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At Christmas, we’re in the climate of proclamation. Herald trumpets, maybe a whole brass section to announce the choir’s proclamation—such things seem the order of the day. The gospel is entering human experience—good news! The words are derived from the Old English godspel or “good telling.” The very concept suggests proclamation—something too good to keep to yourself. The Lost Coin and Lost Sheep parables Jesus told both conclude with a joy of recovery toogreat to be suppressed. It must be shared—proclaimed.
Jesus has been talking to a woman at the well in Sychar, and what he says sets her on fire. She’s so excited she leaves her water pot (John 4: 27a). “Come see a man who told me all the things I ever did. This isn’t the Christ, is it?” Is she shouting? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Remember: Though she’s well-known, she isn’t respected. Now, all that seems irrelevant and who she is isforgotten. Her “good telling” owns their attention. The response of those who hear attests to the power of her words. John reports: “They [i.e., the Samaritans] went out of the city and were coming to him” (John 4: 27 b). Jesus stays with them two days, and they tell her, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4: 42).
Good news isn’t just enthusiasm. It’s content, as real as the shine on that lost coin the woman is thrilled to show her friends, as real as the weight of that lost sheep the shepherd brings back on his shoulders and has to shout about: “I found it!” Jesus has engaged in an intense back and forth with this woman, stirring her curiosity by suggesting there’s something about the identity of the person who’s asked for a drink (something about Jesus himself) that if she knew, she would be asking him for water—“living water.”
What does he mean—well water? Not water in a ditch, she thinks. Then she says, “You don’t have a way to draw and this well’s deep. Where do get this living water?”
Jesus ignores her skepticism, her literalism and says: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give will never thirst, but the water that I give will become in the one who gets it a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4: 14). A very odd and cryptic comment!
Who is this man? What’s he talking about? Lots of questions, but when she goes into town and stirs people up, her tone suggests no ambiguity. She says, “This isn’t the Christ, is it?” and her question rings like a proclamation. She’stouched a subject everyone is interested in—the coming Messiah. She broached the topic with Jesus when she asked about “the One.” That meant the Christ, who, she says, will “declare all things” (John 4: 25). Jesus answered and doing so declared the good news: Yes, the Messiah has come. This is my identity.
He said, “I who speak to you am.”
This is the literal Greek. To make the sentence work in English, translators add the pronoun, “I who speak to you am he”(John 4: 26). I AM is the holy name of God revealed to Moses at that strange bush, on fire but not consumed by the flames (Ex 3: 13-17).
Jesus faced the hostile mob from Jerusalem the night he was betrayed and asked, “Whom do you seek” (John 18: 4). “Jesus the Nazarene,” they said. His answer was: “I am” (John 18: 6). We read, “So when he said to them, ‘I am,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18: 8). This amazing occurrence is easily missed in the rush of the terrible drama unfolding. Don’t let anyone tell you that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah. He declares it. He speaks the ancient name of God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who told Moses, “This you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you” (Ex. 3: 14b).
The quiet answer Jesus gives the woman of Sychar is the same and it contains irrefutable power. She doesn’t draw back and fall to the ground as did those coming to Gethsemane to take Jesus, but her excited words, an outburst no doubt breathless with hope, make her another proclaimer—like the Bethlehem shepherds, like the multitudes of angels compelled to cry out the news, like Christians throughout the ages who’ve affirmed, whether boldly or quietly: Jesus is Lord!The proclamation is ours and this is the season.