Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
The Samaritans went through various stages in their dealings with Jesus. Their response foretold a common pattern found often where the Gospel spreads.
John 4:39-40 AMany of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, who testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them; and he abode there two days.@
The Samaritans were first introduced to Jesus by the woman. Someone had to tell them of Jesus.
Paul said, AWhosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?@ (Romans 10:13-14). The lost can be found only if guided by another already found.
Once the Samaritans knew Jesus, they desired on their own to learn more about Him, but they had to begin with being introduced to Him.
Any introduction of Jesus to others has to be made on the basis of personal witness. The Samaritan woman spoke of something which had happened to her directly. She did not deal with theology, theory, or even Scripture, but spoke of an amazing Man who had remarkable power.
In this whole scene, there was nothing extraordinary about the introducer or the introduction. The success of the Gospel does not depend on extraordinary abilities in the messenger. Naaman, the great Syrian Captain, was directed to Elisha by a little slave maid ( II Kings 5:2).
God loves to use weak, unlikely instruments to carry on His work. AWe have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us@ (II Corinthians 4:7). He wants all glory directed to Himself. This helps assure that others know where to look for help.
The Samaritan woman had no training in sharing her faith. She had simply met the Lord. As a result, everything had become different. She was able to speak well for Jesus because she had something to talk about.
This lady had previously been living in perdition. Now she had a spark of holiness flaming in her. The very life she had been ashamed of, which had previously been a cause for silence, now became the backdrop and compelling motivation for bearing a witness. Her sincerity and newness because of Jesus overshadowed everything she had been without Him before.
The intensity of our relationship with God determines how effective we will be in sharing Jesus with others. If warmth, intimacy, and constant communion abound, sharing will be easier. If the relationship is cold, nonchalant, or taken for granted, witnessing will be very difficult.
John 4:41 AAnd many more believed because of his own word.@
Authentic Christianity involves a personal intimate relationship with Christ. Once a person has been introduced to Jesus and has evaluated the Lord=s message, he or she must then decide what to do with Jesus. The decision is a personal one, with everlasting consequences.
Faith is not faith as long as it rests solely on the testimony of another. The basic meaning of Afaith@ is oneness, to be united with. This bonding cannot be accomplished through an intermediary.
No person can undergo an experience for someone else. We can put the lost in a position where they have to decide, but we cannot decide for them.
The Samaritans met the Lord themselves. AIndeed@ in verse 42 emphasizes they had a faith of their own. Faith has firm footing when the initial born-again experience is coupled with the Spirit=s witness-bearing within us. Genuine faith is characterized by both.
It is interesting to note, the Samaritans evidently did not ask for signs as the Jews did. These Samaritans who believed on the basis of a testimony, coupled with Jesus= words, were quite a contrast to Chorazin and Bethsaida, who did not believe even after mighty works were done among them.
The Jews saw Jesus= miracles, yet drove Him away and crucified Him. Samaritans, who had no inclinations toward a Jewish Messiah, invited Jesus in.
Gospel success usually is not predictable. It does not always walk in lock-step with probability. We are commanded to sow the Word everywhere, and must obey, for we cannot predict where it will succeed.
Missions and evangelism results are often diametrically opposite to our expectations. We are all aware of instances where those with fewest advantages made the most of them, and where those with the most opportunities threw them away.
John 4:42 AAnd said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.@
The Samaritans, having a faith based on first-hand experience with Jesus, were then ready for the next stage. Once people are introduced to Christ, learn of Him, and accept Him, they begin to grow in understanding.
The Samaritans recognized Jesus not as a national leader of Israel, but as their Savior, yea, the Savior of the world. This title sums up the essence of this whole chapter. The conversion of these Samaritans was the first evidence of Christ=s universally offered salvation.
Salvation sprang from the Jews (verse 22), but was recognized as world-wide by these Samaritans. They were the first ones to call Jesus the Savior of the world.
This title is found only here and in I John 4:14 in the New Testament. John the Beloved carried this remarkable description with him the rest of His life.
It is remarkable the Samaritans accepted Jesus as Savior of the whole world. The Apostles themselves, till immediately prior to Pentecost, saw only a limited Christ, a Restorer of the Kingdom to Israel.
Even Christians today have trouble with this concept. Though we apply the title with our lips, our lives often deny it. We tend to be very selective about to whom and where we plant the Gospel seed.
We need to grasp again the full meaning of ASavior of the world.@ Jesus is intended for everyone.
ASavior of the world@ was a title used often of the Roman Emperor. He was viewed as people=s benefactor, keeper of the peace, their protector.
All these benefits would be impossible to accomplish by any leader, except One, Jesus Christ. Being Savior of the world, Jesus is what people always seek B a deliverer, a protector, a sustainer.
Another title early believers bestowed on Jesus was AKing of kings, and Lord of lords.@ This had been the description used for the Alexander the Great, whom many believed was the greatest person who ever lived. Early believers knew they had found One greater than Alexander, and thus bestowed on Jesus a title rightfully His, not Alexander=s.
Jesus was not simply a prophet who came with words from God to teach people important facts. Nor was He only a super-psychologist who had amazing insights into human nature, able to pinpoint and bring to light our faults.
Nor was Jesus merely a pattern or an example. AHe did not come simply to show men the way in which life ought to be lived and to leave them a demonstration of life. A great example can be merely a heart-breaking and frustrating thing when we find ourselves powerless to follow it@ (Barclay, John, p. 165).
Jesus is AKing of kings, and Lord of lords,@ as well as ASavior of the world.@ He is the greatest person who ever lived. He rescues us from bondage to evil and hopelessness. Whatever chains bind a person, Jesus can break them and give power to meet the future.