Jesus–the Barrier Breaker

Recently, I heard the racial remarks made by a principal of a private school during the graduation ceremonies in Georgia. The most troubling matter, to this writer, was not only that a principal allowed herself to spout forth racial comments during what was supposed to be a celebration, but it was that this episode occurred in a church with a big bold cross standing behind her. One may question what all transpired during the meeting. But the episode proves that unfortunately, racism is alive and well in our modern times—much more than individuals would like to presuppose.

However, when an individual evaluates the life of Christ Jesus, one will find that Jesus was a barrier breaker. Jesus consistently broke barriers. In John’s Gospel, one will find a particular episode where Jesus spoke with a woman at the well. In this case, Jesus broke at least five barriers.

1.     Jesus: the Barrier Breaker of Race.

The apostle John denotes that Jesus “came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well” (John 4:5-6a).[1] John also reports that “It was about noon” (John 4:6b, NIV).[2] Then, “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink’” (John 4:7). The woman then said to Jesus, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman” (John 4:9)?

The woman asked why Jesus would even address her. Why? The woman inquired this of Jesus because there existed racial tensions between Jews and Samarians. Jews remained purebred, whereas the Samaritans stemmed from a mixture of Jewish and Assyrian bloodlines. Many Jews did not have any dealings with Samaritans because of this great racial divide. Jesus, however, demonstrated that He is no respecter of persons, meaning that “there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). Jesus does not distinguish between a person who is of a darker and/or a lighter complexion. As the children’s song states, “Jesus loves the little children—red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” If Jesus makes no distinction between races, then why in the world should we???

2.     Jesus: the Barrier Breaker of Religion.

The woman at the well challenged Jesus with another barrier that existed between her people and the Jews. She said, “Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem” (John 4:20, NIV). Jesus corrected this problem by noting that “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Often different religious spectrums and backgrounds create barriers. However, in this case, Jesus breaks this barrier with truth. Various denominations focus on varying aspects of the faith. Nevertheless, one needs to understand the essential truths that comprise mere, or basic, Christianity. It seems to me that the time has come where Christians need to lower their minor denominational differences and elevate the core beliefs that comprise the Christian faith.

3.     Jesus: the Barrier Breaker of Socio-economics.

It is reasonable to posit that this woman was in many ways an outcast. The woman, as noted in John 4:17-18, had been married multiple times. She was probably an outcast in her society. The woman probably barely made it by on the funds that were provided to her. However, Jesus did not come to the most respected person of Sychar. Rather, Jesus came to one of the more despised of Sychar to preach the message of grace and truth to her. When accused of befriending those who were not the best and brightest of society, Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (John 9:12, NIV). While some only associate with the wealthiest and most successful, Jesus breaks such a barrier.

4.     Jesus: the Barrier Breaker of Gender.

When the disciples returned, John denotes that the “disciples…were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman” (John 4:27). Why were they amazed that Jesus would speak with a woman? It was due to the custom of the day. It was not proper for a man to speak with a woman in public. Yet, Jesus was not concerned about the traditions as much as He was concerned with the spiritual condition of the woman in question. Christ loves men and women. Salvation is not for men alone. Neither does this promote feminism—a thought process that tends to occasionally exclude men. Rather, Jesus is concerned with the spiritual condition of all people. It is for this reason that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

 5.     Jesus: the Barrier Breaker of Sin.

Jesus did not “beat around the bush.” Jesus directly focused on the woman’s problem—sin. Jesus intentionally said to the woman, “Go and call your husband and come here” (John 4:16). The woman responded and said, “I have no husband” (John 4:17a). Jesus retorted, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly” (John 4:17b). How’s that for political correctness? Jesus exposed the problem. The woman repented, accepted a new life found in Christ’s grace and truth, and was even used as an spokesperson who helped bring the community to faith. Jesus broke down the barrier of sin, but He ultimately broke down the barrier of sin when He died upon the cross for the sin of the world. The apostle Paul notes that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). Paul also denotes that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus broke these five barriers—and many more at that. Why then should a disciple of Christ seek to rebuild the barriers that Christ has torn down? Is such a one truly acting as a disciple of Christ? It behooves the Christian believer to tear down barriers of racism, expose the truth found in Christ (apologetics) and thereby tearing down the barriers of doubt and cynicism, to demonstrate impartiality to those more and less fortunate than ourselves, to keep from misogynist and feminist motifs that create unneeded strife between the sexes (note that egalitarianism and complementarianism issues are not being addressed here), and furthermore live with integrity and to preach the saving message of Christ. Like Jesus, we should be barrier breakers.

© May 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[2] Scriptures marked NIV come from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).

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