“A huge, mighty God who chooses the least likely.”
— Shai Linne, Election
God prefers to use the unlikeliest, even the taboo, to glorify himself, for example, using a woman nursing her husband to bring unrivaled stability to marriages. Or his Son becoming a curse to rescue sinful men from the curse of sin, which they rightfully earned.
Honestly, some relics of the past need to be brought back to life.
I was just thinking of how an adult breastfeeding hospital, even in 2021, could be a viable option for those suffering from chronic illnesses treatable with breast milk.
Consider this previously quoted line:
“Historically, women have breastfed adults who were sickly to help build their immune systems. The practice has continued more recently than you might realize in countries such as China.”
Breast milk is known to help fight cancer, and to contain other health-boosting ingredients. So we could resurrect the practice of nursing the deathly sick, in very professional, well-monitored healthcare settings.
I picture each adult nursing hospital being equipped with cameras to prevent any hanky-panky and patients signing statements of abstention from all touching below the waist, though patients who are sick and dying probably won’t care for sexual engagement. Moreover, the hospitals would employ only highly professional staff, with wet nurses screened for optimal health. All patients would be well-vetted, with their severe illnesses verified prior to acceptance.
Medical wet nursing is an act of service of the past whose resurrection would greatly benefit modern society.
Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
If you struggle with intrusive mental images of ANRs, then “think often that Christ suffered agony for your purity. Fight image with image. Christ crying in agony.”
Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
1 Peter 1:18; 2:24:
You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, [but with the precious blood of Christ]. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
1 Corinthians 5:15:
He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Even pagans realized the divine value of breastfeeding. Take another look at the relief. Notice how the person she’s breastfeeding isn’t a baby. Now I know pagans engaged in all kinds of strange and sinful customs, but there were cross-cultural similarities between different ancient people groups, irrespective of the worship of YHWH. Commentaries such as the NIV Study Bible attest to these similarities.
[Mark Dever] People today are skeptical that anyone can really change people today start to be learning to accept your internal circumstances to adapt to them and adjust to them not to try to fundamentally change them is any real change possible? what does the Bible say about deep, real, personal change?
[Trip Lee] Yeah, okay, let’s go, yeah Ay let me grab the mic, wrote this song to tell the truth (Tell it) Cause rarely do, and yet we hear it, clearly fellas do Need to get the facts straight, time to get a better view We learn from our culture, but the Bible is the better school (c’mon) this time we’ll profit us, but I ain’t talking revenue talking understanding God and how He makes a fella new (new) He can take a felon who was stealing’ since a little dude and He can clean him up though, He can Cinderella you Not with three steps, it had to be a better you Cause our hearts are hardened, we headed straight to Hell its true yeah we need a savior, but we don’t wanna let Him through No room for Him cause its us up on our pedestals God is light, He’s the only one who’s got the right fix we walking in darkness, we ain’t got the right kicks (Nah) there’s no darkness in Him man, He got just the right mix grace and truth and He’s known for flipping on that light switch
[Mark Dever] And certainly one characteristic of a healthy church is this: A Biblical understanding of conversion, the great change and the first question we want to ask is this. “Is change needed?” Now many say “No, not at all, we’re fine.” But be that as it may, the Bible clearly teaches that change is needed and we are not fine; in fact we’re in trouble
Verse Yeah some folks think they Christians just because they sing the right songs Somebody tricked them, got it twisted like a cyclone You think its based on your attendance then you’re quite wrong Darkened in our understanding til’ He turn the lights on Dirty until he cleaned us, then our guilt is quite gone Nothing but the blood of Jesus, homie that’s my fight song Thought you’d get by and you still tipping just like you Mike Jones You must not be hearing me, like I ain’t got this mic on God is so holy, in His presence we cant stand (so what) His Son took on flesh and dwelt off in this wasteland You should know He raised right after he took our place, manPaid our price though we wasn’t worth it like a fake brand God is the cause, the Gospel is the means We raised from the dead, the hostel are redeemed Transferred to His kingdom, we locked in on His team Adopted as His children, His flock, we are the kings
Mark Dever- Jesus himself taught us that light has come into the world, but men love darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed Paul reminded the Ephesian Christians that before they were converted they were dead in their sins and transgressions, dead! Paul taught that this spiritual death was shared by all.
Verse Look why you trying to drive home a right view of conversion? You all on that doctrine, we just trying to worship (what) But so many churches do you a disservice Got you thinking that you saved, but you ain’t been purchased Yeah Jesus loves us, He died up on a tree but just because He shed His blood don’t mean that that applies to me (He said) Ya’ll can be united, you can die and rise with Me Stop trying to clean yourself up, and trust the job to Me It’s by grace alone, through faith alone the gospel’s what we base it on not just random faith at all Christ is what we place it on turning from our sins to our Lord who was hanging on the cross, and behind the scenes He’s the one who changes Holmes Changes hearts, changes lives, praise Him all my stains are gone Blameless, sinless Savior, now His righteousness is painted on That’s how we’re converted, this is something we can’t get wrong If we’re missing this, we miss it all… fall at His gracious throne
[Mark Dever] Jesus told everybody that they must turn from their sins and turn to God Jesus from the very beginning told people that the great conversion they need is to turn away from their sins and to turn to God Christianity does not preach that we can save ourselves and here is the great puzzle for many the bible says that this change is a matter really of our character of our heart, that’s what we need that’s the change that has to be affected and that we will not change to making these right choices if God does not change our heart first
For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil.[b] A wedding song.
1 My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
2 You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.
3 Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. 4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds. 5 Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet. 6 Your throne, O God,[c] will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. 7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. 8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad. 9 Daughters of kings are among your honored women; at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.
10 Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. 11 Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. 12 The city of Tyre will come with a gift,[d] people of wealth will seek your favor. 13 All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold. 14 In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her— those brought to be with her. 15 Led in with joy and gladness, they enter the palace of the king.
16 Your sons will take the place of your fathers; you will make them princes throughout the land.
17 I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.
Psalm 45:1 In Hebrew texts 45:1-17 is numbered 45:2-18.
Psalm 45:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
Psalm 45:6 Here the king is addressed as God’s representative.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us
2 Corinthians 1:8-10
Relax and put your trust in God. He will take care of you.
I feel a great sense of peace when I choose to trust God in the midst of my troubles. An overwhelming feeling of relief that reinforces my faith in the God who cares.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.
1 Peter 3:18
Women are often loyal to, suffer for and care about others more than themselves.
They fiercely defend and protect the men and children in their lives more than their own selves. This is one of the clearest representations of God’s character visible in our time.
He didn’t spare His Son but gave Him up for us all.
Breastfeeding him is a natural outpouring of that self-sacrificial womanly love.
“Love was compressed for all history in that lonely figure on the cross, who said that he could call down angels at any moment on a rescue mission, but chose not to—because of us. At Calvary, God accepted his own unbreakable terms of justice” (Philip Yancy, from Where Is God When It Hurts?)
“I have met two Christian men on ANR dating sites and all of them are like myself, in that they were sexually active before they gave their life to Christ. And each of them has the same opinion on nursing vs sex. Each of them believed that nursing can be a permissible act between unwed partners as an alternative to intercourse before marriage. I don’t have an opinion on the subject yet, but I am trying to form one and I’d like the input of someone…I am inclined to agree with them because there is nothing in the scripture prohibiting it as far as I can tell, though a biblical scholar, I am not. Just wondering if you would be willing to share your opinion and why you feel the way you do. […]”
“Nursing as a way to prevent pre-marital sex? Well… You say ‘Though I have been successful in abstaining for the last seven years, I find this the most difficult thing to control.’ This statement shows that if one engages in an ANR, they’re exposing themselves to temptation. There are many sinful things Scripture doesn’t expressly forbid, masturbation being one. Engaging in an ANR before marriage is another example, because an ANR is something sexual. Ezekiel 23:3, 8 and 21 tell us that breasts also serve a sexual purpose, but human experience also bears witness to their sexual nature apart from Scripture.
Unfortunately, I’ve come across some nursers who deny this but to be very frank, I think they’re suppressing the truth, because nipples are erogenous zones. Some things are just so risky that even if the Bible doesn’t explicitly prohibit them, if you practice them, you place yourself in a danger zone.
“Nancy”, since you’re His child…, God will most likely provide you a godly, loving husband to enjoy this intimacy with. Then you can experience uninhibited ANR joy without worrying about sinning. I’ve come to see God’s infinite wisdom in requiring us to flee from sexual immorality. The passion, joy, selfless service and thrill of marital lovemaking are well worth the wait.
Any kind of nursing with multiple women is a sin as you rightfully point out, whether married to any of them or not. God certainly hates that and doesn’t play around with sexual sin.”
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
How Christ’s blood was, spiritually speaking, transfused into sinful human veins, is modeled by the way a wife, as an image bearer of Christ, transfers her life- and health-giving milk into her husband’s digestive system.
The medical field has many parallels to Christianity, and to ANR.
Like Christ saved his Bride’s life eternally, she seriously could be saving his temporally.
This is made even sweeter if he suffers from any ailments. She’d be an answer to his prayers in more ways than one.
What could be more beautiful than when women are relied on as lifesavers, in the most literal sense? Is there a better way to realize women’s intrinsic worth than when we view them as holding the key to life and well-being?
“I just like how it feels. And I like the idea of my breasts being full of milk.”
K, ANR-seeking Christian woman:
“[I’m looking for a] man who comes home from a long day of work filled with stress and the worries and frustrations of the day and seeks my full, milky breasts to relax and unwind.”
No one can fault these women at all. I also love full, milky breasts, and not just because I’m a man. If I were a woman, I’d love the idea too.
Full, heavy, milk-dripping breasts connote God’s original design of abundance prior to the Fall.
Without a doubt, the Garden of Eden was a lush place, with overflowing fountains all over the place.
God is pro-bountiful fruits.
He doesn’t like dry wells. In a perfect world, every married woman’s breasts would be full of milk, as Eve’s most likely were.
Months ago, I posted a piece on how women have historically breastfed sick adults to boost their immune systems. Unmarried readers, especially men, do not take this as a license to indulge in an ANR.
The context is vastly different.
God considers context and motive. A Chinese woman breastfeeding a deathly sick adult in public view in a hospital in the eighteenth century is very different from you creeping with a lactating woman in 2021. Night and day difference.
Trust me, God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. I’ve seen it happen. I know of a man who won’t stop cheating on his wife despite the firm warnings of his brothers from church. He ended up dying suddenly. There are other reasons that have me convinced God is searching us and nothing escapes His judgment.
He allows the ungodly to have their fun now, knowing they’ll have their day in Court. But the righteous He chastizes right away so we know He is Judge, and He tolerates no competititors.
Finally, then, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification:[b] that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body[c] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives inc you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.”d20 And again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”e
Footnotes: c 3:16 Or among. d 3:19 Job 5:13. e 3:20 Ps 94:11.
Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Before I pray for God’s help, let me show you from the text why prayer is so needed right now. For the fourth time in this Gospel, John shows us the spiritual blindness that Jesus deals with in us humans almost all the time—either because we are dead in our sin and unbelieving and need to be born again, or because as believers our spiritual eyes have grown dim and unresponsive to the glory of Christ because of worldliness.
Four Glimpses of Our Blindness
First, in John 2:19, Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And the Jews said to him, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” They had no spiritual sight for what Jesus was talking about, namely, his own death and resurrection. They were blind to the glory of what he was revealing—that he himself is the presence of God more than the temple is, and that when he rises from the dead, from then on, he will be the place where people meet God.
Second, in John 3:3 Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Nicodemus had no spiritual sight of what Jesus was talking about, namely, there is a second birth that is spiritual. It brings into being something that did not exist before in you—a living spirit and the ability to see the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Third, in John 4:10, Jesus says to the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” And the woman says to Jesus, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.” She has no spiritual sight of what Jesus is talking about, namely, the supernatural spiritual life that that comes from receiving Christ himself—indeed, the supernatural life that he himself is.
And fourth, here in our text, John 4:31, his disciples say to Jesus, “Rabbi, eat.” And Jesus says to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” And the disciples said to each other, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” They had no spiritual sight of what he was talking about. Verse 34: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”
I will raise this temple in three days. It took 46 years to build this temple.
You must be born again. How can a man enter into his mother’s womb?
I will give you living water. You don’t have a bucket.
I have food to eat you do not know about. Who brought him something to eat?
We Need Holy-Spirit Help
Why does John keep showing us this pathetic response to the glory that Jesus reveals? He does it, first, to remind us over and over that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, so that we might see his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . and from that fullness, that we might receive grace upon grace” (John 1:14, 16).
And he does it, second, to remind us that without the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in our lives we are spiritually blind and dull and unresponsive—just like the Jews, and Nicodemus, and the woman at the well, and the disciples.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). We need the mighty, sovereign, life-giving, eye-opening, heart-wakening work of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we need to pray.
Father, have mercy upon our worldly, deadened, numb, unseeing, unresponsive, hearts. Breathe spiritual life into our souls. Open the eyes of our hearts. Shed divine, spiritual light into our minds. Awaken our Spirit-given ability to see and taste and know and understand and treasure the glory of Christ in your word. In his merciful and strong name, we pray. Amen.
Three Parts—With Explanation in the Middle
The way John tells the rest of this story about the woman at the well is very interesting. He deals with what happens to the woman and the town of Sychar in two parts at the beginning and the end of this text. And in the middle, between those two parts he gives us the words of Jesus to his disciples that explains the deeper dimension of what is happening with the woman and the town. So let’s focus first on what happens with the woman and the town.
Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
So she leaves her water jar and goes to the town and tells “the people”—it appears to be indiscriminate telling of everyone, in spite of how hesitant she was to talk to Jesus about her sordid life. She says he knew everything about her and wonders out loud if he might be the Messiah, the Christ. Jesus had said he was in verse 26. Verse 30 says the people were coming to Jesus.
Jesus Talking to a Woman
Though it’s not the main point of the text, John thought it was important enough to mention that the disciples were amazed he was talking to a woman. Verse 27: “They marveled that he was talking with a woman.” Remember in verse 31 that they call Jesus “Rabbi.” In Jesus’ day, men in general, and rabbis in particular, did not publicly talk to women. And for many of them, it was not out of seemliness, but out of misogyny—the deep distrust, disrespect, and dislike of women.
In its worst form, we saw it last Tuesday when George Sodini killed three women and injured ten at the LA Fitness gym in the Pittsburg area. He wrote in his journal:
No girlfriend since 1984 . . . . Who knows why. I am not ugly or too weird. No sex since July 1990 either (I was 29). . . . Over eighteen years ago. . . I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne—yet 30 million women rejected me—over an 18 or 25-year period.
And in his disgust for all women, he opens fire indiscriminately and then kills himself. I am not saying that rabbis or men in general in the first century felt this way. Sodini was an extreme pathological case. But women were not taught the Torah. And they were not treated, by and large, with respect and tenderness and appreciation.
Jesus Treated Women Differently
Jesus treated women differently—his mother, Mary Magdalene, the woman bent over for 18 years, the Syrophoenician woman, Mary and Martha, the widow with the two coins, and others. The main point that I think flows from Jesus is that God created man male and female in his image, with equal value and dignity and differing, complementary, honorable roles, and Jesus put in motion a reversal of the effects of the Fall. The Fall of Adam and Eve inclined women to be helplessly coquettish or brashly domineering, and it inclined men to be timidly passive or harsh and demanding. Sin could distort God’s design in either direction.
Wherever Christianity has become deeply rooted in a culture, the treatment of women has improved. If you saw the horrific film The Stoning of Soraya M, you got a glimpse of the dismal plight of millions of women today hidden away in cultures around the world where Jesus is not known and trusted and followed.
Women Respected Where the Gospel Takes Root
But wherever his word and his gospel take root and hold sway, men treat women with respect, and they take humble, courageous initiatives to protect women and create stable, loving families where the covenant faithfulness of husband and wife display the mystery of Christ and to his church to the world.
That’s the way Jesus meant it to be. And that’s one of the reasons that, of all the people in Samaria he could have sought out, he chose this woman.
Here Come the Townspeople
Verse 30 says, “They went out of the town and were coming to him.” Then comes the interruption. “Meanwhile . . .” and the coming of the townspeople picks up again in verse 39–42:
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
The most important thing to see here, because of its relationship to what Jesus says in the part we passed over, is that first the woman’s word leads to faith and then Jesus’ word leads to more faith. These two witnesses are mentioned twice. First, the woman’s witness. Verse 39: “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of thewoman’s testimony.” Then Jesus’ witness in verse 41: “And many more believed because of his word.”
Surprising Spiritual Awakening in Sychar
Then they are both mentioned again in verse 42. First, the woman’s testimony: “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe.” Then, Jesus’ testimony: “For we have heard for ourselves”—that is, heard Jesus. They believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world. He is the Messiah that is coming into the world and will rescue people from their sin and from the judgment of God (John 3:36).
That’s the amazing upshot of Jesus’ trip to Samaria—a surprising spiritual awakening in the town of Sychar. An unlikely woman becomes the means of an unlikely people turning to the Jewish Messiah, even though they were not even full-blooded Jews. This should encourage us in the pluralistic, religiously and ethnically diverse world that we live in. God has a people in Samaria, and he has chosen surprising instruments to reach them—maybe you.
The Deeper Dimension
Now between verses 27–30 at the beginning and 39–42 at the end, some tremendously important words of Jesus explain to us the deeper dimension of what is happening with the woman and the townspeople.
What’s happening is that Jesus is acting like God and revealing that the glorious messianic age—the kingdom of God—has begun.
The disciples tell him to eat in verse 31, “Rabbi, eat.” He says he has food they don’t know about (verse 32). They are puzzled. And he responds with almost incomprehensible words in verse 34: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” That’s very strange.
Who Can Talk Like This?
Food is what you need in order to work. Food is what gives you strength for work. So Jesus is saying, “I am strengthened to do what God has given me to do by doing what God has given me to do. My source of energy for doing God’s will is doing God’s will.”
Who can talk like this? God can talk like this. We mere humans need sources of power from outside ourselves. God gets his source of power from within himself. As man, Jesus got tired and thirsty and hungry. He needed food like the rest of us. But as God, his power to act was to act.
Human, Yes, and More Than Human
So Jesus is revealing himself to be no mere mortal. Human, to be sure—but more than human. The Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 14). He revealed his glory again and again. I am sustained to finish God’s work by finishing God’s work.
But there is something more specific implied here that is going to make the connection with verses 35 and 36 make sense. When Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me,” what is the will of him who sent him? God’s will for Jesus—the work he gave him to accomplish—is to give eternal life.
Listen to John 12:49–50, “The Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment . . . And I know that his commandment is eternal life.” Or John 6:39: “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”
“I Am Food, I Am Life”
So when Jesus says in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work,” he means, “My food is to give eternal life.” That is, my source of strength to give eternal life is to give eternal life. I give life because I am life. I am the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). My food is to be what I am. And I am life. Living water. Bread from heaven. I don’t just eat food. I am food. I don’t get life. I give life.
This helps explain the strange direction his words take in verses 35–36: “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life [there’s the link!], so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.” Jesus is reaping eternal life. That’s what he has been doing with this woman and, through her, is doing even now among the people of Sychar.
Collapsing Sowing and Reaping into One
And he is so free and sovereign he is not at all dependent on the usual four months it takes between sowing and reaping. Jesus is collapsing sowing and reaping into one event. God can do that sort of thing. Human can’t. And that is what the messianic age is to be like, according to the prophet Amos:
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the plowman [the sower] shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” (Amos 9:13)
Jesus is showing his disciples, and us, that these are the beginning of those days. I am the Messiah. I bring the messianic age. It has begun. And he says at the end of verse 36 that he is already reaping fruit for eternal life (with no natural gap of months) “that sower and reaper may rejoice together.” What he is doing here is collapsing sowing and reaping into one event so that the joy is a foretaste of what Amos saw.
Both Sower and Reaper
Jesus is both sower and reaper at the same time. He is orchestrating the entire event by working as sower and reaper—speaking the word and reaping its fruit.
Jesus concludes in verses 37–38 by drawing the disciples into his work: “For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” In other words, You are going to share in the reaping. But others have labored before you. Who are they? I think the answer is Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus has been sowing with his word and gathering fruit for eternal life as the great reaper. And the woman has been sowing with her word to the townspeople.
That’s why the story returns in verse 39–42 to the testimony of the woman and the testimony of Jesus. Remember, the townspeople believe because of her word, and then more believe because of Jesus’ word. This is the labor of “others” that the disciples enter into. “Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
The Upshot for Us
So here is the upshot for us:
1. Jesus is the glorious Son of God and Savior of the World whose food is to accomplish God’s purpose, namely, to be food that gives eternal life. He doesn’t need life-giving food; he is life-giving food. He sows the world, and he reaps eternal life. May God give you eyes to see his glory and treasure him over all.
2. His coming is the beginning of the messianic age. The old patterns of four months between sowing and reaping don’t hold. God is full of surprises. Jesus can collapse any interval he pleases. Pray for wonders in sowing and reaping in your life and around the world.
3. All our labor is important. God uses men and women (sinful, forgiven men and women) to sow and reap. And we are always entering into the labor of another, especially Jesus’. His labor is always decisive. Especially the labor of the cross. This was his main food. My food is to accomplish the work God gave me to do. And with the cross in view, where he died for our sins, he said, “Father, I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
Very often, the best questions we get are very simple ones, like this one today from Maxine, a longtime listener to APJ. “Pastor John, hello and thank you for this podcast. Can you explain to me: Who wrote the Bible?”
Well, let’s start at the top and work our way down to who held the very quill that moved across the parchments.
God Has Spoken
At the top is God. When Christians refer to the Bible as the word of God, they mean that — and I would say, I mean. I’m one of those people who believe this; I’d stake my whole life on it. So, I mean that the Creator of the universe, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who upholds the universe by the word of his power, was guiding and is guiding all things according to a great purpose. That God has chosen to reveal himself to human beings in human language. He has chosen to speak. Amazing. Hebrews 1:1–2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son [Jesus Christ].” That’s simply staggering: God has spoken.
The phrase “Thus says the Lord” occurs over four hundred times in the Old Testament, as the writers put forward in their writings that God has spoken. The phrase “God said” occurs over six hundred times in the Old Testament. So, there’s this pervasive claim of the human writers that they are delivering what God wants said.
The way the New Testament writers express this claim is to say that the human writers of the Bible were “inspired,” that these writings are “God-breathed,” or that the people who wrote them were “carried along by the Spirit.” For example, the apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture [that is, for him at that time, all the Old Testament books of the Bible] is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction.” The apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:21, “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
So, the question “Who wrote the Bible?” always has a double answer in the Bible. Human authors wrote the Bible, and God wrote the Bible through the human authors. They actually held the quill that moved across the parchment, but what they wrote was ultimately what God wanted written.
I love the way Jesus did this. He gave us an amazing indication that he believed the Old Testament Scriptures were, in fact, God’s word, God’s writing. What makes this indication that Jesus gave so powerful is because it’s so inadvertent. He’s talking about divorce, and he answers the Pharisees’ question by saying, in Matthew 19:3–5, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said . . .” The subject of that verb is “he who created them.” That’s God. Then he quotes Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” But that verse was not a quotation of God in the Old Testament; it was written by Moses, the human author. But when Jesus quotes it, because it’s from the Scriptures, the inspired Scriptures, Jesus says, “God said those words.” That’s amazing. That’s a really powerful indication of how our Lord himself viewed the Old Testament Scriptures.
“God has chosen to reveal himself to human beings in human language. He has chosen to speak.”
Which is why he said in Matthew 5:17–18, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets” — in other words, the whole Old Testament. Don’t think that I’ve come to abolish them. I haven’t come to abolish them. They’re God’s word. I have come to fulfill them. “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot [not the smallest part of the Scriptures], will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” And Jesus said in John 10:35, “Scripture cannot be broken.”
This is also how the New Testament apostles saw their own writings — not just the Old Testament, but the New Testament writings. Jesus had promised them that he would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). And Paul said, therefore, “We impart this [that is, what he’s revealing in his letters] in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:13).
So, there are always two answers to the question “Who wrote the Bible?” God and man. Ultimately, God saw to it that what he wanted written was written. And in that sense, you could say God wrote the Bible. But we would not mean that he carved it in stone (although he did carve the Ten Commandments in stone on Mount Sinai and gave them to Moses). And we would not mean that God held the hand of the human writers and wrote in his heavenly style, not their human style. That’s not the case. The human authors have their own style, and God guides it. He doesn’t impose on it his singular style. We would simply mean that God superintended the human writing so that the authors wrote what he wanted written.
Who Were the Human Writers?
So, who were the human writers of the Bible? That’s the most direct way this question was posed. Let me try to answer it as directly.
At least ten of the books of the Bible are unsigned. The authors did not see fit to include their names in the books they wrote. For example, Job and Esther in the Old Testament — we don’t know who wrote them. In the New Testament, Hebrews — we don’t know who wrote Hebrews. But the traditional list of authors would go like this:
Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible and at least one of the Psalms (Psalm 90).
Ezra the scribe wrote the books of Ezra and 1–2 Chronicles.
Nehemiah wrote the book of Nehemiah.
Psalm writers include David, Asaph, the sons of Korah, Ethan, Heman.
Solomon wrote some of the Psalms, most of the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
Agur and Lemuel wrote some of the Proverbs.
Then all the prophets wrote the books by their own name:
Jeremiah, who also wrote Lamentations
Then the writers of the Gospels in the New Testament:
Luke, who also wrote Acts
In fact, it’s interesting: If you’d ask most people, “Who wrote most of the New Testament?” they’d probably say Paul, because he wrote thirteen letters. But actually, Luke wrote most of the New Testament because the books of Luke and Acts together comprise more of the New Testament than any other author — which is why we named our first son Luke, but nobody calls him Luke anymore; he goes by Karsten.
Paul wrote those thirteen letters.
James, the Lord’s brother, wrote a letter.
Peter and Jude wrote letters.
And finally, John (who wrote the fourth Gospel) wrote the letters that bear his name, along with Revelation.
Inspired to Display Glory
Those are the human authors who wrote the Bible. But here’s one of the most important things, and I’ll end with this, which needs to be said.
Just as the heavens are telling the glory of God, so that we should be able to look at nature and discern in it the hand of God (Psalm 19:1), and just as John said of Jesus Christ, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14), so that those who saw Jesus should have discerned that this is the Son of God, in the same way, the glory of God shines forth from his handiwork in the very word of God that he inspired — the Bible — through the human authors, so that we can say, in a similar way, that we have seen here the hand of God, the truth of God. This is his word.
1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Treasure in Jars of Clay
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Studies suggest that a component of human milk could provide health benefits for grown-ups as well as babies, but some scientists remain sceptical
Mother’s milk isn’t just for babies anymore.
Global chemical giants DowDuPont and BASF are investing millions to ramp up production of an indigestible sugar found naturally in breast milk. Infant formula makers like Nestle can’t get enough of the synthetic ingredient. Now the companies are eyeing a potentially bigger customer: adults. DuPont estimates the annual market could reach $1bn (£770m).
Human milk oligosaccharide is the third most common solid in breast milk, after lactose and fat. HMO escapes digestion, allowing it to reach the colon where it feeds beneficial bacteria. HMOs may explain why breast-fed babies tend to fare better than formula-fed, said Rachael Buck, who leads HMO research at Similac formula-maker Abbott Laboratories.
“It’s just been a fascinating treasure trove of benefits that we’ve uncovered,’’ Buck said.
In babies, HMOs strengthen the developing immune system, helping fight infection and inflammation while aiding brain development, according to early research. New studies show those benefits may extend to people of all ages, fitting neatly into consumers’ growing fascination with probiotics — the “good” bacteria that can help keep a human body healthy.
Synthetic HMOs come from the formula industry’s quest to manufacture a breast-milk substitute that’s as close to the real thing as possible. The purported benefits are still viewed with skepticism by some in the scientific community — especially when they come at a premium price.
“Never assume that the addition of a component of human milk actually makes the formula like human milk,’’ said Steven Abrams, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on nutrition. “It’s not,” said Abrams, a Dell Medical School professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
HMOs could lead to treatments for adult ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome, allergies and even the ageing brain, Buck said. An animal study at Abbott’s labs showed that HMO stimulated the vagus nerve, “a superhighway communicating from gut to brain,” she said. “This has the potential to help both brain development early in life and, later in life, brain decline.”
Commercial production is typically accomplished through a fermentation process using giant vats filled with microbes genetically engineered to produce specific HMO varieties, such as 2’FL.
DuPont plans to spend $40m building out its HMO production capacity this year, its second biggest capital investment after expanding a factory that makes Tyvek. Meanwhile, it’s partnering with Lonza Group AG to make enough product to meet current demand. DuPont will become a stand-alone company when it splits from DowDuPont on 1 June.
After two decades of research, Abbott was first to bring HMOs to the US baby nutrition market in 2016. It’s now expanded to 15 countries. Nestle last year rolled out HMO formula in Gerber and other brands across 40 countries. HMOs nourish bacteria that “train’’ immune system cells, 80 percent of which reside in the gut, said Jose Saavedra, Nestle chief medical officer.
The health claims propelled about $600m in sales of HMO formula last year for each of Abbott and Nestle.
Among Abbott’s customers was Heidi Haydock, a senior manager at Cardinal Health, who two years ago wasn’t able to breast feed her newborn son because she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. Concerned about the development of his digestive system, she fed him Similac with HMO.
“With a mom who can’t give breast milk, you kind of feel deficient,’’ Haydock said. “Being able to give the next best alternative made me feel better.’’
While some research indicates advantages to HMO-enhanced formula, it’s not clear that there’s a long-term health difference, Abrams said. In the US, babies fed generic formulas, which are as much as 50 per cent cheaper, have outcomes “every bit as good’’ as those fed pricier formulas, Abrams said.
Even in nature, breast milk can vary depending on the different kinds of sugars produced by each mother. DuPont and BASF are focusing on making the most common version of HMO, which consists of the 2’FL sugar. That’s where the benefits can be seen most clearly, according to Nestle’s Saavedra: Babies getting 2’FL from their mothers have slightly lower rates of acute infection than babies whose mothers are deficient in that HMO.
BASF began scaling up production of 2’FL earlier this year, and it’s studying how the different health effects of HMOs might be developed into a range of products beyond baby formula.
“Our aim is to expand on our scientific know-how on specific health functions of HMOs to adults as well,” said Stefan Ruedenauer, BASF director of human nutrition research and development. “BASF will have a pipeline of science-driven products with substantial health benefits of HMOs in the near future.”
Smaller rivals making the ingredient include closely held Jennewein Biotechnologie and FrieslandCampina of Germany.
Danish biotechnology company Glycom is targeting the adult digestive health market with HMO supplements it began selling in the US and Europe late last year. The company touts its Holigos IBS product as managing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including abdominal pain, constipation diarrhoea and bloating. It sells 28 doses on Amazon for $50.
HMO is just one part of DuPont’s larger foray into digestive health, a loosely regulated market growing 20 per cent a year. The company sees an estimated $5bn annual opportunity developing gut-health products, though some experts question whether the supplements benefit everyone. DuPont is already a leader in probiotics, offering the widest variety of strains and operating the world’s largest probiotics fermentation plant, in Rochester, New York.
DuPont’s is marketing its 2’FL HMO, branded as CARE4U, to consumer manufacturers who can use it in adult supplements for digestive and immune health, said Ratna Mukherjea, global research and development leader at DuPont.
DuPont is researching how to produce more of the 130 or so HMO varieties found in breast milk as the company identifies those with the most potential health benefits, Mukherjea said. More HMO varieties are already in the commercial pipeline.
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, c and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Footnotes: c 41 A denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer (see Matt. 20:2).
vv. 44-46: the woman’s actions towards the Lord were more personal and intimate than if she simply used water or a cloth. God deeply values bodily intimacy.