Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
(John 4:31-34 ESV)
As someone who has struggled all his life to eat the right things at the right time, this passage is very disconcerting. I just came back from a conference in Los Angeles this week. The subject of the conference (I published my notes on this blog at www.the-morning-watch.blogspot.com if you want to see them) was church planting. But the subtext -- the thing that kept coming up in conversation -- was food. It seemed we were always discussing where the best Mexican or Asian restaurant was in Los Angeles, where to get the best burritos or Korean bar-b-q. Three of the young men at the conference had recently lost a combined 170 pounds. Each in their early-to-mid 30s, they were prime examples of our cultural quest for the perfect body. And they were achieving their goals!
There were other men at the conference built more like me. I remember when I was a teen swearing in my own thoughts that I’d never let myself weigh more than 160. At one point just before I had my gall bladder out last year I weighed 260. I’ve been hovering around 240 for the past year, and I’ll admit that the discipline these young men displayed in losing the extra baggage they were carrying have inspired me. Now all I have to overcome is the principle of inertia: bodies at rest tend to stay at rest.
Enter the story of the Jesus and the Woman at the Well (John 4). The chapter begins by saying Jesus “left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria.” A quick look at any map will tell you that you don’t have to pass through Samaria (North WEST of Judea) to get to Galilee (North EAST of Judea). In fact, that’s probably the last way any self-respecting Jew would take to get home to Galilee. Still, it was good exercise. You have to cross the hill country of Judea to get over to Samaria, which lies more along the Mediterranean. The usual way people got to Galilee was by water, traveling up the River Jordan – much easier on the ol’ legs.
Once Jesus got to Sychar (a kind of first century tourist trap because Jacob’s Well was there), he sends his disciples into town to buy food. When he meets the woman, they talk about water:
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “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.”
You know, the woman never did get to fill her water jar. And as the text we started with attests, Jesus never did get his lunch.
How many times have I sat down to read the Bible in the morning and been diverted by making breakfast or putting the coffee on and never gotten back to God’s Word? Are pancakes or an egg sandwich all that much more interesting than Isaiah or the Psalms? Would I ever choose to take the hard way to get somewhere just because it might mean that I’d run into someone I could share Christ with? Would I walk instead of drive just because it would bring me in contact with people very unlike me? Would I be willing to miss lunch in order to walk the streets of Frog Hollow (a poor and very dangerous section of Hartford where a middle aged white would be very out of place)? The sad fact is that I might go there, but my reason would be to take in the food at El Sarape (931 Broad St., near the corner of Ward St.)
Jesus combined diet, exercise, and mission (going to Samaria), and won not only a woman, but many from the town of Sychar over. Now there’s a diet I could really get behind. Lord, help me to overcome my inertia.