Jesus Is Different
March 8th, 1987 @ 10:50 AM
JESUS IS DIFFERENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-8-87 10:50 a.m.
Once again, to welcome the throngs of you who share our hour on radio and on television, you are a part now of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Jesus is Different . It is a message concerning Samaria and Judah, the Samaritan and the Judeans, the Israelites and the Judeaites, and it concerns a feud—bitter, merciless, and long, long, long.
So Jesus, in going from Judea to Galilee, goes right through Samaria, the fourth verse says, “For He must needs go through Samaria” [John 4:4]. Jesus is different. “For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” [John 4:9]. Jesus is different. And when the disciples came back from their buying food at Sychar, they marveled that He talked “meta gunaikos”: “with a woman” [John 4:27].
And before we begin our discourse on the chapter, let me turn aside there. Jesus is different. The noblest and the finest and the most brilliant, a paragon, for all the Greeks was Socrates. If you read Plato, practically everything Plato writes is about Socrates. If you read Xenophon, so much of Xenophon is about Socrates. Throughout that ancient philosophical literature, you will read about Socrates. One of the most astute academicians in modern university circles said—and I quote him exactly—“Practically all we know we learn from the Greeks.”
Socrates went to see a famous prostitute—a paramour, a mistress. And as he talked to her, Socrates brought to the conversation his vast and almost illimitable knowledge of human nature and, in speaking with this famous prostitute; he sought to teach her how she could allure men into adultery. I hold in my hand here what Jesus spoke meta gunaikos, “with a woman,” and it is the greatest discourse on spiritual religion in the revelation of Almighty God [John 4:10-26]. Jesus is different.
Now, to begin with His going through Samaria: the nation of Israel was divided in spirit and in allegiance between the north, which is called Israel, and the south, which is called Judah. Ephraim was the tremendously effective leader of the tribes to the north, and Judah was the great leader of Judah and Benjamin in the south. And from the beginning, there was bitter jealousy between Ephraim to the north and Judah to the south.
You find a poignant illustration of that bitterness in the life of King David. King David reigned for seven years in Hebron as the king of Judah before he was accepted and anointed as king of Ephraim and the tribes to the north [2 Samuel 5:1-5]. That’s hard for me to realize when I read the Scriptures: seven years, seven years those tribes to the north led by Ephraim refused to accept David as their king [2 Samuel 5:5]. The bitterness between the two parts of God’s family became open warfare for years and years when Rehoboam, the king of Judah, the son of Solomon, instead of being gracious and kind toward the people, was autocratic, usurious [1 Kings 12:1-14]. So Jeroboam I created a rupture in the nation, and he organized and led those northern ten tribes into a separate confederacy from the south [1 Kings 12:16, 20]. He placed golden calves at Bethel in order for the people not to be enticed to worship God in Jerusalem [1 Kings 12:26-30].
The capital of the north was at Shechem [1 Kings 12:25]—stayed capital for fifty years until Omri, the father of Ahab [1 Kings 16:28], changed the capital city to the city of Samaria [1 Kings 16:21-24]. And that’s why those northern people were called Samaritans—from their capital in Samaria. In those long ago days there arose in the earth the most ruthless and merciless of all of the conquering empires that ever cursed the face of the globe: the winged bull of Asshur, whose capital was at Nineveh, was an ogre to the whole created earth. There was hardly any like them. They had commanders—military leaders—that were simply incomparable and invincible. I don’t know whether there has ever lived a military genius like Tiglath-Pileser, or his successor, Shalmaneser, or Sargon, or his successor, Ashurbanipal, or Esarhaddon or Sennacherib. They were men of tremendous military prowess, and they conquered the civilized world.
You have again a pointed illustration of that in Jonah: when the Spirit of God, the word of the Lord came to Jonah, in Galilee, to go to Nineveh and to preach the gospel to Nineveh, he went the opposite direction. He went toward Tarshish [Jonah 1:1-3]; no thing in Jonah’s heart or anybody else’s heart to bring the good news of God’s salvation to an Assyrian, to a Ninevite.
Now this tremendously gifted military leader, Sargon, came down in 722 BC and he destroyed forever the Northern Kingdom. You call them—it’s a misnomer—you call them “the lost ten tribes.” Sargon carried them into slavery, into captivity [2 Kings 17:18]. Now Sargon’s immediate successor, Esarhaddon, seeing the land was vacant, gathered together all kinds of nondescript in Mesopotamia, and he brought them down and colonized that country, that land where the ten tribes once lived. When they came, those colonists from Mesopotamia, from the Tigris and Babylonian valley, Euphrates valley—when they came, those colonists had a difficult time. The land was rough and rocky and filled with wild beasts. And according to their superstitious response, they thought their difficulty lay in the fact that the local gods were unhappy with them, so they sent for a priest of Jehovah to come to Bethel and to teach them the religion of the land [2 Kings 17:25-28]. Therefore, there was foisted on those people there in the north, what we call later the Samaritans—there was foisted on them a sorry, compromised type of Jehovah worship [Ezra 9:1-2]. And when you think of the intermarriage of those Mesopotamians with the remnant of the Jews that were in the land, and their intermarriage with the renegade Jews who came up from the south, from Judea, you have a good idea of the half-breed Samaritan [2 Kings 17:24]. That’s who he was—part of him Mesopotamian, part of him Judean, part of him heathen, part of him Jehovahite—a mixture of about everything that you could think for in the conglomerate up there where the lost ten tribes once lived [Nehemiah 13:23-24].
Now there was a bitter struggle between that northern part called Samaria and the southern part called Judea, and it was from the beginning [Ezra 4:4-5]. When Ezra and Nehemiah came back from Babylon in order to reestablish the religion of the Jews after the Babylonian captivity [Ezra 3:1-4:5; Nehemiah 8:1-18], the Samaritans came down and wanted to amalgamate their people with these Jews who were returning and to share in their common religion. But Ezra and Nehemiah refused, and vigorously so [Ezra 9:1-10:44; Nehemiah 13:1-31].
Then came to pass one of the strange providences of life; Manasseh, the grandson of the high priest in Jerusalem, married the daughter of Sanballat, who was the governor of Samaria [Nehemiah 13:28]. And when the Judeans refused to amalgamate their faith and their religion with the Samaritans [Ezra 9:1-10:44; Nehemiah 13:1-31], Sanballat built a temple to Jehovah there on Mt. Gerizim [Josephus]. When you read this story, this woman of Samaria at the well of Jacob is standing there at the foot of Mt. Gerizim [John 4:7]. And on that mountain, Sanballat built a temple to Jehovah God for those people in Samaria to gather together in convocation and worship in that place. That’s why the woman says, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain,” and she pointed to Gerizim right there, “but You say that in Jerusalem is the place where we ought to worship” [John 4:20]. That mountain, Gerizim—Mt. Ebal on this side and Mt. Gerizim on that side [Deuteronomy 27:12-13]—on that mount, Sanballat built this temple.
And the rivalry and the bitterness between the two in the north and the south, I say, was unspeakable. The Samaritans, for example, would try to interfere with the fires announcing the feast days. They would take dead men’s bones and creep into the temple at Jerusalem and scatter, to defile the temple. They would waylay the pilgrims on the way to the Passover and assassinate them, murder them. They refuse the Bible, except Moses’ Pentateuch. It was a terrible creation, those two kingdoms.
In the day that the Jew was triumphant under the Maccabees, they took vengeance on the Samaritans. John Hyrcanus, in 128 BC, destroyed that temple from the face of the earth. No Samaritan could be adduced as a witness in the courts. He was publicly cursed. No Jew would go through Samaria. And the whole effort and attitude and summation of the spirit of the Jew was antithetical in bitterness and in hatred toward the Samaritan.
An illustration of that is here in the eighth chapter of the Book of John, after that discourse and confrontation between Jesus and those people [John 8:37-47]. They said to Him, “Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan, and You have a devil?” [John 8:48]. They could not have cursed Him worse than to call Him a Samaritan.
Now that’s the background: the hatred and bitterness through all the years and the years and the years between that northern country of Samaria and this southern country of Judea, and between the half-breed Samaritans and the Jews to the south. Now, an astonishing thing: whenever you read this Book and these Gospels, wherever the ministry of Jesus will touch a Samaritan, it will always be in kindness, and in love, and in compassion, in forgiveness, in affection. An astonishing thing!
For example, when Jesus healed the ten lepers and sent them to go to the priest, in order that he might declare them clean, one of them came back to thank Him, just one. One of them came back to thank Him, and Jesus points out he is a despised Samaritan! [Luke 17:11-16]. He is the one that came back [Luke 17:17-19].
There’s nobody in this earth, I suppose, but has heard of the parable of the good Samaritan; the good Samaritan [Luke 10:30-37]. To you, the nomenclature is wedded. The “good Samaritan”; that was unthinkable, unimaginable when Jesus spoke it. Look, when the lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor? You say I am to love my neighbor as myself; who is my neighbor?” [Luke 10:25-29], and Jesus told the story of the Samaritan: the priest passed that poor, wretched, hurt traveler by; the Levite passed him on the other side; the Samaritan took him, had compassion on him, cared for him [Luke 10:30-35]. And Jesus asked the lawyer, “Who was neighbor to this man hurt and left to die?” [Luke 10:36].
Did the lawyer say “the Samaritan”? He wouldn’t. He had rather die than say it. What he replied was “He that had compassion on him” [Luke 10:37]. He wouldn’t say “Samaritan.”
Jesus is different. Not only did He tell the story of what we say, “good Samaritan,” but He preached the gospel in their cities, and He taught them the true way of the Lord. And when the Lord gave the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20], one of them is repeated in Acts 1:8: “And ye shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea”—and why didn’t the Lord say “and in Galilee” or “in Decapolis” or “in Perea” or “in Idumea?” Why didn’t He say that? He didn’t say that. “Ye shall be My witnesses,” said the Lord, “in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” Jesus is different.
And the message from heaven to us is all so poignantly apparent. All of God’s creation is precious in His sight, and especially and particularly and unusually so the flotsam, and the jetsam, and the outcast, and the poor, and the diseased, and their hurt of mankind. God seeks and loves the wretches, the scum, the off-scouring of the earth; the most remarkable thing, the most unbelievable thing!
As you know, I used to go between Sundays and then on vacations all over this earth preaching the gospel. And to see these emissaries of Jesus with those lepers and those filthy outcasts, and those dirty ignorant off-scouring of the earth—I just look at it and marvel; the wonder of God’s outreaching, stooping-down, lifting-up love! And that’s the Lord. When He came into Jericho; “Come down Zaccheus, hated Roman republican”—good night alive! Publican. [laughter] Did you cause me to do that? I’m going to write the president a letter and apologize. No Jew would even associate with a hated despised tax-collector, yet Jesus come into town and called him down, called him by name and say to him, “This day I am going to spend in your house—your guest” [Luke 19:1-5]. Jesus is different.
This is a scarlet and despised Samaritan woman, and the disciples themselves are amazed that He talks with her [John 4:27]. Yet, as I said, the greatest message on spiritual religion in human speech is this one: Neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem [John 4:21], but wherever a man calls upon God, that is an altar and a sacred place. And a kitchen corner is as good as the finest cathedral. That’s Jesus. He preached that message to a scarlet Samaritan woman [John 4:7-26].
In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Luke—that’s the way it begins: “All of the publicans and the sinners drew nigh for to hear Him” [Luke 15:1]. And He spoke about the one lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7], and the one lost coin [Luke 15:8-10], and the one lost boy [Luke 15:11-32].
Jesus is different. He did not come to condemn the world. He did not come to blame. He did not only come to seek: it was to save that He came [Luke 19:10], and when we call Him Iēsous—Jesus, Savior—we call Him by His name [Matthew 1:21]. “For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind, and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind” [“There’s a Wideness In God’s Mercy,” Frederick William Faber]. My brother, God is for us! He is not against us—fallen and sinful and depraved humanity—but brings from the heart of God tears of compassion and love and kindness [Matthew 9:36]. That’s God. And that’s Jesus our Lord.
One of the great poems of literature is the “Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. These literary critics would say there’s not a greater poem in the English speech than the “Ancient Mariner.” Do you remember how it ends? Last night I copied the closing verses. Here they are: “O, listening guest”—this ancient mariner speaking—
. . . this soul hath been
Alone on a wide, wide sea.
So lonely ‘twas that God Himself
Scarce seemed there to be.
O, sweeter than a marriage feast,
‘Tis sweeter far to me
To walk together to the church,
With a godly company!
To walk together to the church,
And all together pray
While each to our great Father bends,
Old men and babies, and loving friends,
And youths and maidens gay!
Farewell, farewell! But this I tell
To thee, my listening guest,
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small,
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
That’s the close of that tremendous poem. That’s God. That’s the Lord. That’s Jesus.
Or let me say it in an apocryphal way: when John, the sainted apostle John, was over a hundred years old, the story says that they brought him to his church in Ephesus and, holding him up, bracing him up before his congregation, they said, “John, say to us one last word from heaven.” And the old sainted apostle replied, “Little children, love one another,” and repeated it: “Little children, love one another,” and said it again. And one of the elders holding him up said, “But, John, you’ve said that three times. John, don’t you have some other word to say?” and the aged apostle replied, “No. It is enough.”
It is enough! “God is love” [1 John 4:8], He hath written. And we’re most like God when we love one another [1 John 1:7]. God so loved us, He gave His Son for us [John 3:16].
And, Lord, when we take envy, and jealousy, and bitterness, and hatred out of our souls and out of our lives, and when we bless those that curse us [Luke 6:28], and revile not those that revile us [Matthew 5:11-12], and pray for those who despicably use us, and forgive those who mistreat us—when we love one another [Matthew 5:44], we are most like Jesus our Lord [Ephesians 4:32], and most like our Father in heaven [Matthew 5:45-48]. O God, help me to be free from the shackles of the remembrances that bring bitterness to my soul, and help me, Lord, to walk in the light of the love of the compassionate, blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus—that the house be filled with love and forgiveness, that our hearts overflow with compassion and tenderness, and that we be kind and sweet one to another. That is Jesus our Lord.
Now may we pray? Our Savior, so many times we are tempted to be hasty and bitter in our judgments and in our words. We don’t want to be that way. Our Lord, anytime we speak, may it be in kindness and compassion, and may our every attitude toward the whole world, no matter what or how, no matter the providence, may it be one of tenderness and forgiveness and love like our Savior, Lord God, that we would be more and more like Thee and less and less like we could be. We want to be, Lord, like Thee. Sanctify and hallow this appeal, that there be those who will come, saying, “I want to be a disciple of that humble Nazarene. I want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. I want to ask God to help me to be like Him, and I want to live with Him in heaven someday, forever and ever” [John 14:3; Revelation 22:3-5].
In just a moment we’ll stand and sing us a hymn, and while we sing that hymn of appeal, to give your heart to the Lord, or to bring your family into the fellowship of our dear church, or to answer the appeal of the Holy Spirit in your heart, make that decision now; do it now. And when we stand, on the first note of the first stanza, that first step will be the most meaningful you have ever made in your life. Down one of these stairways from the balcony, down one of these aisles in the press of the people on this lower floor: “Pastor, today I take my stand with God, and here I am.” Do it—and our Lord, thank You for the sweet harvest You give us; in Thy saving and keeping name, amen—while we stand and while we sing.