Description / Transcription
To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life. So open our minds, give us humble hearts, give us concentration, give us grace to hear, to listen, to live according to Your Word. In Jesus we pray. Amen.
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to John, chapter 4, verses 27 through 42. John, chapter 4, beginning at verse 27, as we continue with our series, moving slowly but surely through the book of John, and in particular for several weeks, through this episode with the woman at the well. Verse 27.
“Just then His disciples came back. They marveled that He was talking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or, ‘Why are you talking with her?’ So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ They went out of the town and were coming to Him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought Him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word. So they said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
This is the third sermon dealing with Jesus and the woman of Samaria, the woman at the well. We’ve labeled these three sermons with three different acts of a play. Act one was water, act two worship, and now act three, witness. If you look at verse 39, “many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony,” the Greek word there translated “testimony” is the same word that is often translated “witness, to bear witness,” or “to give testimony to,” witness or to testify all come from the same Greek word. So this is a passage, a story about witnessing.
Now as soon as I say that this is a passage and this is going to be a sermon about witnessing, some of you get, get the spiritual heebie-jeebies. Okay, a sermon on prayer is bad, sermons on holiness are discouraging, sermons on tithing are annoying, but it’s hard to have anything worse than a sermon on witnessing. We’re going to leave here, we’re going to feel like we’re so bad and we have to go and twist people’s arms and sell something.
I was reading a book this week about fundamentalism in the first half of the 20th century in America. It was a fascinating book. At one point it told of students at a Christian college, this was in the early part of the 20th century, and there evaluated weekly on their Christian work. They had to log conversions in a weekly report card. They had to keep track in a log of demographic information for each evangelistic target, time spent in conversation, difficulties that arose, and the result of the encounter. I imagine this is what you’ve been learning for CO training all this week, right?
We know of people who, who do that. We hear that. And, and statistics were kept meticulously and they had a weekly review with a mentor who would sort of evaluate them and sometimes it was judged that they just weren’t deemed fit for Christian work if they didn’t have the quantitative measurement to support their case, and their statistics of targets reached and conversions accomplished would then be passed on to the college list of donors and alumni and this was great fundraising appeal.
On the one hand, surely we have to commend this evangelistic zeal. As D. James Kennedy, or it’s probably been attributed to many people, when criticism would arise of certain evangelistic strategies, said “I like my way of doing evangelism better than your way of not doing evangelism.” So, there is something to be said simply that these students were getting out and were sharing the Gospel with people. We commend them for it.
And yet, I think we all naturally cringe a bit, and I hope we would, at this sort of bureaucratic sales-like approach to witnessing. Go on, I want to see your log, I want to see how many people you’ve talked to about buying your toner cartridge, and I want to see how many, how many accounts you have for our fabulous toner cartridge. That’s what you feel like sometimes with the Gospel. I have to go talk to people and I have to log it and I have to recount it, but at the end of the day, I’m just, I’m selling toner cartridge.
No offense, okay. Many of you, perhaps, are employed by the toner industry [laughter] where you give thanks for your free printers and your very expensive ink. [laughter]
So, there are, there are many reasons why bearing witness to Christ is difficult, and one of them is, I think, we, we often have the wrong idea about what witnessing entails. This passage points us in a different direction. I want you to see three things about bearing witness to Christ. Three things.
Number one: It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
This is the first paragraph. Look at verse 27, so the disciples come back. Remember, they were in town looking for food. You see that back in verse 8, “for His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.” And so now they come back and they are amazed to find Jesus in this conversation. “Rabbi, Jesus, we can hardly leave you alone for any time at all. We’re trying to feed you and we come back and you are talking to a woman.”
There are some records that some rabbis around that time said that to talk to a woman, even your wife, was a distraction. It was considered a diversion form studying the Torah. There’s no place to even be talking to women, let alone that He’s talking to a Samaritan woman. And a sinner, her infamy probably followed her. She was a notorious woman. People around there would have probably known and talked about how many husbands that she had and who was the guy that she was with now, and here we find Jesus, in the heat of the day, alone at a well talking to a woman, a Samaritan woman, a sinful Samaritan woman. They don’t know quite what to say. And so John records they don’t ask anything.
Some people have tried to spiritualize this and say this was the disciples learning to put such great trust in the Master that they dare not question His methods and they did not ask Him anything. Mmmm, I don’t think so. I think this is the disciples perhaps waiting for the woman to leave so they can ask all their questions, or probably just thinking to themselves, this is awkward, I’m not sure what to say, I can’t believe He’s talking to her. So John records they don’t, they don’t ask. And they’re probably sitting there as many of us would do, just sort of piously looking on while we silently judge, that’s what we’re very good at. Hmm, good, hmm, what a terrible decision. They don’t ask Him anything.
And then the woman, you notice verse 28, she leaves in a hurry. We don’t know why. She was embarrassed perhaps, that would be understandable, all the men come back and here she is. Maybe she was so eager to share what she had just experienced. But surely, John, under the inspiration of the Spirit, wants us to notice in verse 28 that she is going in a hurry. So the woman left her water jar, went away into town, and said to the people. She is ready to go, she cannot help but share what’s happened to her. Her whole purpose for coming. She’s not just going to the, the water fountain to get a drink, this is her purpose for coming, and she comes in the heat of the day when most people wouldn’t come, and she comes by herself when most people would have come in some sort of tandem or with groups of people. So she’s a loner, and she’s there to get water to bring back for loved ones, for this man, for herself, for the day, and she’s left behind the very purpose of her visit. So overcome, so overwhelmed is she by this encounter with this man, this Jewish man, this man who she is beginning to think might be something much more than a man, that she leaves behind her bucket and she runs into town.
And notice what she says in verse 29. Come, see. Ah, now, is that ringing a bell? Look back at chapter 1. Chapter 1, when Jesus calls the disciples. Verse 38. “Turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘what are you seeking?’ And they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’ and He said to them,” verse 39, “Come and you will see.”
Or verse 46. Nathanael said to Him, can anything good come out of Nazareth? Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
So now we have for the third time in the Gospel this simple refrain. First on the lips of Jesus: You have questions, come and see. Then to Philip, Nathanael says who is this? And Philip simply says: Come, see. And now the woman running back to her people in town: Come, see.
Bearing witness does not have to be complicated. Sometimes it’s as simple as this. Would you come to church with me some Sunday? I just want you to see what I’m seeing, and hear what I’m hearing, and learn something that I’m learning. Would you have any interest in doing that? Would you ever want to come and, come to my Bible study, or would you want to come to our small group? Or would you come and read the Bible together? You say, well, I wouldn’t know what to do, I wouldn’t know how to disciple somebody, and I haven’t, you know, had all the training and I haven’t been to seminary. Many of you have been to church your entire life, or almost your entire life, for decades. You do know the Bible better than someone who has never read it before. I believe that to be true.
And you know what you could do? Almost everyone in this room. You could meet somebody, you could have a friend, a coworker, a family member, and would you want to come, and on our lunch break, just maybe read through the Gospel of John together?
You can even cheat! You can do the Gospel of John, and you just have to stay behind our pace. So you’d have to move slowly, [laughter] but, you know what? Bring a study Bible, and just, “that’s a really good question, it seems to me… ” and you can just, you know what. And if you don’t know something, you can always say “that’s a great question, I’m not sure about that, but I can probably ask somebody this week, or go look it up, or maybe get back to you, or let’s talk about it together.” It can be as simple as that. Come and see. Would you want to read through a book of the Bible together? You’re not trying to sell something. You’re trying to show something.
She, this woman, has done a pretty incredible job of sharing. Now you may say, “well, but yes, she has something so incredible to share, okay? It would be easier for me if I had just, you know, if I had just met somebody who is sort of telling me all sorts of things about myself that I didn’t, that nobody ever knew, and was clearly a prophet, I would run back to town and say ‘hold on, hold on, I gotta tell you, I gotta tell you who I met today.”’
Yeah, I get it. She has something pretty incredible to share. And so do you, don’t you? Have something pretty incredible to share? Can’t you, too, say to someone “come, see, I want you to meet someone who knows me better than I know myself.” It’s the same Jesus. He knew her, He knows you.
Now she is not quite sure yet. She says in verse 29 “can this be the Christ?” Now you learn in Greek that there’s, there’s different words for questions, and there are some words that expect a negative response, they’re sort of hesitant questions, and there are some words that expect a positive response. This one has the little Greek word “meti” which means it’s a hesitant question, means she’s not yet sure. It’s not a ringing endorsement yet. “Can this be the Christ? P.S., it is.” She doesn’t know yet. It’s “can, can this be the Christ? Could it be? Is this the one?”
But we have to say that the woman is moving in the right direction, from when we first met her and she was rather standoffish. “What are you, a Jew, doing talking to me, a woman from Samaria?” And then sort of incredulous: “Where did you get this water? You don’t even have a bucket. What are you doing here?” To sort of uncomfortable: “Um, hmm, bring my husband? I, no, husband, husband? I don’t have a husband.” You’re right. You’ve had five, and the man you’re living with is not your husband. And then moving to openness: “Well, tell me, you’re clearly a prophet, tell me about the mountain. Which mountain is right? Is it Mount Gerizim, is it Mount Jerusalem?” To then probing: “Are you the Messiah? Because I know that when Messiah comes, He will tell us all things.” and Jesus says “I who speak to you am He.” And now she’s at the point of some sort of almost believing. She’s certainly on the right trajectory.
And often when you talk to people, that’s what you’re going to see. It’s, it’s not very often that it’s “okay, never thought of that before. Yeah. Jesus, I’m a sinner. God. Good. Sign me up. Give me some offering envelopes. I’m ready to go. [laughter] You got a capital campaign? I got a checkbook.” That doesn’t usually how it works. It’s a process, there’s steps to it.
But they’re coming out, verse 30. “They went out of the town and were coming to Him.” This is quite an effective witness. She, she’s not received a whole lot of training. She’s not an expert in very many things, but she knows the man that she’s met and that He’s not an ordinary man. And so she runs into town, says “Come and see.” And they come.
Despite her past, or maybe because of it. You may think “well, my past, you know, is what disqualifies me. Nobody would listen to me. Nobody would want to hear about this, because they know who I am. They know what I’ve been. They know what I’ve been like.” Well, maybe that is the very thing that will get people’s attention because they do know what you’ve been like and they do know where you’ve been and they do know who you are.
You have an advantage. When, you know, I sit next to somebody on a plane, not making excuses that I shouldn’t talk to people, but they say “oh, and what do you do?” “I’m a pastor.” “Oh, glad I brought earphones.” [laughter] Except when you’re flying back from a conference, like we were from “Together for the Gospel” and the whole plane was filled with people who were at the same conference.
They meet you, “oh, what do you do?” “I work for Bank of America.” And they start asking about “what do you do?” “I work in tech,” and “what do you do?” and then somewhere along the line you talk about “well, how was your week?” “Well, I did this and I was traveling, had to make sure I had to get back because I wanted to be in church on Sunday.” “Really? You’re a banker? You go to church? Is that allowed?” [laughter] “Can you do that? They let you off?”
Now suddenly you’re a normal person, and you follow Jesus. Let alone if people know something about you and they say “well, I don’t know, something’s different about you. Something’s changed.”
This woman, maybe they’re not ignoring her, maybe they’re particularly drawn to her because of her past. This man that she has met who has made such an impression on her. And notice what she does, you know, she doesn’t set up on a street corner, you know? Some people do that, and the Lord uses it. But what she does is simply go back to the people that were her natural associates, these were her people. These are people who knew her. She went back to Samaria. Maybe she went to Shechem or some town nearby, and she goes there and she tells them “come, see, meet this man who told me everything I ever did.”
That’s how evangelism works best and most naturally. Yes, there’s a place for the cold-call beach evangelism they’ll do, or just, you know, at work saying “hey, would you want to sit down and learn something about God?” But it’s often best and most effective when you go back to the people that you already know and already know you. This is why recent converts are quite often the most effective evangelists, because you get one person and then they go back and tell their friends, and tell the people “you’re never going to believe what, what happened to me.” And they say “no, you’ve become one of them, you know, Christian people?” “Yeah, well, I have.”
It becomes much more difficult, doesn’t it, when you’ve been in the church for years and years and decades and decades. Our contacts with non-Christians become less and less and less and we have to really think and plan and how are we going to meet folks, not to excuse us. It is to say that some of you, if you’re a new Christian, a baby Christian, you don’t have to say “well, let me, let me wait five years and then I’ll start talking to people.” You have to learn, you have to grow, you may have to be trained, but go, tell people now.
This woman met Jesus, ran into town, said “Come, you gotta see. I’m not even quite sure who He is, but you’ve gotta meet this guy.”
And even if you’ve been walking with the Lord for decades and decades, consider who might be in your normal sphere of influence who doesn’t already know Jesus.
You’ve heard of the “KISS” principle, “keep it simple, stupid.” Is that right? Don’t, don’t say that word, but, so let’s change it. “Keep is simple for sinners.” There’s the KISS principle, “keep it simple for sinners.” You’re a sinner, and whoever you’re witnessing to is a sinner.
Strategies are good. Demographic studies have a place. Apologetics, I love apologetics, they’re useful. But here’s the bottom line: Do you feel like you have anything amazing to share?
I’ve said this before, we are all natural evangelists for the people and the things that we love most. We are all natural evangelists for the things and the people that we love most.
We’ve got grandparents in this church. Anybody ever make the mistake of saying to someone “hey, tell me about your grandkids?” “Yeah, well, that’s the whole reason I learned how to use an iPhone, I have, oh, 23,000 pictures. Here ya go. Ya got a moment?” And then they’re on the plane saying “I wish I were sitting next to a pastor.” [laughter]
You don’t have to twist somebody’s arm to talk about their kids, talk about their grandkids. I’ll tell you what they’re doing in sports, I’ll tell you about what funny thing they did, I’ll tell you, I’ll show you some cute pictures, because you love your kids. You love your grandkids. You’re excited about them. You, you find ways to, to weasel them into conversations. That’s not hard.
You go out to some restaurant that you love, you come back, “you gotta try the barbecue. No, not the wrong kind of barbecue, the right kind of barbecue.” And you tell people about it.
Now I get it. Telling people about Jesus is more controversial than telling people about your kids or about barbecue or talking about sports, but there’s the same principle at heart. You talk about what you’re excited about, what you’re passionate about. If you met some famous person, you’d go and you’d tell them. You’ve met the most famous person, the most important person, the person who made all of this, you know Him. Jesus.
Come and see. It doesn’t have to be complicated. “Come, I’d love for you to meet Jesus, like I know Jesus.”
Here’s the second principle. So that’s the first, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s the second: Witnessing doesn’t have to look successful. It doesn’t have to look successful.
Follow this argument here, beginning at verse 31. So the disciples come back and they’re not exactly tracking with Jesus, not firing on all cylinders, all they’re thinking about is we went to get you food, you gotta eat. Sort of like Jesus’ mother, “you look too thin, what are you eating? You’re skinny, Jesus, eat something.” But He says to them “I have food to eat that you do not know about” and the disciples say to one another “did someone bring Him food that we don’t know about? Who else had got Him food?” So they’re not getting it.
Just, you see the parallels? First He’s talking to the woman at the beginning of the chapter, and she wants water, He’s talking about a different kind of water. They want to talk about food, He’s talking about a different kind of food. They’re not tracking with Him. They’re thinking earthly, He’s thinking spiritual.
And then Jesus switches metaphors. He begins to talk about sowing and reaping. Now it’s a little confusing, but here’s the point. There is usually a delay between the sowing and the reaping, that’s what Jesus is getting at. Look at verse 35. “Do you not say,” this is apparently a saying that they had, “there are yet four months then comes the harvest.” So they would sow, and then four months later they would reap, and they had the little proverbial saying “isn’t it four months until the harvest?” The point is there was a gap. You don’t sow and reap at the same time. You sow, and then four months later, you reap.
He makes the same point in verse 37. Another saying holds true, “one sows and another reaps.” So it happens at different times and it’s different people. You have one who sows and then four months later you have another who reaps. The point is simply there is usually a delay between the two, and anyone who’s ever been around farming understands that. You’re going to be vastly disappointed as a farmer if you go out in the spring and you break up the ground and then you put the, the corn seed in the earth, and then you just wait. “What are we doing? I thought this, I thought we were going to eat corn on the cob this afternoon.” No, you understand this is going to take some time. You’re going to get sunshine, you’re going to get rain, you’re going to get fertilizer, you’re going to watch this thing grow. There’s a gap between sowing and reaping.
But here’s what Jesus is saying. In this unique moment in salvation history, with the in-breaking of the kingdom, there is a unique opportunity for an unprecedented harvest. That’s what He says in verse 35, “the fields are white unto harvest.”
You know, we would say, if you grow corn, “they’re tasseling, look, look, it’s ready.” And He could have physically looked out at the countryside, probably right in form of Him, and said “just like you see that harvest field is white, it’s ready for reaping, so these people are ready to be brought into the kingdom.”
He says in verse 36: “Already the one who reaps is receiving wages, gathering fruit for eternal life.” So the reaper is already busy at work, the harvester is already bringing in a crop. The sower and the reaper, second half of verse 36, “rejoice together.” So you think about that image. Things were happening so quickly, so miraculously, so amazingly, that the sower is sowing seed and the reaper is bringing in the harvest, and they’re rejoicing together. No delay, no four months, they’re just meeting each other in the field. I’m doing the sowing, you’re doing the reaping, it’s happening at the same time because God has given this amazing harvest of faith.
He says to the disciples: You can now reap what you did not sow. You are entering into the labor of another. Verse 38: “Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
We’re not sure exactly who the “other” is, or even if we’re meant to know. Is He talking about Jesus or the Samaritan woman, or the prophets of old, but the point is you disciples are going to see more than you deserve to see. You’re entering into the field that’s been sown, and now you’re going to reap. So keep it in mind, if in your life, you see some great spiritual success, it is not owing to you. Perhaps God has used you, but there have been many other people He has used along the way.
I’m always mindful of this when we have a New Members Sunday. Remember when we had a New Members Sunday and they’re, like, up there, all in a line. What, what I always remember when we welcome new members into the church is that this is our privilege of welcoming and, and reaping what so many other people over so many other years have sown. No occasion for any of us to pat ourselves on the back. It’s representative of, of moms and dads who shared the Gospel and grandmas and grandpas who, who prayed, and college ministers who knocked on dorm rooms and shared the Gospel when they were nervous but they did it anyway, and it’s faithful Sunday School teachers, and it’s faithful preachers preparing sermons week after week, and it’s a friend who invited somebody to youth group, and it’s an aunt and uncle who took somebody on a mission trip, or it’s an R. C. Sproul book, or it’s a Bible study. It’s 10,000 different things, and we get to reap.
And so we need to keep in mind whenever you see perhaps success in your sphere of ministry, as a parent, as a disciple maker, as a leader, as a church officer, whatever sort of success you may see, is because so many hands have put their hand to the plow.
But what Jesus says here is look, this is a unique moment in redemptive history. This is what the prophets of old were, were looking for, that the sower and the reaper meet each other together in the field.
But here’s the point I want you to see. You may say well, that seems the opposite of the point that you said you were making which is that witnessing doesn’t have to look like success. Well, that really is the implication here, because Jesus says normally in the harvest there’s a four-month delay. Normally when you farm there’s a sower and there’s a reaper. Now this moment here with the Samaritans is white unto harvest and so sowing and reaping is happening at the same time, but the implication is this is not how things normally work.
We know this from elsewhere in the Bible. Paul says some plant, some water, God gives the growth, 1 Corinthians 3:6.
Or Jesus Himself in Mark 4 when He tells the parables of the kingdom. He has the parable of the sower and the soil, and some seed falls out and some of it grows up for a little bit and gets, it gets washed away, and some of it gets picked up by the birds, and some of it gets choked out, and some of it, in time, bears fruit, 30, 60,100 fold. But you have to wait.
And He tells the parable of the farmer, who sows the seed and he goes to sleep, night and day, and then lo and behold, at the end of time there is a harvest that no one could imagine.
Or the parable of the mustard seed, which is the smallest, and then becomes this towering plant.
All of those are to indicate that what you see at the end you may never see at the beginning. There’s a delay, there’s a gap. It’s to remind us that witnessing now often looks like a waste. You will never see in this life all the good that your sowing has done.
You’ve seen Finding Nemo. Remember Dory? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming. The word God has for us is “just keep sowing, just keep sowing, just keep sowing.” Sometimes we would do well to have a little short-term memory loss. Okay, I’m putting that behind me, I’m just going to keep sowing, just keep sowing, just keep sowing.
I may have shared before the, the implication there of the parable of the sowers in the soil. You know, we are all familiar with that story, and some falls on the concrete, and some falls among the thorns, and some on the shallow ground, and we know some of it grows up and some of it doesn’t, it gets snatched away. But what we don’t notice is that this sower is sowing everywhere. Why are you sowing on concrete? That’s a bad idea. Why are you wasting your seed on pavement? Why are you throwing into the thorns and the thistles? That’s not where crops grow. That’s not his job. He just keeps sowing, just keeps sowing.
I, you all have, we all have people in our life, you think that’ll never work. We have people that think well, they seem kind of like us and like me and they seem like normal, because we always think we’re normal, and yeah, they might be able to come to Jesus, but then you’ve got other people in different category. You’re like, oh, but they have real big sins and they’re really messed up and they’re not like me at all, and I’m not going to waste the seed over there. Look, you’re not going to run out of seed. Just keep sowing, just keep sowing.
Make it your aim to sow faithfully whether you ever reap fantastically. Is it not a saying four months and then the harvest? Think of, you would never eat, you would never eat physical food if all the farmers in this country gave up their sowing when they didn’t see any harvest the next day. “Forget it, I’m out of this, I’m, I can’t do this business anymore. I’ve been at this for like a week and there’s no corn. And no soybeans. There’s nothing.” No, they understand it takes time, there’s a delay. You have to work hard. You don’t see success usually the first time you’re sowing, but just keep sowing. Bearing witness does not have to look like success.
But here’s the third and final point. It doesn’t have to be a failure, either. It doesn’t have to be a failure.
It certainly wasn’t a failure here amount the Samaritans. The woman was, was eager, ecstatic. She runs into town and then the town comes out to Him, and then they say we got to get this guy to stay here. He stays two days. Many believe the woman, and then many more believed after they met Jesus face-to-face. That’s pretty impressive. The fields really were white unto harvest. The sower and the reaper were rejoicing together.
This is the sort of day the prophets had foretold. Amos 9:13: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed.” You understand the imagery there? The plowman and the reaper are fumbling all over each other just like the one who sows the seed for the grapes and the one who treads out the grapes. That is, the sowing and the reaping are happening so fast at the same time God is doing this amazing work. That’s what’s happening here with the Samaritans.
So look around you, think around you, your life, your family, your job, your dorm, your neighborhood, your coffee shop, your gym, your Facebook page, your prayer list. Are there any fields that look even a little white for harvest? Anything that you think yeah, there might be an open door there.
Sometimes we spend so much energy trying to plan and to plot that we forget to look around and say okay, what’s God doing already?
At my previous church we decided a few years into my time there that we were going to start an evangelistic program and we looked at which ones to do and we decided we did a Christianity Explored program. It’s out of the UK, it’s a wonderful series of videos and you do a dinner and it goes through the Gospel of Mark. And so we, we had this whole plan and what we were doing and we were canvassing our neighborhoods and we were trying to get people out. And what happened with it was something that we never planned for it, because we had one woman in maybe the first or second class who was Chinese and she was a Christian and she had contacts with everyone, it seemed, in the university and there was all these Chinese students and scholars, and all of a sudden this outreach that we never meant to be for international students became 20, 30, 40 Chinese people coming in droves to learn about the Gospel of Mark. And then it became, okay, we’re going to go bring this to them, and we’re going to go to the part of town and the apartment complex where internationals live and we’re going to host it there, and it became a very different ministry than the one we set out for it to be, but it was wonderful.
We need to have flexibility. We need to look around us and say where are those opportunities, white unto harvest? Might it be with internationals, or, or refugees? Or might it be a part of town where we think of launching or planting a new ministry that has the same theological commitments but may look and feel different and we raise up indigenous leadership for some other part of town. Where are the doors swinging open for the Gospel? And where do we need to knock on some doors? Because some doors surprisingly open when you just begin to knock.
Yes, we need committees. Yes, we need studies. Yes, we need planning and plotting. But don’t forget to look around you. Where is God already working? And are you prepared to follow?
Who would have thought that there would be this great harvest among the Samaritans? Not the Samaritans. If the disciples got together, they never would have said “okay, here’s strategy number one… Samaria.” No, that was the last place. They would have thought “okay, first we got to get Jerusalem, Jerusalem’s key, Jerusalem’s influential, we know Jerusalem.” Lo and behold, it’s Samaria.
Jesus flipped over tables in the temple. He said at the end of John 2 He didn’t entrust Himself to the crowds in Jerusalem. Nicodemus, the pharisee, he was not born again, but here in Samaria they believe in Jesus. Making a way, perhaps, for the success of the mission to the Samaritans in Acts chapter 8. They are the first fruits of a fallen world returning to Christ.
And don’t miss what they say in verse 42: “For we have heard for ourselves.” Secondhand testimony is no substitute for a personal encounter with Jesus. And you say, “well, boy, I wish we still had that. I mean, that would be, I mean, Jesus could go and show up there and they could meet Him. They could hear from Jesus.” You don’t think they can still do that? Isn’t that what we believe about this book? They can still meet Jesus. They can still hear the very words of Jesus. You can take Him to the world. You can say come and see. It’s even better because there Jesus was, if you wanted to meet Jesus, you had to be right there in Samaria or Judea. Now by the Holy Spirit and by His Word, He can go anywhere. Come and see, show and tell, go and speak.
Remember ultimately we are not introducing people to Reformed theology, or to the Presbyterian tradition, or even to Christ Covenant. As much as all of those things matter and will come in time, no, no, no. The first goal, and the end goal, is always to introduce them to Jesus. Not a program, not a plan, a person.
They call Him the savior of the world. Do you know this savior? I need to ask that question because we’re talking about witnessing to others, and perhaps you have not yet come to know this savior. Have you seen Him? Oh, not, not visibly, but have you seen Him in the pages of scripture? Do you hear Him calling? Have you been putting aside, pushing down, I don’t want deal with this, I don’t want to think about, but week after week you know it’s Jesus speaking to you? Jesus, through His Word, looking, eager.
I love this quotation from Calvin: “What was the office of Christ is well known. It was to advance the kingdom of God, to restore life to lost souls, to spread the light of the Gospel and in short to bring salvation to the whole world. The excellence of these things caused Him when fatigued and hungry to forget food and drink. Yet we derive this from no ordinary consolation when we learn that Christ was so anxious about the salvation of men that it gave Him the highest delight to procure it.”
And then I love this line: “For we cannot doubt that He is now actuated by similar feelings toward us.”
See what Calvin is saying? Isn’t it a great consolation that Jesus, though He was hungry, they were getting food for Him, and He was thirsty, remember He was there at the well. He wanted a drink. He wanted food and water. And yet so much more eager was he that he could talk to this Samaritan woman about the things of God, set aside food and drink. And Jesus still feels that same way about sinners. Like you, like me.
Why did John spend so much time on this story? Think, we’re four chapters in and fully a fourth of this Gospel so far is about this once incident with this one woman in Samaria. Why? Because it powerfully demonstrates what we’ve already seen and heard in John 3:16, that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. And now we see it in living color. He loves the world, He loves sinners. He sent His Son to meet this Samaritan woman, to meet you.
Do you know Him? Will you speak of Him? They call Him savior of the world. Notice not Messiah, that’s true. Not Christ. Not even the word that they use. They had a different word, “taheb.” It was the word of the Samaria for their deliverer, their redeemer. None of those words. Here He is the savior of the world.
We saw in the previous episode that salvation is from the Jews, but now we see that salvation is not only for the Jews, but for the world. Salvation is not just for people like you or me. And do you believe that God still saves people, that witnessing, though it may not look like a success, it does not have to be a failure.
I’ve said before I think our two biggest obstacles to witnessing, for most of us, one, we do not have close relationships with non-Christians, that we can easily share in a way that doesn’t seem awkward, and then two, I think deep down we don’t believe that this ever really works. We kind of do it to be obedient, we do it to get the pastor off our back, or we do it so the pastor can have an illustration to share, or something, but it doesn’t really work, does it? Samaritans? People you know are no worse than Samaritans. And they came out to see.
It’s not complicated. Let’s not fit the stereotype of so many Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Whether the stereotype is true or not, you know the stereotype, you know, all head/no heart, or they are good on doctrine, they don’t share their faith. Let’s just blow up those things. We love head, we love heart. We love theology, we love lost people. We love to worship, we love to share. We love to do Bible studies and we love to hug, some of us, a little bit.
Be honest, be yourself, smile, pray, tell people about the Jesus that you already know. You may not see anything for it, but in a lifetime, together, by the Spirit and prayer, by His Word, we may just see more than we can ask or imagine.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, give us courage, give us boldness, give us faithfulness, give us wisdom, whether we see little or we see much. You have been so good to us, Lord, you have saved us. Give us renewed excitement, zeal, vigor, energy for the one that we know, for the message we believe, that it might be the message that we share. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.