Drawing examples from the Gospel of John, this series is dedicated to the theme of “you belong here.” As a church, we want people to feel like they belong, whether they are Christian or pre-Christian, believer or nonbeliever. Within the church, there is a place for everyone. There is a common misconception that church is only for good people. Many pre-Christians believe they aren’t good enough or smart enough to come to church. A healthy church will have people all across the spectrum of belief and at various stages of responding to Jesus.
January 3 – What You Might Have in Common with Jesus
If you’ve ever felt rejected or unwelcomed, then you are good in company – the same thing happened to Jesus. Although many of the common people were attracted to Jesus and his message, the Jewish leaders and authorities viewed Jesus as either a threat or a blasphemer. Isaiah 53 reminds us that Jesus was “despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:3). In many respects, Jesus was the ultimate outsider both then and now. This message is intended to establish common ground between Jesus and those who feel like they don’t belong.
January 10 – The Outcast
John 4 tells the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. While the conversation initially begins with a request for water, Jesus quickly steers it into a topic that she was trying to avoid: her shame. There was a reason why she was drawing water at a time of day when few other people would be there. She had been married multiple times and was currently living with someone who was not her husband. When Jesus asks about her husband, he is not trying to embarrass her but to prove that he is from God. In this story, there are several levels of outcast involved: how Jews viewed Samaritans, how men treated women, and the fact that she had been married many times. Like people today, Jesus does not let her past or her status disqualify her from God’s love.
John 4:1-30, 39-42
January 17 – The Blind Man
The story of the blind man reveals our tendency to pre-judge people and how quickly we want to assign blame. In ancient Jewish culture, physical handicaps were viewed as God’s judgment on the person or their family. This is seen in the disciples asking Jesus, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” In the Old Testament, Jobs’ friend had the same theory as to why Job was experiencing suffering – he must have sinned. Jesus’ response likely confused the disciples when he said it was no one’s fault. Rather than recognize the miracle, the Pharisees are convinced that Jesus (the healer) is a sinner and that the blind man had been “steeped in sin at birth.” This is an important message about not prejudging people.
January 24 – The Doubter
The final message in the series will connect with many modern listeners who have doubts about Jesus or the church. Although Thomas had spent nearly three years with Jesus and the rest of the apostles, he still struggled to believe his friends when they claimed to have seen the risen Christ. Like many of us, he asked for proof. He had to see it to believe it. Graciously, Jesus later appeared to Thomas and showed his scars to Thomas. While we may not have every question answered, the larger question isn’t about facts as much as it is about faith – will we believe in Jesus even though we haven’t seen him?