Saviour of the World

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you – the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you – every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” 17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”              
(Genesis 9:8-17)

6 Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” … 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks” … 39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.” (John 4:6-42)
When Noah and his sons emerged from their long lockdown in the Ark, the Lord made a great covenant with them. It is normally known as “Noah’s covenant”, but that doesn’t really tell the full story. You see, God didn’t make his covenant with Noah alone. We are told that he put a rainbow in the sky to be a sign of his covenant, not just with Noah, but also with Noah’s children and with every different type of animal and bird that came out of the Ark with them. The Lord delights in the diversity of life when he makes this covenant with “all living creatures of every kind.”
Racism is the opposite of God’s delight in diversity. Instead of revelling in our differences, it sees those differences as the dividing lines in a cultural battle. It pits one tribe against another and, sadly, we discover in John 4 that even God’s people can fall into its trap. When Jesus reaches out to a Samaritan woman, she is flabbergasted. John explains to us that the Jews, who had been called to proclaim the Lord’s love and salvation to the world, had got into the habit of giving the Samaritans the cold shoulder. They didn’t like them and they refused to associate with them.

A few verses later, we see the flipside of racism. The Samaritans were an ethnic minority within Israel. Not without reason, they saw themselves as powerless victims – and that sense of victimhood blinded them to their own racism towards the Jews. Don’t miss the Samaritan woman’s sweeping generalisation when she rejects the kindness of Jesus on the basis of her prejudice that all Jews think that the Temple is the only valid place for worshipping the Lord. Jesus is quick to correct her, because that patently isn’t true, and because he has come to bring salvation to people like her. Whether you are part of the ethnic majority in your nation, or part of one of its ethnic minorities, these verses ought to challenge us. We can all act out of racial prejudice towards other people’s differences.

Jesus never forgot how much his Father loves diversity. He was happy to stay for two days with the Samaritans and to welcome them as his own. As a result, they exclaimed with delight: This man is the Saviour of the whole world!
1)   Why do you think we often find diversity threatening? How can we delight in it with the Lord?

2)   Where can you see examples in your own life of preferring people who are part of your own tribe, rather than reaching out to those who are different from you?

3)   As a church, how can we love one another with a love that crosses society’s dividing lines of race and age and gender?  How can our church life proclaim more and more clearly that Jesus is the Saviour of the whole world?
Father God, I find it easier to spot the prejudice in others than in myself. However much I love diversity, I know I don’t delight in it as much as you do. Please help me to be like Jesus, forging friendships with people who are very different from me. Help me to proclaim through my life that Jesus is the Saviour of the entire world . Amen.
If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.
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