39 From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of His word; 42 and they were saying to the woman, “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 4:39-42 – NASB95)
In the days of America’s founding fathers they said, “We hold these TRUTHS to be SELF-EVIDENT, that all men are CREATED equal, that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain inalienable rights, and among these are life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.” [Emphasis mine] Today people wonder about truth, self-evident truth, creation / creator, and liberty. The hope that abounded in Protestant America has been replaced by despair in Post-Modern America. As the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” What will tomorrow be like in our culture? Yogi Berra also said, “Prediction is very bad, especially when it’s about the future.” We are no longer in a Christian Culture in America! We live in what some have termed a “Post-Modern” culture. It is a culture that knows very little about Christianity and the claims of Jesus Christ. A culture that is ANTI-CHRISTIAN but not ANTI-JESUS. 30 years ago, David Barrett, professor of missiometrics at Regent University, claimed that about 156,000 Christians were martyred worldwide in 1994 alone. His statistics concluded, “One in every 200 Christians can expect to be martyred in his or her lifetime.”
In a world such as this do Christians go into hiding? Bury their heads in the sand? No! We go forward with renewed enthusiasm because Jesus said HE WOULD BUILD HIS CHURCH AND THE GATES OF HADES WOULD NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT! I believe we live in a time of GREAT OPPORTUNITY if we will open our eyes to it! How would Jesus handle the situation today? What would He do to transform the culture? Read John chapter four then come back to read the rest of this article. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
BACKGROUND: According to John 20:30-31, John systematically proves that Jesus is God and that He alone can save! John 2:23-25 tells us that Jesus knew exactly what was in the heart of man. In John 3, Nicodemus (great religious leader & teacher of Israel) comes to Jesus. Jesus knows what is in his heart & tells him he must be born again. Religion is not enough! Religious opposition grew at the beginning of John 4, so Jesus left Judea to go back to Galilee.
John 4 tells us that Jesus HAD TO pass through Samaria. Why did He have to? Most Jews would go around Samaria to get to Galilee because they did not want to be defiled by the half-breed Samaritans. But Jesus HAD TO fulfill the will of His Father (Lk. 19:10 – seek and save that which was lost). Jesus stops by Jacob’s well while the disciples go into town to get some food. A sinful Samaritan woman also comes to the well and Jesus asks her for help getting some water. That was unheard of in that day! Jews did not talk to Samaritans, men did not talk to women in public, and Jews certainly did not expect hospitality from Samaritans! The woman lets Jesus know that she is astonished by His request. In v. 10 Jesus informs her that if she had the answer to two critical questions it would change her life forever: Question #1: What is the gift of God? Question #2: Who is Jesus? If she had the answers to those two questions, she would forever stop asking what she could do for God and would instead ask God for what only HE could do for her!
Just like in contemporary America, even this “religious” Samaritan woman did not understand spiritual statements. She couldn’t get her mind off the physical. She asks Jesus if He is greater than her ancestor Jacob (fully expecting Him to say “no”). Jacob gave them water that had served them for centuries! Jesus masterfully guides her thinking from the natural to the supernatural; from the temporal to the eternal (v. 11-14). Jesus starts with her temporal need and then takes her to a greater need that only He can meet. Jacob gave her water that would satisfy for a moment, but Jesus would give her water that satisfies forever! The woman still doesn’t get it and asks for some of that physical water. Note that Jesus doesn’t say, “I’ve had it with you and your crazy religious beliefs. You obviously don’t get it and don’t want to get it!” Instead, He points her to a deeper thirst (forgiveness of sins and God’s righteousness).
He tells her to go get her husband and come back. He knew that she already had five husbands and was living in sin with another man at this time but wanted to show her WHO He really was. She perceives Him to be a prophet but does not yet acknowledge Him as God. She tries the old “smoke screen” technique by changing the topic from her personal sin to religious questions of the day (v. 20). Jesus explains to her that the answer cannot be found in “religion,” but only in a relationship with the living God. You can’t claim to worship God simply because you go to a shrine (or church) like your ancestors did. God is a SPIRIT and He knows what is going on in the heart! The issue is the HEART! The woman attempts to change the subject again to the Messiah who will come and straighten out the religious debates. Jesus tells her that HE is that Messiah!
The disciples return and are more concerned with the cultural issues of Jesus talking to a woman than they are with the spiritual issue of her lost soul. Note the questions they did NOT ask in v. 27! He had just told the woman that He (and the Father) seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. He spoke to her because it was the Father’s will that she hear the message of eternal life! The woman goes into town and gets a multitude of people “hungry” to know if this is the Messiah. The disciples meanwhile can only think about whether or not the Messiah is hungry!
Jesus makes it clear to them that fulfilling the Father’s will of seeking and saving the lost is His true food. He was sent by God to accomplish a spiritual work! Jesus uses a physical analogy of the spiritual concept He wants them to understand. He tells them to look on the fields and see that they are white for harvest. As He says this, the multitude of Samaritans (dressed in white) are walking toward Him to find out if He is the Messiah. Jesus has already sown the seed and they now have an opportunity to participate in the harvest! Some will sow the Word of God and others will reap (see the people respond) but all that participate get rewards.
The Samaritans invite Jesus to stay awhile and talk, and He stays for two days. As a result, many of the Samaritans come to believe that He is the Savior of the whole world.
Observations about the woman:
- She had ancestors who knew the God of Israel. She knew the religious jargon but didn’t know God. She had never been substantially influenced by the religion of Israel.
- Her life was somewhat out of control (five husbands, now a live-in boyfriend).
- She was a “worshiper.” She asked important questions but not always in the language of Israel.
Observations about America today:
- Americans have ancestors who knew about Christianity, but Christianity has little to no influence on the way they live. Statistics say that there are 140+ million secular people in America over the age of 14. America is the third largest mission field in the world (behind India and China). Unfortunately, less than 1% of churches in America are reaching secular people!
- Americans are out of control (Drugs, sex, materialism, etc.).
- Americans are worshipers (nature, cults, occult, Islam, etc.).
What will it take to reach secular people in America today? Five questions:
- Do we want to know secular people, or will we be like the Jews and not associate with Samaritans?
- Do we want secular people in our churches? (People that are not refined enough for us. People that are out of control and make us uncomfortable.)
- Are we willing to go where they are? Do we really have a mission from God?
- Are we willing to spend time with them? (Jesus spent an extra two days)
- Would we be willing to let them be a part of our church (hang-ups and all)?
What can we learn from Jesus:
- He began where she was instead of where He wanted her to be.
- He engaged her in CONVERSATION (honest, open, two-way).
- He used her language.
- He was genuinely interested in her. People are amazed to find out that God is interested in them.
- He treated her with respect & dignity.
- He made her aware of her need & let her know that He could meet it!
What can we do? Suggestions:
- Write the names of 5 people who don’t know Christ; pray for them; and spend time with them.
- Give them a copy of the Jesus Video and/or some other literature that can help them understand Who Jesus is and What He came to do.
- Get practical training in evangelism, then go out and use it!
- Make sure that you always point people to Jesus. He alone can meet the deepest needs of their lives!