What are you afraid of? If we are honest most of have our fears and insecurities. We may, under the present circumstances have anxiety over Covid or about financial difficulties brought about by it. Some of us have a fear of for intangible things like our reputations. Others fear threats that might be realistic, but exaggerated in our own minds, such as spiders or snakes. I am not at first going to address the fear themselves, but rather I am going to examine some individuals from the Bible that seem to be influenced by their fears.
The first of these is the woman at well from John chapter 4:
“Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
We find our second story in in Judges chapter 6. Gideon is threshing his wheat in a winepress when he is approached and addressed by an angel. The angel calls him a mighty warrior of God. This leads Gideon to question how can a man from the weakest tribe in Israel, who you found hiding in a winepress be mighty? The angel tells him that he has been chosen by God for saving his people, and Gideon goes and brings a food offering to the stranger. This is by a mighty act of God consumed in fire, and yet Gideon despite this sign, calls for two more signs before accepting the call.
Jumping to our third account back in John, this time chapter 3 we find the Jewish leader Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night. There is again a dialogue and Nicodemus too, leaves a changed man.
In examining these three accounts we find they are parallels. Theologically speaking Gideon is straight forward about why he is in the press. He is afraid. The woman’s tale requires some social and contextual inference. And if I am honest Nicodemus’ story requires a little speculation on our part. But I believe the theme of fear can be seen in all three. Gideon fears for his property. He is in the winepress so that he won’t be seen, and the Midianites take his grain.
The Samaritan Woman seems to fear of scorn and gossip. Water was not normally drawn at midday. It was done in the morning and evening. She, and if we look at her background, is avoiding the other women of the town. Drawing water in many cultures is a social interaction. Yet, she is avoiding the contact.
Nicodemus seems to fear for his reputation. Okay, he might have been busy during the day, he is an important man. But, this seems unlikely as it was not normal to seek an interview with someone “out of hours.” Perhaps he was just avoiding the crowds that followed Jesus for privacy. Or, he is more importantly avoiding their prying eyes?
What all three do is encounter God. They are given clear messages of what God expects of them. Gideon was hesitant. Remember he came up with his tests. Samaritan woman at first seems to deflect Jesus’ attention away from her personal life, and then she is curious. Nicodemus on the other hand is seeking something. Fearful or not, he wants answers.
All three received answers. Gideon had to look beyond himself and his self-interest. The woman had to look beyond guilt and sin, and Nicodemus beyond education and religiosity.
In some ways these three are embodiments of the parables Jesus told in Luke 15. The Samaritan was like the lost sheep. She was lost outside the fold, and the Good Shepherd found her and brought her in. Gideon is like the lost coin. He is in the house (Israel), but just as lost until found and put into action. Nicodemus is like the lost son (not the prodigal but his brother), he is active in God’s house, but still doesn’t see the bigger picture.
But all were found. And in their gathering back to God, their fears became secondary. Gideon leads the Jews. The woman goes into the town and boldly makes proclamations calling attention to herself. And Nicodemus publicly comes to Jesus’ defence in John 7.
What is your fear? What are you seeking? What thing that is greater than the sum of all your fears is God offering you? Where will he find you? He is looking and waiting!
Scriptures from NIV
Notes from today’s sermon