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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Jesus: A Fountain of Living Water

Day 9 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘O inexhaustible spring of Divine Mercy, pour Yourself out upon us! Your goodness knows no limits. Confirm , O Lord, the power of Your mercy over the abyss of our misery, for You have no limits to Your mercies.’ (819)

The Old Testament streams of mercy converge in the New Testament and well up into a fountain of ‘living water’. Jesus is that fountain. From Him flow rivers of Life that make the unclean pure, the weak strong, and the broken whole. Jesus embodies Mercy. He releases Mercy to sinners, manifesting the truth that ‘those who were far away from God have been brought near’ to Him (Eph. 2: 13).

One barrier for sinners in relation to a Holy God is shame. The emotion of separation and inferiority, shame reminds the soul of its sinful distance from Him. It functions like a ‘shame-coat’, repelling even good expressions of ‘living water.’

Jesus offers this ‘liquid love’ for the first time early in John’s Gospel (Chapter 4). He encounters a woman steeped in shame. Her shame was two-fold. First, she had experienced much ‘social shame’ due to her ethnicity. Samaritans were scorned in that day, especially by Jews. Originally an ethnic hybrid of Jewish and Canaanite blood, Samaritans reminded Jews of the shame they incurred by intermingling with a forbidden culture.

Jews looked down on Samaritans with squinting eyes. Such social shame is evil–it has its source in the fallen traditions of men, not in God’s heart. But it can be just as powerful. That woman would have thought Jesus had nothing but scorn for her, just as a man or woman struggling with same-sex attraction might fear the bullying of an angry peer or preacher.

But the Samaritan had a second type of shame as well, the shame we feel when we go outside of God’s will. This woman had many sexual partners in her past and one in her present. She knew that Jesus was a holy man; she knew also that she was not holy, sexually-speaking. Such shame may have tempted her or us to turn away from holy ones for fear of incurring rejection, condemnation, etc.

In John 4, Jesus turns to the Samaritan woman, and to us, in our shameful state. Each of us is a mixture of both good and bad shame. We have sinned, and we have been sinned against by those motivated by ungodly traditions of shame.

Jesus makes it clear in John 4 that the cure for both types of shame is in His ‘living water.’ Only Mercy can dissolve the ‘shame coat’ that tempts us to resist Love. He says to us all: ‘The water I give you will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ (Jn. 4: 13)

Here Jesus is prophesying two future events: the flood of Blood and Water released at Calvary, and the Holy Spirit released at His Resurrection. (Jn. 19: 34; Jn. 20: 22)

He releases to this woman a foretaste of this flood of Mercy. What matters here is how tender His Mercy is toward this shameful one, and how powerful is His Mercy to dissolve that shame and enter into her depths. Shame is no match for Almighty Mercy!

He is not content with us just knowing cerebrally about His Love; He wants us to partake of Mercy at the most deeply personal level until it springs up within us a Fountain of Life.

‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ (Jn.7: 37, 8)

‘Jesus, remind us of how You stoop down to sinners in order to raise us up. Remove the shame that bars us from Your Presence. We pray for all who still hide from You in shame; let ‘Living Water’ flow to them. Use Your servants to make known to the shamed how You draw near to them in order to set them free.’

 

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Prisoners of Hope

Day 5 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘In spite of everything, Jesus, I trust You in the face of every sentiment which sets itself against hope.’ (14)

Imprisoned by hope: Zechariah expressed well the exile of the Israelites (Zech. 9: 11-12). Far from their land, subject to the cruelty of other masters and their gods, the holy nation hoped against hope for mercy. The prophet reminded them of the covenant of blood God had made with them—unchanging, Almighty Mercy.

‘Because of my blood covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortresses, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.’ (Zech. 9: 11-12).

Waterless pits…a form of punishment for restless Jews in Babylon, and an apt metaphor for all of us who know the Merciful Father and yet are entrapped by a merciless adversary. That enemy mocks the hope in our hearts; he lures us into the exile of sin then derides us for forfeiting the Mercy that could be ours.

At the onset of my journey in Christ, I fell into one such pit. I fled from a small group of believers and immersed myself in the gay community. Perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in a tiny room, I created a waterless pit where I sought to satisfy my thirst with others.

My thirst intensified. Because I had tasted the real thing—His blood, His body—the bodies I sought never sated me. Still I persisted in my delusion. One night, I chose to stop fighting; I asked God to leave, to release me to live as an exile, as a gay man, all my days. I felt despair draw near. The Merciful Father drew nearer still.

For some reason, one little praise song kept running through my head. I began to sing it out and as I did peace filled the tiny room. His Presence accentuated the sting of death in my unclean body; I felt sick and dirty. Then something like ‘living water’ began to fall gently from the sky, like morning dew, raining then rising and falling again until I felt clean.

I marveled at His goodness to me. He poured out a kind of liquid mercy that flooded my waterless pit and lifted me right out of it! He elevated me to the fortress that Zechariah prophesied for all ‘prisoners of hope’. Raised up by Mercy, I partook of the blessing that was twice as good as the sin was bad.

What a Father. He finds us in our waterless pits and offers us the richest of fare.

When we receive that Mercy, hope rises and releases us from exile.

‘In the time of my favor, I will answer you; on the day of salvation, I will help you…I will say to the captives, ‘Come out!’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ (Is. 49: 8, 9)

‘Who is like You, Father of Mercy? Even our sin is not stronger than Your Mercy. You woo us with a Love sweeter and stronger than any the world offers. In that Love, we cry out for all those who have fallen into waterless pits. We rebuke the enemy of their souls, and ask for Mercy to come quickly to meet them. Release those imprisoned by hope with Your Divine Mercy.’

 

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