You have had five husbands, and the man you have now is not your husband:that was truly said. Jo 4:18
You know the story. Jesus, on his way back to Galilee passed through Samaria. Samaria was a unique area. Situated in the area of the former northern kingdom called Israel, its inhabitants had been brought here when Israel was deported centuries ago.
At that time it was customary to deport people that had been conquered to break their identity as a people. They were mixed so they did not identify with the land as home and their religion as unifying.
But something interesting happened. The people that were brought to former Israel adopted the religion of the area. Remember that after the death of Solomon, his son that took the northern part installed a new temple and priesthood, still worshipping JHWH, yet keeping his people from going back to Jerusalem. He knew that the kingdoms would be united again if they still had the same place of worship.
Thus, in Samaria they worshipped the same God as the people from Judah, yet differently. This is why Samaritans and Jews did not like each other. Just like today: think of churches that worship the same God in slightly different ways.
Now you know why the woman at the well was astonished when Jesus started to talk with her. How much more when he read her mail. He could not know how many husbands she had had. Granted, she went to the well in the middle of the day – a sure sign that she did not want to meet anybody. Both being humiliated and bullied away had let her decide to go to the well in the greatest heat because she knew that then she would be on her own. So Jesus must have known that it was shame that brought her here at this time of day – apart from her thirst. So he first offered her living water, and when she wanted it, had a word of knowledge for her. Bang on.
Her first reaction? She asked some technicality. Where do we have to worship? Are you Jews right, or us Samaritans?
Jesus told her that the time will come, and actually already is, in which the where, when, how, and why does not matter so much any longer. It is the relationship. No longer should we worship God from a distance, outwardly, externally. We should encounter him on his playing field, on his level. He is spirit and truth. Thus we worship in spirit and truth. It’s all about relationship, not about form.
Jesus set her free. He quenched her thirst. Her thirst for relationship, to belong, to be forgiven.
She had had six men, and the last one she did not even trust enough to marry him. Six. The number of man. Man could not fill her void. It took a seventh man, Jesus, to bring her into fullness. Seven stands for fullness. Man plus God, 6+1.
We have had another husband long enough.
Is it not clear, my brothers (I am using an argument to those who have knowledge of the law), that the law has power over a man as long as he is living? For the woman who has a husband is placed by the law under the power of her husband as long as he is living; but if her husband is dead, she is free from the law of the husband. So if, while the husband is living, she is joined to another man, she will get the name of one who is untrue to her husband:but if the husband is dead, she is free from the law, so that she is not untrue, even if she takes another man. Rom 7:1-3
As Christians, we know the law. Therefore, Paul is talking to us. The law is like a husband. We are bound to him. And you know what? He is not going to help us. Let me tell you what kind of a husband the law is: he lets his wife know about every mistake she makes. He tells her exactly how he wants things to be done. And then he just expects her to function. He is not going to do one bit.
And worst of all, he is not going to die!
Truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth come to an end, not the smallest letter or part of a letter will in any way be taken from the law, till all things are done. Mat 5:18
But if death is the only way to free us from this tyrant, there is only one other solution: we have to die.
In the same way, my brothers, you were made dead to the law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, even to him who came again from the dead, so that we might give fruit to God. Rom 7:4
When we died with Christ on the cross, we were set free from the law. We now have a different husband, Jesus.
Jesus married us on the cross and waits for our acceptation. When we accept him into our lives we say yes. I do.
What kind of a husband do we now have?
Well, the God that gave us the first covenant and the one that died for us in the second never changes. Thus, this husband expects the exact same things as the old one. But he has already done them for us, and we can only walk into a finished work with him.
Our problem? We still are hurt from our first marriage. We still expect things to function as they did back then. We still want to please our husband the way we know.
But things are different:
See, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new agreement with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah: … I will put my law in their inner parts, writing it in their hearts. Jer 31:31.33
When we were filled with the Holy Spirit, God wrote his law onto our heart. Since we experienced our personal pentecost. And this, by the way, is the reason we are still familiar with the law. Event hough Jesus married us on the cross, the law is only written on our hearts when we are baptized by the Holy Spirit. Until then we do not recognize his grace fully.
But what is the difference between a law on stone tablets and one written on our hearts?
When the law is external, I want and try to please God to satisfy him, to measure up, to gain his love – remember the first husband? When it is written in our hearts, when we have a living relationship spirit to Spirit with the Holy Spirit living in us, it becomes completely different. Now my motivation is not to let anything between him and me. Nothing is to cloud our relationship. I know he loves me. I know I am enough. I do not have to measure up. He loves me for who I am – God’s child, his son, his new creation.
No more rules, no more laws. Wether internal nor external. Nothing to follow but him. Free to do whatever I want? By no means. I told you: God did not change. His laws are still enabled. I changed. His law became my heart’s desire.
So will your delight be in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Ps 37:4
I told my children: you have the freedom to obey. And it’s only if you decide not to, that you must or must carry the consequences.
God both gives me my heart’s desire – puts them in there by writing his law onto my heart – as well as gives them to me – brings them to fulfillment and fruition.
Forget the old husband. Let your new husband treat the wounds from your past. And in a personal and intimate relationship with him, let him quench your thirst. Let him give you the desires of your heart.
In the story at the well Jesus later tells his disciples that it is his nourishment to do the will of the father – his most natural need, his source of energy, as that is what food is.
Ready? Let me know your thoughts in a comment.