Jesus Is Different
March 8th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
JESUS IS DIFFERENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-8-87 8:15 a.m.
Once again, welcome to the great throngs of you who share this hour with us on radio; you are now a welcomed part of our dear and beloved First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Jesus is Different. And a little part of that vast difference is found as we speak in the beginning of the fourth chapter of the Book of John.
It is an unusual thing to start off with, that our Lord must needs go through Samaria. No Jew, no good Jew would do that. If a Jew went from Judea to Galilee, he crossed over the Jordan River into Perea, on the eastern side and then walked up; then came back across the Jordan River into the West bank.
No Jew would do that; none. For the Jews have no sunchrontai, sunchrontai, nothing even touching them; nothing touching them. And when the disciples came back, they marveled that He talked meta gunaikos” [John 4:27]. Think of that, Jesus talking with a woman, the so-different Jesus.
This is in a different part from the rest of the message, but just to illustrate the so-different Jesus: the greatest and the noblest and the most exemplary of all the Greeks was Socrates. Practically all of the writings of Plato are about Socrates. Much of Xenophon’s writings are about Socrates. Socrates went to see the most famous prostitute in his day. She was a mistress; she was a paramour of national reputation. And when Socrates visited with the prostitute, he brought to bear on the subject his great knowledge of human nature, and he taught her how more successfully to allure men into adultery. This is the greatest and noblest of the Greeks.
When Jesus talked to this prostitute, the Samaritan scarlet woman, I have here what He says. And it’s the greatest discourse on spiritual worship found in human revelation. I’m just casually aside, speaking of Jesus; it’s so different.
Now why is it that no Jew would go through Samaria? And why is it, sunchrontai, they have nothing to do with the Samaritans – no relationship whatsoever? It started from the beginning. The northern part of Palestine was largely controlled by Ephraim and the southern by Judah. And from the beginning there was jealousy between those two tribes of Israel. You see that when David was crowned king of Judah, southern part. He reigned seven years in Hebron before he was accepted and anointed by the northern tribes; seven years.
You see that in the story after the death of Solomon, when Rehoboam became king of Judah and Jeroboam I separated the Northern Kingdom from the Southern. And beginning in 993 BC and thereafter, there was nothing but war between the Northern kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. Jeroboam, you remember, placed those golden calves at Bethel so the people didn’t go south into Jerusalem to worship. That was an affront to Judah and the priests of God, and an affront to the Lord.
The capital was at Shechem for fifty years, then Omri, the father of Ahab, changed the capital to Samaria. And from that capital city, they became known as the Samaritans. In those days, there arose the cruelest and most merciless of all of the empires that you will find on the pages of history: the bitter and hasty and merciless winged bull of Asshur. The capital of the empire was at Nineveh. And they conquered ruthlessly the then-known civilized world. The reason is very apparent: their generals, their military leaders who were also their kings, were incomparable. There was Tiglath-pileser, then – which there’s never been a great military hero, Tiglath-pileser – he’s followed by Shalmaneser, and he by Sargon, and he by Esarhaddon, and he by Ashurbanipal, and he by Sennacherib – one great general after another.
And under Sargon, the Northern Kingdom, in 722 [BC], was destroyed. The people were carried into captivity, into slavery. The hatred of the whole world toward Assyria is exemplified in Jonah. When God said to Jonah, who lived up there in the Northern Kingdom, when God said to Jonah, "You go to Nineveh and you preach the gospel to those Ninevites, to those Assyrians," Jonah said, "I’ll never do that." And he went the other direction. He went to Tarshish, illustrative of the bitterness and the hatred of the whole world toward Nineveh [Jonah 1:1-3].
And it was only under the combination of the Medes and the Persians and the Babylonians under Nabonidus and Nebuchadnezzar with the help of the Tigris River, that Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire were destroyed.
Now what happened in Samaria was, when Sargon carried the people of the north, the people of the northern Israelites kingdom, carried them into slavery and into captivity, when Sargon did that, his successor Esarhaddon, gathered non-descripts from Mesopotamia and brought them into the Northern Kingdom to colonize it. And those people came and occupied that part of Israel. And they intermarried with the remnant Jews of the land and with the renegades from the south. And that intermarriage became known as a Samaritan people.
When those colonists came from Mesopotamia, they had a difficult time. The land was rough and difficult and filled with wild beasts. And according to their superstition, they thought that the gods of the land were displeased. So they sent for a priest to come to Bethel to teach them the religion of Jehovah, the religion of the land. And there was foisted therefore upon those heathen from Mesopotamia a facade of the religion of Jehovah; and those people are the half-breed Samaritans.
Now the bitterness between the Southern Kingdom of Judah and those half-breed Samaritan’s continued, only deeper and darker and more vicious. When Ezra came back to Judah, after the Babylonian captivity, and began building the temple, and when Nehemiah began building the wall, the Samaritan’s wanted to be a part of it. Ezra would have none of it, nor would Nehemiah. And because of that bitter refusal, Sanballat, who was the governor of Samaria, saw to it that the Jews stopped their temple building and stopped their wall building.
Strange thing, the grandson of the high priest – of Jerusalem, the temple – named Manasseh married the daughter of Sanballat. And Nehemiah and Ezra drove them out of the midst of the Jewish people. And what happened was, Sanballat on Mt. Gerizim built a rival temple to the one in Jerusalem, and he made high priest of his temple on Mt. Gerizim, Manasseh, the grandson of the high priest in Jerusalem. That’s why this Samaritan woman says, "Our fathers worshiped in this mount" [John 4:20], and she was standing there, right below Mt. Gerizim, on that side, Mt. Ebal, on this side Mt. Gerizim. And she pointed to it, "Our fathers worship in this mountain,” Mt. Gerizim, “but you say that in Jerusalem is the place we’re to worship God." Sanballat did that in 409 BC; he built that temple and copied the ritual and the worship of Jehovah God in Jerusalem. And his son-in-law, Manasseh, was the high priest.
The reaction of the Jews in the south was bitter beyond any way I could ever describe it. And in 332, when Alexander came and sacrificed in the temple of Jerusalem, the Samaritans said, "We also are Jews." And they encouraged Alexander to sacrifice in their temple. But in 170 BC, when Antiochus Epiphanes conquered the country, the Samaritan’s said, "We are not Jews, and we have no relationship with them whatsoever." And they dedicated their temple to Jupiter.
The response of the Jewish people to all of that was, as I say, a bitter and implacable hatred. And in 128 BC, when the Maccabees gained the control of their country, John Hyrcanus, their Maccabean leader, went to war with those Samaritan’s to the north and destroyed that temple on Mt. Gerizim.
In the Jewish kingdom, the Samaritan was publically cursed, damned. He could not be won to the Lord; he was damned forever. He could not be adduced as a witness in a court. No Jew would speak to him; have any sunchrontai relationship with him. And he was despised and hated, an outcast. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritan’s.
And then Jesus comes along. What do you think that He did? Time and again you’ll find in the story of our Lord His ministry and relationship with the Samaritan’s. Over here when I turn the page, after one of those confrontations, the Jews say to Him, "Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan, and You have a devil?" [John 8:48]. Anytime, and there’s no exception to it, anytime you find the ministry of our Lord Jesus touching a Samaritan, it is always with love, and compassion, and kindliness, and friendship.
Let me illustrate it just for a minute. When the Lord healed those ten lepers, do you remember the story? One of them came back to thank Him. And the story pointedly says, "And he was a despised Samaritan" [Luke 17:11-18].
There’s nobody in the world that doesn’t know the story of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37]. What an insult that was to the people who hated them. When the Lord asked the lawyer, "Now you tell me, who was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?" He wouldn’t say, "The Samaritan." He merely replied, "He that had compassion on him." No Jew would speak of a Samaritan in any kind of a gracious or compassionate approach.
But our Lord must needs go through Samaria, and He preached in their cities. And in the Great Commission, in Acts 1:8 – now you look at it, "And ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea," And then why didn’t He say, "And in Galilee" or "in Perea" or "in Idumea"? What did He say? "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria." And in the beginning, the greatest revival meeting, recorded in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, Philip, the evangelist and deacon, is preaching the gospel in Samaria. They saw a different Christ.
Now I have to conclude. There’s a message from heaven for us, and one we are forever and ever to remember. It’s a strange thing how Jesus our Lord loves the poor, and the outcast, and the helpless, and the hopeless. I have never seen the gospel of Christ so regnant and real as I have watched our missionaries’ ministry to the lepers or to the flotsam and the jetsam of humanity. And one of the touchstones of the Christian faith is how you feel toward those who are unfortunate, forgotten, and passed by.
If we would be like Jesus, we would be like that. He did not come to condemn the world. He did not come to blame. He did not only seek; it was for to save, that He came. And when we call Him Jesus, Iēsous, Savior, we call Him by His name.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
[from There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy by Frederick William Faber, 1862]
I suppose there has never been in the English language a poem greater than Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s "The Ancient Mariner." Do you remember how that poem ends? We’re speaking of the greatest literature in human speech and in the English language. "The Ancient Mariner," do you remember how it ends? I copied it yesterday:
O, listening guest! 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 goodly 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.e
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small,
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
[From “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, Part VII”; Samuel Taylor Coleridge]
We’re most like Jesus when we are most compassionate, and kindly, and friendly, and prayerfully solicitous of one another, and especially those that are poor, and outcast, and forgotten.
Or could I say it like this: in terms of God’s great apostles. The story, apocryphal of course, the story is told that when He was beyond a hundred years of age, the sainted apostle John was carried to his church in Ephesus. And they held the old sainted disciple of Jesus before the congregation and asked for one last word. And the old sainted pilgrim John – the disciple of the Lord beyond a hundred years of age – said, "My little children, love one another." Then he repeated it, "My little children, love one another." And he spoke it a third time.
And when he did, one of the elders holding him up said, "But John, you said it three times. Do you not have some other word for your people?"
And the sainted apostle replied, "No. It is enough. It is enough. My little children, love one another." He’s the one that said “God is love,” and we ought to love as He loved.
O God, that there be out of us any root of bitterness or hatred, any remembrance of caustic reprisal, but that we be like our wonderful Lord. If I’m cursed, I bless. If I’m denounced, I pray; if I’m treated brutally or mercilessly or unkindly, that I answer in a sweet and precious way like my Lord. O God, what a blessing to be less like the world and more like Thee.
Now we’re going to stand and sing us a hymn, and while we sing this song, somebody you give your heart to that wonderful Lord. No one like Him ever lived. To bring your family into the fellowship of our precious church or to answer a call of the Spirit in your heart, when we stand, make open that public commitment of your heart to the Lord. "Here I am, pastor. God has spoken to me and this is God’s day for me." Welcome, a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.