Gospel: John 4.5-42 tells of the meeting of Jesus with a Samaritan woman outside a town called Sychar. Since Lent is a time for meditation, what line might our meditations take on this incident? Jesus said His purpose in taking on human form was to establish the kingdom of God on earth.I think that this is what He is doing with this woman and, through her, her village. Samaritans were a mixed race of people left after Assyria had conquered and re-settled the northern kingdom in the eighth century BC. Jews avoided contact with them, but Jesus, the King, wanted to include them in His kingdom. He ignored the fact that she was a woman (whom men wouldn’t talk to) and a despised Samaritan. He first asks her for a drink and then  tells her that He could give her living water, obviously referring to the Holy Spirit. Jesus miraculously knows all about her and she sees that He is a “prophet.” She raises the question of where one should worship (making small talk). Jesus says the Father is Spirit and should be worshipped in Spirit (wherever the Spirit is, i.e., anywhere) and in truth. Real worship–true worship–is only possible by followers of Jesus who have received the Holy Spirit. She mentions the Messiah who will clear things up for people when He comes, and Jesus says He is the Messiah (v. 26). The Messiah is the King who rule the Universe. It is God’s kingdom Jesus came to inaugurate. She runs into the village wondering if He is really the Messiah. Jesus’ disciples return and urge Him to eat (it is noon), but He says He has food of which they do not know. This “food” must be to do the Father’s will and bring the kingdom of God into being on earth as it is in heaven. His eyes see the people of the village as fields ready for harvest to populate His kingdom. He speaks to His disciples of sowing and reaping to bringing people into the kingdom through faith and obedience. The villagers ask Jesus to stay with them and He does for a few days and they believe in Him. Most people think Jesus came so believers could go to “heaven,” but stories like this one make bringing heaven to earth (“Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”) seem to be His mission. The kingdom is made up of those who believe  He is their King, and those who submit to His rule and his will (“Thy will be done”). The ultimate hope is “a new heavens and  new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… and “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…” (Rev 21.1,2). And at the Last Day Jesus will return and the dead will be raised (1 Thess 4.13-17). They will meet Him in the air as a welcoming party and return with Him to reign on earth. They will receive new bodies kept for them by God and will dwell with God and Christ in the new earth forever. All that they have established on earth will not be in vain in the Lord (1 Cor 15.58). This is quite a different picture than going to a disembodied heaven forever. This is Plato’s view, not the New Testament’s. God’s purpose for His covenant people after they have received the Holy Spirit is to bring God’s kingdom to reality on earth until the Last Day. Those who die before the Last Day will be kept safe in heaven until they receive their resurrection bodies. We are speaking of the New Creation (Isa 55; Rm 8.18-23; Rev 21-22) whereby Paradise is restored fulfilling God’s original plan. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (21.4). We will be new people and there is a new covenant. God’s kingdom has replaced the Temple with believers rather than stones (1Pet 2.5).

Memory Verse: But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2.9).