Loving our Lord God and each other are the greatest commandments. (Matthew 22:36-40) We commonly think of neighbors as the people who live near us, but Jesus meant it to include all mankind – even our enemies! “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:17-18)
You have probably all heard the story of Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:3-26). Jews did not associate with Samaritans in that day; they were considered unclean. But Jesus came to save all who will believe in Him by faith. “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” (John 4:13-14) Jesus did not offer her eternal life because she was worthy, but because He loved her as He does all of us. There is nothing we can do, no works that we can perform, that will ever make us worthy of His grace and mercy. We can only come to the Father through our faith in Jesus by our faith; it is a free gift we are all offered. We have only to accept it.
This morning I read a story in my Bible study that illustrates this point. “Geoffrey” a young boy living in the slums of London, heard that evangelist D. L. Moody had come to preach in a local church and he decided to go hear him. After walking all day, Geoffrey arrived at the church as the sun was setting. Just as he was about to enter the church, a doorman looked down at the little boy with uncombed hair, unwashed face, unclean clothes, and unshod feet and declared, “Not you! You’re too dirty to go inside!”
Geoffrey tried to find another entrance, but all the doors were locked. Finally, he plopped down on the front steps and tears began to trickle down his cheeks. Just then a distinguished-looking gentleman arrived. Noticing the tear stains on the young boy’s cheeks he stopped to ask what was wrong. The boy told him he came to hear Dr. Moody preach, but “they say I’m too dirty to go inside”. Dr. Moody took the boy’s grimy hand and said, “Come with me”. Hand in hand they walked up the steps, and the man seated him in the front row, walked up to the pulpit and began to preach. That man was D. L. Moody.
Geoffrey was allowed inside the church only because he was holding the hand of Dr. Moody. His acceptance was based solely on his identification and relationship with the preacher. Heaven is closed to us as sinners because we are too dirty to enter. But Jesus offered us His hand at the cross. When we put our hand of faith in His, our sins are forgiven, we are cleansed, and we enter into a personal relationship with Him, and He walks with us hand in hand. And because of His work on the cross (not our doing), the gates of heaven will be opened wide for us because of our relationship and identification with Him.
The disciples returned from town with food and saw Jesus with the woman at the well. Jesus used this moment to teach them what He wants all of his disciples to know (that’s you and me): “open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest! Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.” (John 4:35b-37)
And then His point was perfectly illustrated by the Samaritan woman. When she received the good news from Jesus she ran to tell everyone she knew, and many came to believe because of her testimony. Many others came to believe because they followed her back to the well and met Jesus personally (John 4:39-42).
As we have been discussing this week, I see evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in people’s hearts; they are searching for comfort, peace and truth. We have the answer in Jesus Christ, and it is up to us to love our “neighbors” enough to share the good news of Jesus with others. It is not our job to convict–the Holy Spirit is doing that–but only to tell what we know and to share His cure for eternal damnation. The Lord came to save the world. We are not to judge who the Holy Spirit calls. No one is too dirty or too sinful to take His hand. The Lord came to save us all. “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”