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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Monday, February 23, 2009

Well, well, well...

Tonight I decided randomly to go to Westover Church here in Greensboro for their singles group called The Well. I used to attend somewhat regularly, but it's been over a year since I've been. I'm glad I went.

I asked a single friend a few years back, "why is it that all they ever talk about in singles groups is relationships and the end times?" The friend thought for a second and replied, "hey, that is all we ever talk about!" So I couldn't help but laugh to myself when I showed up tonight to find out they were beginning a four week series on relationships.

Former singles pastor Chris Lewis (now pastor of discipleship) gave the message tonight. One passage he discussed was the conversation that Jesus had with the woman at the well, recorded in John 4. That sparked a few thoughts in my own mind, which follow, and had little to do with what Chris actually said. (Sorry Chris, I actually was listening.)

I believe it was Doug Wilson who pointed out in one of his lectures that, throughout Scripture, whenever a man and woman meet at a well, then a wedding is soon to follow. Men and women would tend to meet there, and therefore it wasn't unusual that their meeting then led to their getting married. The well was sort of like the soda shop, or the water fountain, or maybe today, the Starbucks. Or maybe like the bar, though people who meet in bars don't usually get married, they just use one another until they tire of one another. But in Scripture, beyond the mere sociological aspect, wells carry a specific typological significance. Since wells have water, they tie in to the various typological meanings of water in Scripture. Water is connected to the Holy Spirit; to death, burial, and resurrection; to regeneration; and through the Exodus and the Jordan, it is connected to entering the Promised Land. All these things overlap in the John 4 passage. But in the least, we should note the connection between this passage and other passages where men and women meet at wells. So it is reasonable that the disciples would be shocked that Jesus would be talking to this woman. Would he have anything to do with a woman who had lived such a promiscuous life? But this is exactly how God had been throughout the Old Covenant. Yahweh's wife, Israel, had played the harlot over and over and over again, and He had repeatedly taken her back. This woman, though a Samaritan, symbolized unfaithful Israel. In fact, in being a Samaritan, she was an example of an unlawful intermarriage between the people of God and the pagans.

So was Jesus looking to marry this woman? Well, yes and no. This woman also symbolized the church, in that she wasn't fully Jewish. Were she to become one of the faithful, and therefore one of the church, then yes, Jesus was going to "marry" her, just as He would marry all who became part of the church. In fact, Jesus notes that the woman had had five husbands, and the man she was with at the time wasn't her husband. So a little basic math reveals that she had been with six men. Then who was to be the seventh, that is, who was to be her Sabbath rest? Jesus was.

But on the other hand, he wasn't going to marry her. Jeff Meyers once noted in a lecture that Jesus has several encounters with women through out the Gospel of John. It seems reminiscent of Adam's act of naming the animals (Genesis 2) and not finding among them a suitable helper. Jesus meets many women, but only the Church is fit to be his mate.

The conversation between Jesus and the woman turns to the subject of the proper place of worship, and the debate is over which mountain is the correct one. But Jesus tells her that neither is right. He says that true worshipers will worship in Spirit and in truth. We might be tempted to take that to mean in a non-physical way, or that location doesn't matter. But that isn't the case. True worship is directed heavenward, where the New Jerusalem is, the heavenly Mount Zion. This connects the passage to Revelation 21, where the New Jerusalem is portrayed as a Bride, adorned for her husband, coming down out of heaven. Jesus will marry the Church, which is His Bride, which is the New Jerusalem.

And all of this happened at the Well.

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