The Religious Leader and the Shamed Outcast

How are you doing on your Christmas shopping? I’m about half-way there. I don’t know what your personal gift-search strategy is, but I tend to prefer the heat-seeking missile approach. I want to spend as little time as possible in the actual store, tracking my target gift with an explosive intensity that has me weaving in and out of aisles filled with all manner of holiday clutter. The key to this approach is programming my mind pre-store with the exact nature of gift that fits the person for whom I am shopping. Once I obtain said gift, I secure it in my arms and head for the checkout stand like a running back with a clear-path to the end zone.

There is an art to gift-giving, finding that perfect something for that special someone. Buying the ideal gift requires a combination of personal sacrifice and understanding. It will cost you something, but you should also be acquainted with the needs of the person receiving it. Perhaps it could be said that the greatest gifts we can give are those that meet the deepest needs of those we give them to.

The incarnation (“in flesh”) of Jesus is a gift from God that cuts across every possible classification and stereotype. The Apostle John knew this on the deepest personal level. He ordered his gospel with this reality in mind. How else can we explain the juxtaposition of the characters we meet in John 3 and 4?

In John 3, Jesus was approached by a man named Nicodemus. He was a religious leader among the people, a Pharisee. His position in society would have commanded respect and honor from the average Jew. People would have admired him from a distance and approached him with deference. Jesus’ simple message to this religious leader was: “You can’t enter the kingdom of heaven unless you’re born again.” As Jesus spelled this out in his exchange with Nicodemus, He revealed that He was (and is) the source of salvation. “God sent the Son…in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

In John 4, Jesus was the one making the approach. A “woman of Samaria” was going about her business, drawing water from a community well in the middle of the day. This woman was an outcast in every sense of the word. She was a Samaritan, someone an average Jew would turn away from in disgust. She was a woman, meaning a respectable Jewish man would normally look past her as if she didn’t exist. She was also a train-wreck, morally speaking. She had been married 5 times, and was (at the time of her exchange with Jesus) living with a 6th man who wasn’t her husband. As Jesus struck up a conversation with her, he headed down the same path he did with Nicodemus, only in slightly different terms. He told her “If you knew the gift of God…you would have asked [Me] and [I] would have given you living water.” As the story concludes, this woman (along with a number of other Samaritans) meet the Messiah, who came from God to save God’s people from their sins.

Jesus is God’s greatest gift, sent to meet our deepest need. Religious leader or shamed outcast, whoever believes in Him will experience salvation. Whether you’re put together for all to see, or you’re falling apart at the seams, calling on Jesus is the answer.

About Pastor Andrew

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Carissa, Daddy to four daughters, Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Vancouver, WA.
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