If I were to ask you about the longest recorded conversation that Jesus had in the four gospels who would you say it involved? His best friend, Peter? John the Baptist? The High Priests when they were interrogating him or Pilate during this trial? Wrong on each account. The longest conversation that Jesus is recorded as having in any of the four Gospels is found in the passage that was read for us earlier and took place at a well on the side of the road. And while it might not seem all that important to us it was world-changing in its context.

We are in the final couple of messages about our reconstruction series and we are looking at ways to strengthen the foundation of our faith, or perhaps answer some of the questions that come from those who seek to deconstruct their faith and the faith others.

Those who have deconverted from Christianity or walked away from the church seem to have an evangelistic fervour about the process. It seems that they want to take as many people as possible with them on their journey. It makes me wonder if they were that passionate about sharing their faith.

So back to the question: If I were to ask you about the longest recorded conversation that Jesus had in the four gospels who would you say it involved? The answer of course is found in the scripture that was read for us earlier, the longest recorded conversation that Jesus had with anyone was with the Samaritan woman he met at the well, as recorded in John 4. And you might be asking ‘Why is that so important?” The answer is found further along in the story. So to bring you up to speed.

If we bring up one of our friendly maps, we are told that Jesus was travelling from Judea, which is here in the south and was going to Galilee which is here. Now obviously the quickest route was a straight line but because of bad blood between the Jews and the Samaritans most people made a circuitous route to get from point “a” to point “b”.

Instead, we see Jesus and his apostle cut straight through the centre and as they arrive at “Jacob’s Well” which would have been a landmark that those reading the story would have recognized the apostles head into town to buy food and leave Jesus to his own devices. Just as a little aside, in the culture of that day it would be very difficult to believe that before they met Jesus that any of these guys would have been in Samaria, let alone would have thought of buying and eating food prepared by Samaritans, already the barriers are coming down.

So, Jesus is sitting on the edge of the well, he’s been walking for probably five or six hours and teaching his apostles as they walked so he’s a little tuckered out, so let’s pick up the story at that point. John 4:7-8 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. Sounds fairly innocent and you are probably wondering what this has to do with how Jesus shaped the world we live in today. First of all, let’s go to the woman’s response. John 4:9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

And now let’s skip ahead through all the conversation between Jesus and this woman, which is material for a dozen sermons, to the point the disciples return. John 4:27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?”

Sometimes the church has been seen as anti-women. And there are those who would say that they walked away from Christianity and the Bible because they felt the bible was sexist and misogynistic. But is that a reality?

If we cherry pick verses from both the Old and New Testament that would seem to be the case. But remember when we read the bible, that it is a Library, not a book. A library consisting of 66 books, written over 1500 years, by more than 40 different authors in 3 different languages. That the bible was written for us, but not to us. It was written to different people, at a different time living in a different culture. And thirdly, don’t just read a verse. It’s easy to assign an incorrect meaning to a single verse taken out of context.

If we look at the entire scope of the New Testament, we see that Jesus Shaped how we Think of Women.  We don’t have to read very far in the Gospels to discover that Jesus was neither a sexist nor a misogynist, which was pretty unusual for that time and culture.

In the time when Jesus lived, historians tell us that for every 100 women there were 140 men. Why? Because male children were worth more than female children and so often when a girl child was born, she was set outside and allowed to die. And that imbalance continues in Countries like China and India today.

One historian records a chilling letter written around 1 BC, from a Roman Centurion, Hilarion to, his wife: “Know that I am still in Alexandria… I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered (before I come home), if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it.”

Under Roman law fathers were required to raise all healthy male children but were only required to keep their first daughter, any others were disposable. Women had no rights; they were considered mere property of their husbands. A man could have his wife killed for committing adultery but the only time a man was punished was when he committed adultery with another man’s wife and the other man demanded punishment.

And yet here we have the longest personal conversation that we have a record of Jesus having is with a woman, in John chapter four. And he talked to her as an equal, which wasn’t the norm of the day but seemed to be the norm for Jesus because he never hesitated to talk to women and defend women. And it’s interesting that Jesus didn’t define the woman at the well by her Marital Status. In that day and age the proper thing for Jesus to do would have been to have the conversation with her husband but he wanted to hear what she was thinking.

If we look across the story of Jesus, we discover that he had no problem interacting with women. And he sees them as equals and treats them as equals.

In John chapter eight we read the account of the woman who was accused of adultery. It’s the entire “Cast the First Stone” story. It’s interesting that although we are told that she was caught in the act of adultery no man is brought forward. And that’s because in that time and culture that was seen as the man’s prerogative but when a woman cheated it was all about the fact that she disgraced her husband.

When the religious leaders brought the woman to Jesus to be judged they assumed that it was a slam dunk and that Jesus like most men would side with them. Instead, he challenged them to examine themselves and to judge her the way they would judge themselves. He was simply asking that she be judged as a man. Jesus refused to define the woman caught in Adultery based on her past and refused to judge her on the hypocritical system of the day.

Now that was not to say that he excused her behaviour. Listen to how the story finishes John 8:10-11 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” He acknowledged that what she had done was wrong and challenged her to do better when he said “Go and sin no more.”

There is an interesting Jesus story in Luke, Jesus is visiting the home of his friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha. In that story, we are told that Martha is hustling around doing her best to be the hostess with the mostest and the expectation is that her sister would be helping her.

That’s not really all that unusual from a party or BBQ today, the guys are gathered in one part of the house and the girls are gathered in another spot. It depends on the weather, if it’s a BBQ you know the guys will be out around the grill.

And that’s what happened that day, except Mary’s not with the girls she’s at the grill with the guys. But the guys aren’t talking sports or cars, as hard as that might be to believe. Instead if we pick up the story we read, Luke 10:39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. And that wasn’t expected, what was expected was that men would sit at the feet of a Rabbi and that women would be seen and not heard as they did what society expected them to do. Which was to cook and clean and make babies. Jesus didn’t define Mary by Society’s expectations.

And when Martha complained that she was doing all the work, which probably wasn’t what she was complaining about, she was upset that Mary was doing what wasn’t expected of her. Martha was complaining that Mary was presuming that she could learn like a man. And listen to how Jesus responds to Martha’s criticism, Luke 10:41-42 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

What was it that Mary had discovered? Some would say that it was that it was better to be involved in the things of God than the things of the world, or that we should take time to slow down, the eternal things were more important than the temporal.

But what Mary discovered was that it was all right for her to be his disciple, even when society said that as a woman she couldn’t be.

And it wasn’t just Mary who discovered that. Listen to this account: Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

And you might ask, “Why weren’t any of the twelve women?” I would suspect that it had a lot to do with the practical aspect. From the gospel accounts it would appear that Jesus was with the twelve all the time, they travelled together, ate together, and bunked together. And it was just simpler and less scandalous that those 12 who were closest to him were all men. But throughout the gospels, there are women, listening to him, talking to him and touching him and he consistently treats them with respect and compassion.

And some would say that Jesus’ views on women weren’t accepted by the early church. They most certainly were, when the early followers of Christ gathered together in groups called churches many of those identified as being in positions of leadership were women. And time and time again Paul addresses his letters and sends greetings not only to men but to women in the early church.

For example, Romans 16:3 says Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. Not Aquila and the wife, or Mr. and Mrs. Aquila but instead he refers to my co-workers in the ministry, Priscilla and Aquila.

And we read in Romans 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

Remember the Bible was written for us but not to us, and so we might not realize that Junias is a woman’s name.  As a matter of fact in this final chapter of the book of Romans, Paul sends his greetings to a number of other members of the Church in Rome, and one-third of them were women. Of the twelve members Paul mentioned in this chapter as having contributed the most to the church, seven were women, and only five were men.

And because of how Jesus treated women Paul wrote in Galatians 3:26-28 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. That was radical.

And Jesus never commanded that women should cover themselves from head to toe and hide away from men, instead, he told men to respect them and not look at them as objects. Jesus didn’t say that if men had lustful thoughts, it was because of women, instead, he said it was the men’s responsibility to control their thoughts.

What about the scriptures where women are told to remain silent in church, and not to teach? Again, I would say that these were written for us and not to us.  They were addressed to just two specific churches, and we have to assume there were specific issues in those churches at that time.

And yes, scriptures have been misused and the church hasn’t always been what it should have been, but it was the church at the forefront of the woman’s rights movement, including as I’ve referenced the First Women’s Rights Convention happened in the US in 1848 in Seneca Falls NY and was held in the Wesleyan Church, why? Because Jesus followers remembered that Jesus treated women as equals and the early church said “There is no longer male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And it’s why the first English book published by a woman was written by a Jesus Follower by the name of Julian of Norwich in 1393, and why the abolitionist movement could have Jesus followers like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Beecher Stowe and the prison reform movement would be championed by a Jesus follower named Elizabeth Fry and a girl name Joan, who loved Jesus, could lead a country into battle. And a nurse named Florence could revolutionize nursing because of her Christian faith.

Dorothy L. Sayers was one of the first women to receive a degree from Oxford and she wrote “ (The women in the gospels) had never known a man like Jesus—there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them.”

There is another interesting part of this story that leads to our next point. Jesus has offered the woman at the well living water and she accepts that offer and we pick up the story in John 4:16-18 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

Sometimes in conversations with couples who are living Common Law, they will say “What difference does a piece of paper make?” or “We are married in the eyes of God.” I don’t know what liturgy or ceremony this woman had gone through the first five times but apparently Jesus recognized that it hadn’t happened for number six. Jesus Shaped How We Think of Marriage

Sometimes the church comes across as a little old-fashioned about marriage and sex, but 2000 years ago it was a radical departure from the culture. In the world in which Jesus lived marriage wasn’t sacred and sex wasn’t special.

It was the Greek philosopher Demosthenes who said, “We have mistresses for pleasure, concubines to care for our daily body’s needs and wives to bear us legitimate children.” And Roman temple worship involved prostitutes of both genders.

And so it would have been a shock to most when Jesus reminded them in Matthew 19:5-6 And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

Jesus is declaring that marriage and sex are no longer simply physical things that you do but a spiritual union as well as a physical union. When two become one.

At that time a Jewish man could divorce his wife simply by saying “I divorce you” and one historian commented “From the beginning of ancient law in Rome men have always had the possibility of divorcing their wives. Although this custom was usually reserved for serious marital faults, such as adultery, making copies of the household keys, consuming wine, or infertility, it could be employed by a husband at any time”

But Jesus and his church decreed that men could no longer simply divorce their wives for just any reason but only for the ultimate betrayal, adultery. And to this, Jesus says Matthew 19:9 “And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” Now that sounds old-fashioned but for many who heard Jesus, it was new and radical.

As we discussed earlier, often women were seen as little more than property and along comes a church that teaches such radical things as Ephesians 5:25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.

And admonitions like 1 Peter 3:7 In the same way, you husbands must give honour to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

And speaking of partnership, 2000 years ago, a little TMI in the church 1 Corinthians 7:3–5 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.  The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.  Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Kenneth Schenck, a Wesleyan scholar writes “Paul follows with the fact that the bodies of husband and wife belong to each other, not just to themselves. The second part of this statement is remarkable in the light of the culture of Paul’s day. Paul amazingly says that the husband’s body belongs to his wife! This statement must have been shocking to many, that a wife would have this authority over her husband’s body.”

As the world once again moves away from the principles taught by Jesus about how we are to treat each other and the one we say we love more than life itself, do you think it’s a better place or a worse place to live?

But the bottom line is that Jesus shaped the world by first shaping those who would follow him. And the question that has to be answered is “How has he shaped you?”

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