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REMBRANDT, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: Part 5
 

Days of Miracles and Blessing

John also baptized Jesus; and while he prayed, the heavens were opened. The Spirit of God descended in the form of a dove, and a voice was heard, which said, "You are my most beloved son; in you I am well pleased."

Then Jesus too, began to preach and to baptize all those who wished to become new disciples, or as he called them, "children of the light." The religious leaders soon learned of his activities and were greatly agitated at this new distraction. Already, they were angered at how John the Baptist had undermined their authority, and shaken their carefully maintained position of power.

Jesus, accompanied by a small group of disciples, left the Jordan River, and traveled through a somewhat remote region known as Samaria. At the city called Sychar, they stopped to purchase supplies. This was near to the plot of ground that Jacob had purchased for "one hundred pieces of money," as recorded in the Old Testament book of Genesis, chapter thirty-three. The well that Jacob had dug more than fifteen hundred years earlier was still in use. And there, being weary from his journey, Jesus sat down to rest.

The disciples left Jesus at this quiet place, and went into the town to buy food. While they were gone, a Samaritan woman approached the well to draw water. Seeing the woman, Jesus asked her if she would draw some for him to drink.

Then the woman answered him, saying, "How is it possible, that you would ask anything from me, a Samaritan woman?" She said this because the Samaritans were considered to be social outcasts, even untouchables to the more privileged of birth and rank.

Jesus, anticipating her reaction, responded: "If your heart was opened to understand the gift of God...you would ask of me, and I would give to you what I have to offer - satisfying portions from wells of living water."

The woman was perplexed by these words, and said, "Where would you get such living water? Are you greater than our patriarch Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and their livestock?"


Jesus and the Samaritan woman
Oil on panel; 63.5 x 48.9 cm; c. 1655
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

But Jesus was not talking about water as we know it. With compassion, he answered her, "Whoever drinks from this well will soon thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I have come to give, will never thirst a second time. Whoever drinks of the living water, out of their very being shall flow fountains of everlasting life."

The woman was touched by Christ's patience, and by his words. She said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are some kind of prophet. Our fathers once worshipped on this mountain. But now, the religious leaders in Jerusalem say that only at the temple in Jerusalem can one truly worship God."


Jesus and the Samaritan woman
Etching; 12.3 x 10.6 cm; c. 1634
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet

But Jesus answered the woman, "Believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship God, neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem. Soon, true believers will worship God in spirit and in truth; for God seeks those who will, in this way, worship him. God is a Spirit, and those who wish to truly worship him must do so in spirit and in truth."

Then began a time of many miracles surrounding the life of Jesus, of which the following are but a few. There was, for example, a man afflicted with leprosy. Ostracized from the rest of society, the man lived a life of terrible pain and desperation. This same man came to Jesus and prostrated himself before his path. With heart-rending cries, he implored Jesus, "Oh Lord, if you are only willing, I know that you have the power to make me a whole man again!"


Jesus heals a leper
Pen and ink drawing; 14.7 x 17.2 cm; c. 1655-60
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet

Moved with tenderness, Jesus reached down and lifted the man to his feet, embracing him and saying, "I am willing. Be cleansed."

Immediately, the terrible disease left the man's body. The man was overcome with joy, and in spite of Christ's warning that he not broadcast what had happened, he began to tell anyone who would listen what Jesus had done. The news spread like a brush fire from village to town, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the cities, but was forced to address the crowds that followed him in the open fields outside the city walls.