Today I am wearing an imaginary philosopher’s hat. Prof. Albert D’Souza was my Philosophy Professor at the University of Toronto. He taught us about Bishop George Berkley, an Anglo-Irish Bishop/philosopher (1685-1753), famous along with John Locke and David Hume. He is well known for his writing “The Idea is an Object”. Though strange at the beginning I soon learned its significance. I am borrowing his theme to name this post with a slight change – Idea became the movement. Building the Church is the will of God through Jesus Christ. Jesus had the greatest idea, which became the greatest movement of all times!
A scene that frequents my mind is that of Jesus in front of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. Pilate interrogated Jesus, bound as a common prisoner. “Are you a king?” he asked. Jesus answered, “it is as you say”. Pilate could not help but exclaim “Behold The Man,” followed by a confession that “I find no fault in him.” And nobody ever since has! Jesus, humanly speaking, had the idea that became a mighty kingdom. Jesus never wavered from his idea. That was His Father’s business.
In that movement, Jesus was not content with the hitherto failed old system. He knew it would not cut it. He taught “no one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment, it will tear; and no one puts new wine into old wine skins, it will burst” (St. Luke 5:36-37). In this post we will see how Jesus broke some age old stereotypes and obstacles.
Jesus broke the cultural and theological barrier (St. John 4:9). Jesus left northern Judea and was heading towards Galilee. Very likely, he left on foot early in the morning, taking advantage of the cool weather. He was aware of the fanaticism of the Jews, in addition to their horrible Pharisaism, not to mention their cumulative hatred of the Samaritans. Gerizim (modern day Nablus) was Samaritan ‘s holy place as against Jerusalem of the Jews. They claimed it was Mt. Moriah, (Genesis 22:2), where Abraham took Isaac for the sacrifice . Samaritans built their temple there in rivalry. Jesus deliberately decided to pass through Samaria, refusing to condone the prejudice.
Jesus broke the gender-based hang-ups. He not only passed through Samaria, but stopped and relaxed near a well, dug by patriarch Jacob and given to his favourite son Joseph. He started a conversation with a woman who came to draw water at the unusual noon hour time. Note how deftly and respectfully Jesus communicated with her. This may sound strange to some; but take note of John 4:27. Even the disciples were surprised that Jesus was talking with a woman. Open dialogue between an unrelated man and woman is not allowed according to custom and tradition (remember the Fiddler on the Roof-Tradition)! I recall my high school days. Meeting a girl classmate on the road, the maximum allowance is a glance and a nod. Silly? Not only did Jesus initiate, but He pushed beyond the conversation and asked for a drink. That in turn became a real conversation piece!
What surprises me most is the content of his dialogue. The Great Teacher was having a discourse on real theology with a woman, teaching her the consequences of sin, the omnipresence of God, and eternal life using the analogy of water. As far As I know, this is the only reference where Jesus concisely defined God. He bypassed the Rabbis and priests and communicated this to a woman: “God is a spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” On a personal note, in my old All Saints Church in Trichur, Kerala, this verse is painted in bold letters to this day. Compare this with the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus. The ruler of the Jews could only grasp it laboriously, but the woman grasped it instantly! In the glorious Church, there is no place for theological punditry. It is always simple, yet profound. “It is not complicated” as the guy advertises on TV for Everest College (for my local friends in Toronto).
This did not mean that Jesus was abridging or diluting his teaching. She believed Jesus was a great prophet. Although admirable, it was not good enough for Jesus. He made sure she recognized him as the Messiah of both Jews and Samaritans – indeed the whole world! He told her “I am He!”
Are Christians miserly in giving a well-deserved commendation, instead looking for classifications or a pecking order? Let us call her one of the earliest Evangelists! In her excitement and new-found joy, she forgot her water pot, ran to the city and told the men “come and see….Is this not the Christ?” These were the exact words of one of the earliest disciples Philip, to Nathaniel. “And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified.” I would like to believe this woman evangelist was instrumental in bringing a revival later on in Samaria with Philip the evangelist. She planted the seeds and Philip the evangelist watered it, and God gave the increase (Acts 8:5-8).
While writing this post I had Dr.Faiz Rahman, founder, President of Good News India visiting us (www.goodnewsindia.org). We chatted about Bishop George Berkeley. The idea came to Faiz to help 25 kids in Orissa, India in October 1998. Now he has 2,700 kids; soon will be 3000. His goal is to reach 10,000 . We also fondly discussed our friends and former pastors, missionaries to Calcutta, India, Dr.Mark and Huldah Buntain; (www.buntain.org). We accepted Jesus as our Saviour years ago, under their ministry and worked with them. They started a small upstairs hall for a Church at 55 Park Street, Calcutta. It became a mighty movement. In order to save time and space I have provided their web sites for your own browsing.
Get the idea? Got an idea? No matter how young or old, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, may God grant you grace to make it a great movement in your own life!
God bless, Danny Paul