Recognizing the Risen Savior

March 31, 2018 § Leave a comment

Have you ever had a friend or relative disappear from your life for a while and it’s hard to recognize them when you run into them? Maybe they shaved their beard, lost a ton of weight, or just aged a lot since junior high.

Many of Jesus’ good friends found it difficult to recognize Him after His resurrection. Aside from a few scars Jesus showed to Thomas, scripture doesn’t tell us about any major physical changes to His appearance over the three days since they’d seen Him crucified. Yet the Gospels record three encounters between Jesus and His disciples on the first day out of the tomb where they, for a short time, didn’t know who He was. What could have made Jesus unrecognizable to those who had known Him so well and followed Him for the previous three years? And what made them finally recognize the risen Savior?


Mary Magdalene at the tomb (John 20:11-16)

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

A couple possible reasons that Jesus’ friend Mary didn’t immediately recognize Him come to mind. One is her grief, which often clouds or dulls perception. The other is the simple fact that she was looking for a different Jesus. Mary came to the tomb hoping to anoint a lifeless body with spices (Mark 6:1) and was not expecting to meet a resurrected Jesus.

What made Mary recognize Jesus? “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.'” He spoke her name. Not long before this, Jesus had told the Pharisees, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27) The Pharisees never recognized Jesus for who He was, but Mary did. As a follower, she knew His voice. Especially when He spoke her name. We don’t get to hear exactly how he spoke it, but I imagine it was the tone and inflection of a close and faithful friend. And He was very much alive, the Jesus she should have been looking for all along.

The disciples on the lake (John 21:1-7)

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.

I suppose distance or low light could have factored into the disciples not recognizing Jesus standing on the shore. The men were also pre-occupied with fishing, maybe to get their minds off the loss they were feeling over Jesus’ death. It’s what they’d always loved to do and now they didn’t have anything else to do. The very one who gave their lives purpose and said He would make them fishers of men was lost to them, at least for a while. Even in serving in the church, we can be so focused on the Lord’s work that we forget the One we’re doing it for.

What made the disciples recognize Jesus? It was the miraculous catch of fish that opened John’s eyes. When Peter recognized Jesus, the one who couldn’t get away from Him fast enough the night of His trial turned into Michael Phelps and couldn’t get to Jesus fast enough. Jesus’ miracles always served a deeper purpose than their material results. They were to reveal who Jesus truly was—the Messiah, God’s Son sent with the Father’s message, authority and approval.(1) It took a miracle for these men to see Jesus, as it often does for us.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast.One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morningbut didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled togetherand saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

These two followers of Jesus, reeling from the events of the last couple days, were actually “kept from recognizing” Jesus (verse 16). Did God cloak Jesus in some way for some particular reason? On this walk, this presumed stranger rebukes their doubt and begins to explain to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (verse 27). Perhaps the distraction of seeing their risen Savior would have kept them from listening to Jesus as He connected the dots for them. For whatever reason, He seems little more than an incredibly interesting stranger to them.

Not until the end of their journey together do the men realize it was Jesus, now sitting with them for a meal. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…”. Maybe it was the fellowship that finally opened their eyes. Or maybe it was a deeper understanding of the broken bread representing what Jesus’ body had gone through for them.

The last time Jesus broke bread was in the upper room with twelve other disciples; a purpose and command now revealed to these two in communion with Jesus. Do we not gain a unique familiarity with our Savior at the Lord’s table, when we pass the bread and cup and remember Him in thankfulness and worship because of His sacrifice for us? And how often can we look back at a particular journey in our lives and in hindsight recognize that He was actually with us in our despair and confusion, teaching us and reviving our spirits?

Like Mary, are you grieving? Or are you looking for a different Jesus? Like the disciples on the lake, are other things—even ministry—taking your gaze off Jesus? Or are you trying to do it all by your own strength? Like the two on the road to Emmaus, are you in doubt or despair? Do you need a reminder of God’s love and sacrifice for you?

Whatever we know or hear about Jesus, none of it matters if He didn’t actually rise from the tomb. Paul reminded the believers at Corinth, “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Imagine if Mary Magdalene had actually found the Jesus she was looking for—a dead one. An occupied tomb would have proven Jesus was not God, that He did not defeat death, and had no business paying for our sin. On Easter, Christians celebrate a living Christ who personally knows our our grief, our doubt, and our name, and who walks with us in our fear, and loves us whether we see Him or not. To recognize Jesus for who He really is, we need to recognize that He is risen indeed!

1) The Purpose of Miracles (

Jesus’ “Original” Teachings

January 9, 2017 § Leave a comment


The New York Times ran a story about Bart Campolo, son of evangelical icon Tony Campolo, headlined The Evangelical Scion Who Stopped Believing(1). Sadly, both men have gone off the theological rails, to different degrees. But noted in this article focused on Bart’s journey away from faith, both father and son preached an emphasis on what they considered the teachings of Jesus over the rest of God’s word. Bart preaches atheism these days, but back when he claimed to be a believer, his ministry had this in common with his dad’s. From the article:

“Bart’s father, Tony Campolo… founder of the ‘red-letter Christians’ movement, an effort to refocus evangelicals away from politics and back to the teachings (about poverty, love, charity) of Jesus, whose words are printed in red in many Bibles.”

“(Bart Campolo) was a role model for younger Christians looking to move beyond the culture wars over abortion or homosexuality and get back to Jesus’ original teachings.” 

There’s an increasingly popular idea that Christians engaging in culture wars, particularly about the issues mentioned above, have strayed from true Christian teaching. Theological liberals have suggested lesser credence be assigned to the Old Testament and the pastoral epistles, and a higher authority given to the words of Jesus in the four gospels. In essence, this invalidates the vast majority of scripture. If Jesus didnt say it, it doesn’t matter what the rest of scripture says about issues of homosexuality or the unborn.

So how should Christians think about contemporary issues in light of Scripture? First, are the words of Jesus in the Bible the most important parts of Scripture? Second, were “Jesus’ original teachings” unconcerned with issues like abortion or homosexuality?

Considering that Jesus often quoted many parts of the Old Testamant, and that “all scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), there is no cause to give the recorded dialog of Jesus greater authority than the rest of the Bible. Jesus didn’t, so we shouldn’t either. God didn’t put Jesus’ words in red; Louis Klopsch did in 1899 with the first printed red letter edition New Testament. To be clear, we haven’t actually printed the exact words spoken by Jesus. We have the gospel-writers’ inspired accounts of what Jesus said, which, in accordance with the practice of paraphrasing in the ancient world, vary in exact wording (yet are unified in the truth being spoken). So what red-letter Bibles are highlighting are not the exact words of Jesus anyway.

Jesus’ regard for the Old Testament scriptures and the truth of 2 Timothy 3:16 helps to answer the 2nd question: Are we right to think that Jesus didn’t condemn same-sex relationships or abortion, but His teachings were somehow different than the rest of the Bible?

In the first place, abortion and homosexuality were not in the cultural spotlight when Jesus engaged in ministry, so we shouldn’t expect to find Jesus dealing directly with those issues that Christians find themselves having to respond to today. But we know what Jesus thought about the value of human life and God’s plan for marriage because of what He affirmed from other scriptures.

In Matthew 19:4, Jesus uses Genesis 2:24 to affirm “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?” Jesus’ affirmation of how God’s design for human sexual relationships (one man and one women given in marriage) simply leaves no room for other types of sexual relationships.

Jesus didn’t speak specifically of abortion either—or at least we don’t have a record of it. But we know His position on it. If asked, Jesus might have again referred back to Genesis, perhaps 1:27-28, words that would have carried as much authority as His own: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth…'” Other scriptures that teach of the value and personhood of the unborn (Exodus 21:22-23; Psalm 127:3,139:13-15, Jeremiah 1:5) would also have been regarded by Jesus as authoritative.

But don’t miss that we see from Scripture that God’s plan was for children to be born, not killed in the womb. God’s plan for marriage in Genesis 1 and 2 included the bearing and raising of children by a mother and father. God created us and He also created our fruitfulness, and neither should be destroyed. If we follow God’s plan for sexuality and parenting, then abortion should be a moot point. And God does desire us to follow that plan, which Jesus affirmed by continually doing His Father’s will (John 6:38).

There is no rational distinction or contradiction between “the original teachings of Jesus” and the rest of the Bible, whether printed in red or in black, because Jesus Himself stood firm on the scriptures written before Him.

1) Caserez, Damon. “The Evangelical Scion Who Stopped Believing” New York Times. The New York Times Company, 29 Dec, 2016 (

Dying Toward New Life

February 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

Last night I found myself reuniting with an old friend I had fallen out of touch with. It was a wonderfully uplifting experience. There were tears of joy and plans in the works for rebuilding the friendship.

Then I woke up from the dream. Hopes were dashed against the Rocks of Reality as I face the fact that things are still broken.


Thankfully, I have been spending a lot of time in the gospel of John lately in the course of teaching our high school youth group, and John reveals a lot of what Jesus does with broken things. In chapter 5, Jesus heals an invalid who is soon busted by the Sabbath police for carrying home the mat he no longer needed to lie on. This man who had been given new life and health could not even give the Jewish leaders the name of the Man who gave it to him. Jesus later catches up with the guy to make sure he doesn’t miss the fact that Jesus is more interested in the conquest of the man’s ongoing sin than his physical sickness (v.14). The goal was not just life, but new life in Jesus Christ, the total restoration of what was lost since sin entered the world.

1373854123_9237_poolGOD AT WORK

This becomes clearer when the Jews then lay into Jesus about healing on the Sabbath. Verse 17: “In His defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.'”

Jesus goes on to explain He “can do only what he sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” At the same time, “the Father…has entrusted all judgment to the Son.”  (vs.19,27)

I don’t think the Jews were really listening at this point because they’d just a heard Jesus “making Himself equal with God,” (v.18) and began thinking about how to kill Him because of this claim to deity.

God says we should believe what He says about His Son, and by looking at the Son we can recognize God the Father. Jesus, appointed by the Father as judge over all, says, “whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.” (v.24) Salvation in Christ means restoration to a new life.

But what is the aforementioned  “work” that Jesus and the Father are doing? The next 5 verses are a clue.

“Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (vs.25-29)

Imagine that. The same voice that spoke the universe into existence (Gen. 1:3), the “Word” who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), the One who would call Lazarus forth from the tomb after 4 days of decay (John 11:43), the Jesus that spoke to John on Patmos of His future “making all things new” (Rev. 21:5)— this Lord will one day call every soul from every grave. Those who believe in the name of Jesus will not be condemned in the judgment that follows, but have “crossed over from death to life.”

The “work” Jesus mentions seems to be the work that God has been busy with since shortly after creation, and that’s His working on the redemption and restoration of a “good” creation gone bad because of sin. After observing what He had made, God rested on the 7th day (Gen. 2:2,3). That was God’s one and only Sabbath rest, and it was not to His benefit, but ours. The Sabbath God calls us to observe was “made for man,” (Mark 2:27). So Jesus, who is God, was not obligated to rest for the Sabbath, but is continually working with the Father. “To this very day” points to the present time when Jesus dwelt among us, because He’d come to sacrifice Himself for our sins (which we all needed, because none are “good”). On the cross, the Son of God conquered death and brought us new life.

FROM THE GRAVEthe-walking-dead-02

The Walking Dead series of AMC fame is not the waking dead of Jesus’ time. The resurrection of people (at least 9 recorded in Scripture) went a little differently. Modern zombie pop culture has tattered and worm-ridden half-dead humans limping along with open sores, missing limbs and a craving for brains. When Jesus—or the apostles in Jesus’ name—physically called someone back from death or disease or demon possession (Luke 7:11-16; John 9:1-17; Matthew 12:22), a picture of what God offers spiritually, they were completely restored and in their right minds (Luke 8:35). Not just life, but health. People with withered limbs, blind eyes, deaf ears, leprous sores and chronic bleeding were made completely whole and strong again. And this included Jesus’ own resurrected body, save a few scars to remind His followers of what He did for them.

Christians “are buried together with Him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) In a way, we who place our hope in Jesus Christ are dying toward new life. People die, families fall apart, friendships break down, and things fade away. But our hope is in the plague of a sick creation one Day giving way to the glorious experience of God’s eternal salvation. We are alive in Christ now, but we look forward to a fully redeemed and restored creation, where our glorified bodies and our relationship with God and neighbor fully realize new life.

Come and See

January 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

256px-Philip_und_NathanaelNear the end of the first chapter of the Gospel of John we read about Jesus gathering His first disciples, just after John the Baptist introduces the Messiah to the crowds in Bethany. Verses 35-51 involve five men and four different encounters with Jesus.


“…two disciples [of John the Baptist] heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are You staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.'” (John 1:37-39)

John and Andrew approach Jesus having heard of Him from John the Baptist. They were already interested in what He had to say and clearly wanted to hear more. Jesus invites them to come and see not only the place He was staying, but to hear what He had to say.


Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother…found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).” (John 1:40-42)

We don’t read what Simon’s reaction was, but Simon goes to meet Jesus, who appears to know him and gives him the new name of Peter.


The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. (John 1:43-44)

Jesus invites Philip personally. No remarkable reaction by Philip is recorded, so it’s assumed that he followed Jesus right then and there.


Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.'” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered him, ‘Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.'” (John 1:45-50)

Philip in turn invites Nathanael, who is hesitant and doubtful as to the credibility of Jesus considering where He was from. Philip implores him to simply “come and see.” Reluctantly, Nathanael meets Jesus, who, as with Simon, indicates He knows Nathanael well, and he becomes convinced that Jesus is the Son of God.

BELIEVERS COME TO SEE the truth of who Jesus is in different ways. In the passage above, two already interested disciples approach Jesus and follow Him after getting to know Him more. One of those new disciples of Christ invites his brother, and he follows right away. One follows after getting an invitation from the words of Jesus Himself. This one invites another who is skeptical, but his doubt turns eventually to belief when coming to terms with who Jesus was. Was your experience like any of these?

However we come to know Christ, we find, as two of the above accounts show, that He knew us all along.

Also in two of these accounts, there is the simple invitation to believe: Come and see. “Come” is a request for faith. Whether we take that first step upon seeing the work of God, or with a measure of doubt, we step without seeing. We “see” the moment we are convinced that Jesus is who He claimed to be, when we see our need for a Savior, and see that our Savior is Jesus Christ.

When we witness of God’s great love and salvation to our neighbors, we are extending the same simple invitation. We don’t have to know all the answers ourselves, but we can invite someone—to your church, to your home, to your café table, to a discussion of the Gospel of John—to “come and see.” The Lord already knows where they’re coming from, and His Spirit will help them see.


Speaking Life

October 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

I was blessed to be able to read a copy of a talk that my sister Sue Korinko will be giving to a group of women at her church soon. She gave me permission to post it here so others could be encouraged by it. I pray that you are.


Words can lift us up or they can tear down. Words can crush and destroy—or they can encourage and motivate. Some words have a powerful impact on us in the moment; and some words leave an echo in your soul for years.

It’s not just about words … Our facial expressions and body language speak too. Have you ever seen one of those demonstrations on TV? It’s pretty interesting how these experts interpret what your body language is saying.

And of course, there’s a smile. People say that’s a universal language. I think you can even hear a smile in a person’s voice, even when you can’t see their face.

This isn’t rocket science. Making someone’s day can be as easy as smiling at them and saying “good morning”! Speaking life is about lifting the spirit of a person. Where does this idea come from? And how is God involved in Speaking life?

Well, He invented it! God is the Creator, the Giver of Life. BUT when He speaks life, it’s not to thank us for being good or congratulate us for our achievements. God’s words of life are always in harmony with what His will is for us. When God speaks life, His purpose is to restore in us the life He created that was destroyed by sin.

Here’s what the Bible says in Ephesians 2:5 “…even when we were dead in our sin, God made us alive together with Christ.” When God speaks life, the power of His words create life deep within our spirit, where we were dead, where there was no life. First Peter 1:23 says that we “have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.”

This life is rooted in the death of Jesus Christ as payment for our sin, and His resurrection from the dead. When we put our trust in what Jesus did for us, His Spirit comes to live in us producing life, hope, joy and peace that can only come from God.

Carl_Heinrich_Bloch_-_Woman_at_the_WellMost of us know it as the story of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. John is the only one who records this particular event, and He tells us that the disciples went into town to buy food. But John records this dialogue in such detail, I sometimes wonder if he may have stayed behind with Jesus, and was sitting quietly nearby. We’re not told that, but I wonder.

As we go through the passage, we’ll hear Christ’s words of life spoken with sure and steady purpose. We’ll hear Him prepare this woman’s heart to receive what He wants to give her. We’ll see the eyes of her heart open as His words penetrate her hidden darkness and then give birth to new life.

It starts out with Jesus passing through Samaria on His way to Galilee. The Samaritans were considered mongrel Jews. Centuries earlier, during captivity, these Jews had intermarried with the pagan people of Assyria. Jews hated Samaritans and avoided them like the plague, even taking the long way around their cities just so they wouldn’t run into them. But we read here that Jesus, on His way to Galilee, is “passing through Samaria.”

Beginning in verse 5: “So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.” The disciples went into town to buy food, and as Jesus sat there resting … “There came a woman, a Samaritan”.

When I did some reading about the culture of that time, I learned that going to get water from the well was mostly something the women did. It was normally done early in the morning or in the evening when it was cool. But according to some sources I read, the 6th hour meant it was mid-day, when this woman came. That would be the hottest part of the day, and she was alone.

This encounter didn’t take Jesus by surprise. He knew this woman would be there and He knew she’d be alone. But I couldn’t help wondering about her. Why was she alone? And what was it like for her if “being alone” was her life?

Jumping ahead in the chapter for just a minute, we learn that she had been married five times. Who gets married five times? What happened to end these marriages? Was she the merry widow? Or the happy divorcee? Or maybe it was just the opposite. Maybe she was grief stricken and alone, or abused and thrown away.

Being a widow is not only sad and lonely; in that culture it could be life-threatening. If a widow had no family member to take her in and care for her, she could starve.

What if the men divorced her. In that day, the term was to “send your wife away.” Whatever you call it, both scream of “I don’t want you anymore.” And most likely, if that’s this woman’s story, she probably heard a lot of words that spoke death to her soul long before the official papers arrived.

I read that in that culture, the Jewish laws about divorce had become so twisted. A man was permitted to send his wife away for almost any reason that she displeased him. Those reasons ranged from silly, like he didn’t like her cooking, to the more serious cases of immorality.

What about this woman? Could her coming alone to the well and having had five husbands mean she was shunned by the others in her town? Did she have a reputation that caused her to be the subject of sneers and gossip? We don’t know the whole story, but I think we can assume that her life had not been an easy one.

Some of our stories might read that way. Maybe not for the same reasons as this woman, but difficult in their own way. We all want to be loved and accepted. Sometimes that drives us into unhealthy situations. Insecurity and failure can make us feel rejected and alone. The more isolated we FEEL, the more we act on that feeling. Maybe that’s where this woman was…we just don’t know. So as she gets closer to the well, she must have noticed a man sitting there…

Hmmm, Who’s this? He’s not from around here. I’ll just pretend I don’t see him.

bubbledownJesus breaks into her thoughts with a request. “Give Me a drink.” The sound of his voice probably startled her. She wasn’t expecting him to speak to her.

She could have run away or ignored him, but she doesn’t. What we do know of her story might give us the impression that she wasn’t uncomfortable speaking to this man she’d just met. She was used to being around men. Nevertheless, she’s just a little suspicious.

“How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” But, if it was her habit of coming alone to the well, maybe deep down inside she was glad to have someone to talk to…even if he is a Jew!

Jesus knows the woman has one thing on her mind – get her water and go home. But Jesus sees the thirst inside of her that she isn’t even aware of. Her life experience has exposed all the symptoms of someone dying of thirst, but she doesn’t know the reason why. Jesus is going to reveal it using the most common need she has – her need for water.

Jesus had started their conversation by saying “Give me a drink.” Now in verse 10: Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” He’s telling her He HAS water, “living water,” and that if she knew who she was talking to, she’d be the one asking HIM for this water. So the wheels must be turning…

Living water? What is this man talking about?

Of course, her focus is still on the water. But Jesus has got her thinking.

What did He say? If you knew the gift of God…? Who is this man?

What is the “gift of God” and what did she know about that? We learn from the text in verse 25 that she knew the Scripture prophesies about the coming Messiah.

Maybe she thought…

Is that what He means by the “gift of God?” Is this Jewish stranger referring to Messiah, the “Promised One?”

As she looked around, she noticed he didn’t have a bucket or a rope. In verse 11, She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where then do you get that living water?”

And then she questions his authority, “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?

Could she be thinking…

Is He saying there’s a better well somewhere, with sweeter water…something He’s calling ‘living water’?

And that brings up an interesting point: Sometimes speaking words of life to someone can sound confusing at first. That’s because of our perception of what we need. This woman was thirsty and all she wanted to do was fill her water pot. Jesus talked to her about “living water”—and she was trying to connect it to something tangible like the water in the well. But Jesus’ words of life were directed much deeper. He was speaking to her heart. Words of life go deeper than what we see on the surface.

When we’re in trouble, all we see is our circumstances. We don’t like hard things, and we tend to think, “Lord, please just get me out of this!” But often the circumstances are there so God can speak life into our heart, where we really need to hear it…where the real problem lies.

The question is this then, and it’s a hard one: Will I trust God enough to leave me in the circumstances as long as it takes for Him to get to the heart of the matter? I said that was a hard one, didn’t I? It’s a question God has been asking me recently. That’s a whole other message for another time.

But really, isn’t this God’s purpose for speaking life? To get to the heart of the matter? We’re seeing that right here in this passage. This woman at the well just wanted to fill her water pot, but Jesus wanted to fill her heart.

Before I met Jesus, I drank from one well after another, but nothing lasted. I just felt worse. I had religious training in school and God was interesting when I was a young girl. The older I got, the less interesting He became. I assumed He was busy taking care of the universe, so I was in charge of my life. And believe me, I didn’t do a very good job. It took me 28 years to learn that my being in charge was a huge mistake. But all that was about to change.

It began when my youngest brother, Michael, became very ill. He was just 4 years old at the time, the last of 7 children born in our family. He was a late comer and a surprise baby, to say the least. Dad was 50 and Mom was 46 when Michael was born. The youngest before him was 11 years old. Four of us older siblings were already married, and my parents were already grandparents. To make things even more exciting, Mom and I were pregnant at the same time, me at the age of 24 with my first child, and Mom, age 46, with her 7th. My brother and my daughter were born two months apart.

Me Mom Me Julie(Here are pictures of mom and Michael, at about 6 months of age (left), and my daughter Julie with my brother when they were around two (right). This little guy was extra special to our family.)

When Michael was 4 years old, he became very ill. This was a scary time for my mom. She’s a good woman, who had gone to church all her life. But the heart of the matter was that she didn’t know Jesus. And God would use this scary time and circumstance of Michael’s illness to speak His words of life into her. One night she was watching a Christian program on TV. As she listened to the speaker talk about the cross of Jesus Christ, my mom understood for the first time that Jesus didn’t just die for the whole world; He had died for HER. Her heart was opened and she turned her life over to Jesus Christ.

Only a short time after that, I was facing a crisis of my own. To make a long story short, all of our earthly possessions had been stolen and sold by a con man we had become involved with. Everything we owned was gone in a flash. It was like staring into a black hole. The loss was devastating, but the worst part was the guilt of what we had brought upon our two innocent young children.

We had to look into their little faces and know our stupid choices had done this to them. Sitting in my mom’s kitchen one night as I told her about the mess we were in, she said to me, “Sue, You need to give Jesus control of your life.” I wasn’t expecting that. But she spoke with such conviction, I couldn’t resist what she said.

I had believed God was up in heaven somewhere, but when she called Him Jesus, it was like He was right there in the room. His name, “Jesus,” had power I can’t explain. That conversation with my mom hit home in my heart and a short time later, Mom sent me a Bible and I started to read it. It was the first time I opened a Bible in my life. But God knew I was ready to listen to Him now and His word revealed what I needed to hear. The painful circumstance had brought me to my knees, but it also opened my heart so Jesus could speak life into my deadness. I am forever grateful for that loss, because it became my greatest gain.

And this woman here? Well, Jesus knows her heart is ready. She thinks the water from this well is the important issue; but Jesus knows better. He’s about to speak words that will change her life forever.

Jesus tells her that “everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.” No earthly well, no matter what form it takes, can ever fully satisfy.

Long ago God spoke through the prophet Isaiah. Listen to what He says: “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Jesus uses the reality of our circumstances to speak life into our heart. And in God’s plan, He calls us to be ready to speak these words of life to point others to Jesus. That’s what my Mom did with me.

We never know when God will give us that opportunity, so we need to be alert. First Peter 3:15 says this: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Mike Singletary & Jay at Parkview

Last summer, my son, Jay, was prepared to lead worship at his church. It was Father’s Day and they had a guest speaker that morning: A former Chicago Bears player, Mike Singletary. So the atmosphere was exciting and upbeat. Just minutes before the start of the service, Jay learned that the parents of a young Marine who had recently been killed in Afghanistan, were in the service seated in the front row. They weren’t regular attenders but Parkview was hosting the memorial service for their son that following week, so they came to the Father’s Day service. Listen to what my son wrote to me in an e-mail about that morning:

Just before the service…“I was made aware that this young marine’s family were in attendance seated in the front two rows. The morning’s service had an upbeat atmosphere because of Singletary and all the Bears/football stuff. When I learned these parents were out there, I felt an extreme burden for their sadness, in stark contrast to the excitement of the morning. I felt overwhelmed with such a responsibility, because of their grief. What could I say? I asked the Holy Spirit to speak through my mouth in a way that would minister to their sorrow. After the service these parents indicated that they were extremely moved by the words God had given me to say, and although I did not mention them specifically, they said they felt God was speaking directly to them.”

God gave my son words that would speak life into the heart of those grieving parents—words that spoke of Jesus.

God’s words always speak life.

1051px-Handful_of_Water_-_Kolkata_2011-03-16_1999_CroppedNow listen carefully to what Jesus says next. This popped out at me when I was preparing for this message. This is so important…I don’t want us to miss it! “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Do you hear what Jesus is saying to her? He tells her that He is the Possessor of this “living water.” He has the authority to give it away. This living water is the Source of eternal life. Only God can give eternal life. Jesus is telling this woman that He is God!

She still doesn’t understand, but now she’s more eager than ever to have this water.

In verse 15, “The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.'” Her request is very revealing. It sounds like she didn’t like coming to the well. The other women in town may have looked forward to this task. It was their time to get together for some girl talk, to chat and laugh together. But not this woman. She came alone.

This just reminds us that people are so different from God. While God desires to move toward us, people are more apt to criticize, gossip and move away.

Maybe that’s what it was like for this woman. It could be there wasn’t anyone in her life that she felt loved her for who she was. Going to places where you’re just reminded of how isolated and lonely you feel… sometimes it just hurts too much.

So the idea that she might not be thirsty and have to “come all the way here to draw”—t sounds like that appealed to her. Even though she still doesn’t understand, she knows Jesus is offering her something good, something she needs, and she wants it!

That night I realized that Jesus had died to take my sins away. I remember saying, “I want that! I want what Jesus did for me!” Though I didn’t understand all the details then, I knew it was something good, something I needed, and I wanted it! I learned later that the “living water” Jesus gives is the Holy Spirit He sent to dwell inside me.

In John 7:37 Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive…”

Eternal life isn’t just about a place with no time. First John 5:11-12 says: “… that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

Knowing Jesus is eternal life. Jesus Christ is the living water. And that living water, in the person of His Holy Spirit, who comes to live within every believer, is a well of water springing up to eternal life.

This is what Jesus was offering to the woman at the well.

And now, because words that speak life also speak truth, Jesus must make her face the truth of what’s behind all her brokenness. The Bible calls it sin. There’s no way around it. God’s words of life have to go there. In verse 16, we see this is where they’re at now. This is her “fork in the road.”

Once she has asked Him for this “living water”, Jesus says to her, “Go call your husband and come here.” Now there’s a jolt. They were having this nice friendly talk about water and bam! “Go call your husband.”

Jesus knew her journey. Psalm 139 tells us God had searched her and known her. He had scrutinized her path and was intimately acquainted with all her ways. (Psalm 139:2-3)

This woman probably couldn’t have imagined as a little girl that she’d wind up being married five times. No girl would. Life obviously hadn’t gone the way she dreamed it would. But she was powerless to change herself or her circumstances. And so she was stuck in her deadness. Her life revealed on the outside all that was wrong on the inside. Our sin inflicts deep wounds and ugly scars as a result of living in the dark. We only come to God when His light shines bright enough to show us the way.

There’s a passage in John’s gospel where Jesus describes Himself as “gentle and humble in heart.” That description fits here so beautifully. Though He was as direct as can be, His gentle manner appears to have melted away any attempt at the woman’s self defense. She responds by readily admitting the truth: “I have no husband.”

Jesus had begun to turn the pages of her life. He says, “You have correctly said, I have no husband, for you have had five husbands and the man you’re with now isn’t your husband.” There it is, the whole ugly truth. Jesus knows her whole story!

Five husbands! And now living with a man she’s not married to. Those were all just symptoms, but Jesus is going beneath all that. This woman came to the well that day weighed down by the reality of the deadness inside her. Like all of us, she had made herself god in place of the One who created her. “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)

God knows when and how to bring us face to face with the truth of who we are. It is His kindness that leads us to turn to Him. Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” Some of us lived in the darkness so long, the light of truth can make us flinch at first. But sometimes that’s what “speaking life” means.

Jesus is never easy on sin. He knew what it was going to cost Him. But His words do not condemn this woman. Rather He offers her life, forgiveness and freedom.

Well, she must have thought … “How does this stranger know all these things about me?”

In verse 19, the woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.” Then it sounds like she tries to change the subject, but I’m not so sure about that. Maybe she just wants to find out more about this man and just exactly what authority he does have. She throws out to Him a long-debated religious argument the Jews and Samaritans had about where they should go to worship God.

In verse 21, Jesus said to her “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” The fact is that true worship to God isn’t about a mountain or a temple.

Then in verse 23, He says, “An hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus had already reminded her that “salvation is from the Jews”. She’s waiting for Messiah too, just like all Jews. In verse 25, The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming. He who is called Christ; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”

And then, the veil comes off. Jesus says, I’m Him! “I who speak to you am He.”

John writes that just at that moment, the disciples return. We might think, “No, not now! Go away. You’re interrupting this important conversation!” But nobody interrupts God!

Jesus’ purpose in speaking with this woman had been accomplished. He didn’t leave anything out concerning her need. He revealed Himself to her. He was the Messiah, the “Gift of God,” standing right in front of her, speaking directly to her. And He offered her eternal life, a living forever relationship with God, His Father!

And so, in verse 28: John writes that the woman “leaves her water pot.” Her whole reason for going to the well in the first place was now forgotten in her joy and eagerness to share what had just happened to her.

“She went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?'”

Almost as if she has to pinch herself to be sure she’s not dreaming…

Did this really happen to me? Did I just see and speak to Messiah Himself, in person? Me?!

She came to the well that day a woman dying of thirst. Her water pot was still empty, but her inner being was filled up with rivers of living water that would quench her thirst forever. Jesus spoke life into her; now His words of life will enable her to point others to Him. And she doesn’t waste any time.

After telling the men in the city, we read in verse 30 that “they went out of the city, and were coming to Jesus.” And later in verse 39, we read that “from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’ So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word; And they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.'”

So what happens to her now? Did all her problems go away? Probably not. Life’s harshness doesn’t disappear when we turn to follow after Jesus. She may have still gone to the well alone every day. But I like to think that well was a special place to her now. It’s where she had come face to face with her Messiah. Now, when she went to the well, she could recall in her heart the words Jesus had spoken to her. His strong, gentle voice of authority, so different from the voices of the world around her.

Though others may not have valued her for who she was, it was at the well where she met Jesus, who knew everything about her and loved her anyway. Instead of being a prisoner to the guilt and shame of her past, being at the well would remind her that Jesus Messiah, the Judge of all the earth, had set her free.

It was true that abandonment and loneliness had been written with tears on pages of her story, but now she knows Jesus who promised He will never leave her or forsake her. His words of hope would continue to speak life into her soul giving her the strength and comfort she needed day by day.

All of us have a story. Every one is written with the ink of joys and sorrows, successes and failures, dreams fulfilled and hopes dashed. And, yes, even when we know Jesus, this world is a difficult place to live. We need to listen to Jesus speak His words of life to us, over and over again.

In the way that Samaritan woman went to that well to fill her water pot every day, we can imagine the Bible as our well. Like the water in Jacob’s well came from deep in the ground, the Bible’s pages contain truth that comes from the depths of the heart of God. Through these written words the Holy Spirit draws up His living water into our soul… words of life that will sustain us day after day.

This is our place to go. When we’re at the well, we’re reminded that Jesus knows everything about us and loves us anyway. When we cry there, Jesus knows the reason for our tears even when we can’t put words to them.

StJohnsAshfield_StainedGlass_GoodShepherd_PortraitAt the well, Jesus reminds us that He is our GOOD Shepherd and He takes perfect care of His sheep. He knows where and when we need to rest. He feeds us when we’re hungry and protects us when there’s danger. He knows when we wander off, where to find us and just how to bring us home. All because we belong to HIM.

We have times of joy and celebration at the well. And then there’s times when we’re exhausted and scared and feel like David did when he wrote this ”Oh, that I had wings like a dove so I could fly away and be at rest. I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness. I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest.” (Psalm 55:6-8)

That’s when we need to go to the well to hear Jesus remind us of the simple things, the only things a child needs to know:

  • That our Heavenly Father is good and that He loves us with an everlasting love.
  • That His ways are FAR, FAR BETTER than our ways.
  • That He does everything perfectly right.
  • We can trust Him even when we can’t see or understand what He’s doing.

Whenever we come to the “well”, we will find Jesus there waiting to speak life to us. It reminds me of this great little book written years ago, Hinds Feet on High Places. The main character’s name was Much Afraid. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, taught little Much Afraid, that whenever she was in trouble, all she needed to do was say His name and He’d be there right by her side, instantly.

Just saying Jesus’ name can shift our focus instantly toward Him. When we open our ears, His words of life bring peace. They comfort us and renew our hope, even in the midst of trouble. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run in and are safe.” (Prov. 18:10)

So, what’s written in your story? Is there a special page somewhere when Jesus spoke life into your spirit? Are there chapters you love to go back and read again because of the joy written there? And maybe some pages you tend to skip over because those weren’t such good days. Some may be stained with your tears. But you might notice that some of those very same pages have a sweet fragrance as you read over them.

Most of our stories include some blank pages too. When life and busyness kept us distracted and away from the well. But aren’t you glad that seasons change, and the things that once kept us away, are somehow removed as time passes. And we learn again how pleasant it is to spend time at the well.

Maybe you are hearing Jesus speak life into your heart right now, for the very first time. You’re like the woman at the well standing face to face with Jesus. He is offering you “living water”, the Gift of God. Christ’s finished work accomplished on the cross, and sealed by God in raising Jesus from the dead. If you’re that woman right now, I hope you’ll open your heart to receive what He freely wants to give you.

Wherever you are, Jesus wants to speak words of life and truth to meet whatever we need in every moment. I hope it will be that your story will have page after page that read something like this: “There came a woman to the well…” And it was me!

Author: Sue Korinko

Get Mad Like Jesus

May 11, 2014 § 1 Comment

jn02_15aIs it okay for Christians to get angry? Every time some atrocity happens that tears at the image of God, like the recent abduction of hundreds of girls by an Islamic group promising to make them sex slaves in the name of Allah, I have to ask myself the same question. Is there righteous anger?

Indeed, there is righteous anger. Paul says “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26), making it clear that anger can be had apart from sinfulness. If anyone could manage this balance, it was Jesus. Look at the anger He exhibited when He cleared the temple courts in John 2.

“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts He found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume Me.’” (John 2:13-17 NIV)

Was Jesus justified in His anger? The temple rightly belonged to God, and Jesus was God. Worshipers were being taken advantage of by greedy opportunists and trespassers in a holy place. So Jesus had a right to be angry.

How did Jesus show His anger? He drove them out. But notice that Jesus did not explode into a rage when He came upon the moneychangers in His Father’s house. Before Jesus drove them out, “He made a whip” out of some cords. This no doubt took a minute or so to make. Jesus was sinless, so I don’t believe He needed a moment to collect His emotions, but that this serves as an example to us not to make hasty judgments or react on pure emotion in the heat of the moment. Gather your cool.

Verse 17 quotes Psalm 69, describing our Lord consumed (not overtaken by, but centered on) by zeal. Zeal is “enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal, or goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance.” What kind of zeal should we have?

“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 10:2-3) Zeal should be backed by knowledge, not pure emotion. Get the whole story, know what happened, what the Bible says about the offense, and know why you’re angry.

“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.” (Galatians 4:17-18) There are many things to be zealous for. Our zeal should be for something good, something after the heart of God according to His Word.

Those of you who are in Christ, “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Even those who are not in Christ are still made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Human trafficking, or really any assault against the God-given freedom and dignity of any of our neighbors, ought to make us angry. Disgusted by a moral evil? Got a passion for justice? Take enough time to make a whip, be informed, and if it breaks the heart of God, let it break yours. Get mad and do something.

Christmas Reset

December 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Another year is nearly gone, and it’s about time to purchase next year’s calendar. It’s also a great time to think about what we are actually counting with our calendar. Earth history dates back further than 2018 years, but something happened along the way that brought about a historical reset in how we count our days.


Around 523, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus was commissioned by the papal chancellor Bonifatius to come up with a way to simplify important dates that resulted from the Church Council of Nicea. Until this time most people counted the calendar years from the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian. Instead of a human ruler, Dionysius wanted to honor Jesus Christ, so he reset the calendar to count the years since the birth of Jesus. It turns out he was off by 7 years in his calculations, because evidence suggests puts the birth of Jesus around 7 BC before the death of Herod the Great (Matt. 2:19-20). But the objective was to begin calendar year 1 with the first Christmas.

With the help of the English monk Bede in the century that followed, the new calendar counting method popularized by the Church finally stuck, and it became the new standard for the current Gregorian calendar now followed by most of the world. The birth of Jesus marked year 1, and time as we know it was reset.

Think about this time-altering event that we celebrate in particular at Christmas but acknowledge continuously by the millions of elements in our lives that rely upon the current date. When Jesus was born, time was reset. God becoming flesh to dwell among us, to live and die in our presence and in our place, was the reset in God’s redemption plan for His lost creation. The covenant was renewed, grace was restarted, a sin-corrupted world was rebooted, and we are redeemed by the reset of our hearts to follow Jesus.

Apparently the calendar needed a reset around Jesus Christ, signaling the fact that we do too. We wish you a very merry Christmas, and may the Savior and giver of life and new beginnings mean even more to you in AD 2018.

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