Today is day twenty-six in this ninety-day journey through the New Testament. It’s been a great journey, but it has been exhausting. The gospels are unrelenting, and my head spins with this new picture of Jesus.
Today’s reading is from John 4 through John 6.
And through today’s reading, we find this mobile God, this tabernacle God, exposing secrets.
Secrets are addictive, aren’t they? Especially when they are destructive secrets. They are like a strong clouded hand that grips our every moment. Yet we can’t fathom life without them.
Even as they destroy us.
Sometimes that process is slow, with glimmers of hope that crack those secrets, giving us some respite, but nevertheless, they still grow, like a violent but lazy tumor. And sometimes they destroy us quickly. They unravel our sanity, and by doing so, they unravel our relationships, almost overnight.
And the longer we hold our secrets, the more we fear the truth. We fear what happens when people know. We’ve been deceitful for so long, that revealing the truth is just death by inches. So we become willing hostages to our secrets. We love them, because they have shaped our identity. That identity would be shattered by truth, and everything we’ve so carefully, and diabolically built would be ruined. So we run from it.
Holding our secrets, then, makes us change our habits. We adapt to a lifestyle of hiding. Even when we still function normally in society, we are still hostages. And though we can manage a life held hostage by those secrets, our own power to manage those secrets convinces us that we are, in fact, our own god. And, in turn, we begin to worship the lie that secrets aren’t destructive until they are discovered.
And all the while, our hearts drown in these thoughts, in these behaviors, and we settle into this prison as desperate hostages. We constantly manipulate our environment, hoping that we can salve the hurt of what we are hiding by constantly keeping it hidden.
The Word of God, though, breaks the power of those secrets.
In John 4, he finds a Samaritan woman drawing water from a well in the heat of the day. She is alone. And she is alone because of her secrets. Drawing water at noon was not normal. The heat was exhausting, and the trip from the well, to the town, carrying water, would have been much more difficult to bear in the burdensome heat. Yet that’s where Jesus finds this woman.
Water is normally and usually drawn in the early morning, when the weather is cool. Every woman and child would be there at first light, drawing water for their families. Water jars would be filled, conversations shared, laughter and gossip passed around, then everyone would leave to rejoin their families.
But this particular woman has manipulated her environment. She would rather draw water at the hottest moment of the day, when the sun is directly over her, than to face the conversations and social activity of the morning drawing.
She is held hostage by her secrets.
Yet, before the Word of God, her secrets are exposed. Her life has been tattered by broken relationships. She has become greatly embarrassed by the number of her former lovers. She is trapped. And she is disgusted with herself. Her secrets have made her someone she never wanted to be.
And Jesus’ offer of water that will forever quench her thirst was like gold. She would take anything that would keep her from coming to this well every day, in the middle of the day. It’s enough to bear the heavy water jars. It’s more than enough to face her mistakes every day because she is too ashamed to join the community at the well during the morning hours.
But when Jesus exposes her secrets, he does something more. He frees her from years of enslavement by those secrets. He frees her from her constant need to manipulate her life to hide every single mistake.
His story is bigger than her story now. As she tells this encounter to the people in town, they look past all of her mistakes, and find this man who knew those mistakes without ever asking. It seemed, then, that there were a few more people in this Samaritan village who were held hostage by their own secrets.
Because once they met him, they called him the Savior of the world. He freed them all.
But freedom isn’t always what is desired. Secrets become cozy to us. Some of us can’t fathom letting them go.
A man, lame and unable to walk, begged for pennies for thirty-eight years. He sat, of all places, next to a pool of water known to have healing powers. Jesus finds him, and, of all the questions he could have asked this man, he asked him this:
“Do you want to get well?”
Such a profound question. Here is a man, a beggar, unable to walk, beside a pool of healing waters, and Jesus asks this question?
Jesus then heals the man on the Sabbath, though, a day when any sort of work is forbidden by Jewish standards. Not only does this man walk, but he also is forced to carry his mat away from the temple, and he is indicted for this. It’s a holy day of rest. He shouldn’t be carrying his mat around.
And instead of offering a praise for his healing, he is trying to convict Jesus for healing him. It wasn’t his fault. He is only carrying his mat because his legs now work. Blame the healer, not the healed.
Once he discovered the healer’s name was Jesus, he shared that information with the Jewish rulers who questioned him. And thus, because of this man’s testimony, the Jews began their plot, in the gospel of John, to kill Jesus.
Secrets are powerful. Intoxicating. Painful. It was much more convenient for this lame man to remain lame than to be healed. He had managed, for almost forty years, a lifestyle of begging. Now, with legs that could walk, his begging days were over. He would now need to find a job. To work. And this wasn’t at all what he wanted. In a sense, he returned to the prison of his secrets, by now holding new ones. He was much more comfortable being a victim of his paralysis, so he became a victim of his healing.
Because he worshiped his secrets. He worshiped his former identity. Life had become manageable.
But Jesus refuses to keep us in a manageable life. He refuses to let us remain hostages to our own manipulations. He refuses to let our secrets rule our lives. His freedom is complete.
It is so complete, too, that he gives us the freedom to respond to our release in any way we want.
Don’t return to that prison.