the place of worship, and in that place of worship she would find condemnation, wrath and judgment. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many times religion continues to move and operate like this within our society today, as it brings forth those individuals who have been caught in some type of iniquity and transgression, and it brings them into the place of judgment where instead of finding mercy and compassion, they find condemnation and wrath. The religious community not only brought this woman into the courts of the Temple, and they not only brought this woman into the presence of Jesus, but they also took up stones with which they intended on using to stone her to death. The rather interesting note about this account is that what the religious community stated concerning this woman wasn’t incorrect, for the law of Moses did demand and require that any individual caught in the act of adultery be stoned and put to death. There is not a doubt in my mind that when this woman was brought forth from the place of adultery and infidelity, she fully expected to receive judgment and wrath. I do not for one minute believe this woman expected to find compassion and mercy in the courts of the Temple—particularly and especially when those around her picked up stones with which they would use to cast against and upon her. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many times men and women find stones of condemnation and stones of judgment in the place of worship instead of mercy and compassion. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women find stones of judgment and stones of condemnation in the place of worship rather than love and forgiveness. Religion brought this woman into the presence of Jesus hoping and expecting Jesus to fully pass judgment and condemnation toward and against her, and yet instead of agreeing with her accusers, and instead of granting them permission to cast judgment upon and against this woman, He instead invited those who were without sin to cast the first stone. How absolutely wonderful and remarkable is this particular account, for it brings us face to face with love demonstrated in the place of worship when religion would seek to condemn and judge.
As you continue reading the New Testament gospel of John you will find the apostle John writing and describing that serene and somewhat surreal scene in the upper room, when after dinner, Jesus would lay aside His garments, take up a towel with which He would gird Himself, and would begin to wash the feet of His disciples. What I have long found to be so interesting and intriguing about this particular encounter, is that not only did Jesus wash the feet of Judas Iscariot who had by now agreed with the devil to betray Jesus into the hands of sinful men, but Jesus also sat down at the table and shared a meal with him. Recently I wrote about washing the feet of, and sharing a table with your betrayer, and I can’t help but find this passage to be an incredibly wonderful and powerful demonstration of love towards Judas Iscariot—this one who would agree with the devil, as well as with religion to betray Jesus into their hands in order that He might be crucified. It is unclear whether or not Judas thought or even believed that by betraying Jesus into their hands, He would ultimately be crucified. It may be that Judas agreed to betray Jesus into the hands of sinful men thinking and believing that He would be beaten, or perhaps even imprisoned. After all, John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod because of his denunciation and condemnation of Herod having his brother’s wife. Ultimately John the Baptist—this cousin of Jesus—would find himself beheaded while still in prison. I can’t help but wonder what Judas thought and believed would be the outcome and result of his betrayal of Jesus that night in the garden, but regardless of what he believed to be the result of his betrayal, Jesus still sat down at the table with Judas, shared a meal with him, and even washed his feet. Could you do that? Could you share a meal and sit down at the same table with one whom you know will betray you, and will inflict great damage within and upon your life? Could you share a meal with one whom you know would betray your trust and betray your confidence, and would inflict tremendous damage and harm within your life? What’s more, is that let’s say you don’t know that such an individual was going to betray you, but such an individual has already betrayed you, and/or has already inflicted tremendous damage within and upon your life. Could you wash the feet of such an individual? Could you share a table with such an individual? Could you share a meal with such an individual, or would you utterly and completely shun and reject such an individual? Jesus knew what Judas was going to do, and yet instead of despising him, instead of ostracizing him, instead of forsaking him, Jesus instead showed and demonstrated compassion and bowels of mercy toward him by washing his feet, and sitting down at the table and sharing a meal with him.
The fourth chapter of the first epistle which was written by the apostle John unto the saints which were at Ephesus presents us with an truly remarkable invitation—an invitation to love. The apostle John invites us to love another, and would go on to declare that every one who loves is born of God, and knows God. Pause for a moment and consider that reality, for it is one that is more often than not overlooked. Not only did the apostle John invite us to love one another, but the apostle John also declared that those who love one another are born of God, and know God. Herein we demonstrate and manifest that we both love God and know God—not by merely declaring such, but by actively and proactively demonstrating and manifesting love toward others. It’s one thing to emphatically declare that we love God, and it’s one thing to declare that we know God, but it’s another thing to confirm and demonstrate that reality with and through our willingness to love one another. What we must recognize is something which I have already written about—namely, that Jesus never drew a dividing line between our enemies, and our neighbours. What I mean by this, is that Jesus didn’t reserve certain responses and certain actions for our enemies, and others for our neighbours, but rather, He instructed us to love both our neighbour, as well as to also love our enemy. The apostle John would have known, recognized and understood the tremendous invitation—not only to love our neighbours as ourselves, but also to love our enemies. The apostle John watched as Jesus loved the Samaritan woman and the entire village where she was from. The apostle John watched as Jesus loved the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and brought into the presence of Jesus and into the courts of the Temple. The apostle John—though at the time, he didn’t know what Judas was planning toward and against Jesus—watched as Jesus demonstrated love toward the disciples in the upper room when He washed their feet. When writing unto the saints which were in Ephesus in this fourth chapter, the apostle John directly links and connects the love of the Father, which was demonstrated toward us, thus bringing us face to face with the fact that we love according to the degree and measure we have experienced the love of the Father. Consider if you will the words which the apostle John wrote in this fourth chapter beginning with the ninth verse: “IN this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. NO man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:9-13). Notice how John first presents the love of the Father which was demonstrated toward us through the person of Jesus Christ, and then he transitions to inviting us to love one another. What’s more, is that the apostle John goes on to describe how if we love one another, God dwells within us, and His love is perfected in us. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to love without limits, whether we are willing to love without borders, and whether or not we are willing to love without boundaries. Are you willing to love others according to the same degree and measure which you yourself have been loved by the eternal Father through the person of Jesus who is the Christ and the Messiah?