Chapter 1 – The Bucket
One of the most famous Bible passages comes from the Gospel of John and involves Jesus encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well in the town of Sychar. The encounter is notable for many reasons. Of interest to us for the purpose of this discussion is the reaction of the woman (who is unnamed) to the figures of speech that Jesus uses while conversing with her about the character of the well and its water.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” NKJV
Jesus speaks to her metaphorically. He refers to spiritual water; the truth of God that brings everlasting life on which we should refresh our souls. Jesus is attempting to communicate a spiritual truth to the woman in spiritual terms. The woman, however, interprets what Jesus is saying from a physical perspective: “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.” In effect she is saying: “Where is your bucket?” As they draw to the end of the initial part of their conversation she appears to understand “living water” as a labor saving device: “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
The Bible is a Spiritual Book with a Spiritual message. If you try to understand the Scriptures by applying and utilizing the physical tools of scientific inquiry or measure its content on apothecary scales or by the literary standards of the Humanities Department at Harvard you will end up just as wrong- headed as the woman in Samaria. You cannot draw out the lifesaving message of the Bible (the living water) with physical means, such as a bucket. Understanding comes from viewing the content from a Spiritual perspective.
Time and again Jesus hearers misinterpret His meaning. He says famously: “Tear down this Temple and I will rebuild it in three days.” His hearers think he is intending to demolish the building. He is actually speaking metaphorically about the Temple of His body.
In perhaps the most famous New Testament passage; Jesus encounter with the Pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus says, “You must be born again.” Nicodemus interprets this phrase in physical terms and responds by saying: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” He misses entirely the point of Spiritual birth/rebirth that Jesus is trying to communicate and as the passage proceeds, Jesus chides him for it.
Pointedly, at John 6:53 Jesus says:
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed,[h] and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” NKJV
What was the reaction?
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” NKJV
They think that He is talking about literally eating His flesh and drinking His blood. They do not get that the term “bread of life” is a metaphor. And so verse 66 tells us that: “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”
Jesus, a bit incredulous responds:
61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. NKJV
This is entirely the point. God communicates to us through The Bible a Spiritual message in Spiritual terms. What is spoken through the Scriptures must be understood and interpreted in that light. Most often, Jesus hearers were only able to get the spiritual point he was making after he explained its meaning to them in non-figurative terms. Even then, many were still confused.
The words of spirit that God speaks to us are important. They are so important (“they are life”) that God identifies Himself to us through the Son as The Word: 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The English term “Word” is derived from the Greek word, “Logos”, and is defined as follows:
Logos – lo•gos - greek (ˈloʊ gɒs, -goʊs, ˈlɒg ɒs) – Reason or the rational principle expressed in words and things, argument, or justification; esp personified as the source of order in the universe
[from Greek: word, reason, discourse, from legein to speak]
1. The Word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order, identified in the Gospel of John with the second person of the Trinity incarnate in Jesus Christ.
- Logos (Logical) means persuading by the use of reasoning.
- Logos (Greek for ‘word’) refers to the internal consistency of the message–the clarity of the claim, the logic of its reasons, and the effectiveness of its supporting evidence. The impact of logos on an audience is sometimes called the argument’s logical appeal.
- The divine wisdom manifest in the creation, government, and redemption of the world.
a. In pre-Socratic philosophy, the principle governing the cosmos, the source of this principle, or human reasoning about the cosmos.
b. Among the Sophists, the topics of rational argument or the arguments themselves.
c. In Stoicism, the active, material, rational principle of the cosmos; nous. Identified with God, it is the source of all activity and generation and is the power of reason residing in the human soul.
a. In biblical Judaism, the word of God, which itself has creative power and is God’s medium of communication with the human race.
b. In Hellenistic Judaism, a hypostasis associated with divine wisdom.
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Logos is the creative Word of God and intelligent agent of order behind the resonant universe who speaks to us through the illustrations and parables of Jesus. But the Logos is not merely present in the person of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The Logos speaks to us through the ages: “13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”The Word speaks to us in the Old Testament as well and is powerfully present in the narrative of creation in Genesis. Just as The Word speaks to us words of Spirit in John, He also speaks to us words of Spirit in Genesis and just as the hearers of The Word in the first century needed to evaluate and understand the message of Jesus with its spiritual content and intent in mind so too must we evaluate the words of the Logos set down in Genesis with that mindset. We will address our analysis from a spiritual perspective not from a physical one.
What is the Bible?
The Bible is the book about the Relationship Between God and Man. It seeks to explain, define, and answer questions about that relationship.
People try to make the Bible out to be something that it is not. People want the Bible to answer questions that it does not purport to answer.
The Bible is not a book on geology. It is not penned to answer questions about the geomorphology of the earth. If you are a farmer, you will be sorely disappointed if you are looking into its pages to find answers about growing soy beans. Rocket technology is not discussed. Yet, people continually seek for answers to questions the Scriptures do not address, and when they do not get the answers they seek, the tendency is to disappointment, as was the case with many who heard Jesus. When disappointed that they are not finding the answers to the questions they seek, people tend to discredit the Scriptures or question their value or relevance.
But if you seek to understand the Bible on its terms and not measure it against the sensibilities of the contemporary social model it makes perfect sense and is not contradictory or incomprehensible.
The Bible has a spiritual message and it seeks to communicate spiritual truths. If you are seeking spiritual truth and an understanding of your relationship with God you will find the answers you are looking for (not necessarily the answers you want.). If you are interested in what happened to the dinosaurs or an explanation of prehistoric drawings in French caves, you will be disappointed; although we do touch on these subjects briefly in this writing.
The figures of speech of Jesus often confounded His hearers because they were trying to catch His meaning with a bucket. Put your bucket away. Lock away your physical tools and unpack your spiritual toolkit. Clear your mind of prejudices and preconceptions. I will explain to you what the words of Spirit spoken by The Logos mean.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.