How Jesus Acted Across the Room
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 4:4-6 (Holman) He (Jesus) had to travel through Samaria, so He came to a town of Samaria, called Sychar, near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob=s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from His journey, sat down at the well. It was about six in the evening.
Jesus was tired and thirsty. The Creator was bowed low. Christ created us in strength, but came seeking us in weakness. On this day, His weariness would prove a blessing to one, and show in microcosm what His weakness made possible for all people.
John 4:7-9 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. AGive Me a drink,@ Jesus said to her, for His disciples had gone into town to buy food. AHow is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?@ she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.
This encounter is an illustration of God loving all the world, not in theory, but in action.
When we ask God, AWhat is my mission field today?@ we have to be willing to encounter strangers, strangers who don=t look like us, dress like us or behave like us.
How did He accomplish this and what lessons can we learn from Christ=s approach? Jesus used five techniques to engage this stranger.
One, Jesus identified with the Samaritan woman=s humanity. He was tired, thirsty and hungry so He sat down. More than likely she could identify with Jesus because she too would be tired from the trip to the well.
Two, He engaged her in conversation. He moved past all social and cultural barriers and showed interest in her. Orthodox Jewish custom forbade dialogue with this woman for at least four reasons: her race, sex, religion, and morals. But Orthodox Jewish custom was not a binding influence on Jesus. Had He let it control Him, none of us Gentiles would be in the kingdom and women would still be considered property.
Three, He opened the conversation by asking for a drink which peaked her curiosity. She said, (JN 4:9) AHow is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?@ Now He had her interest. She was asking the questions.
Four, He was practical, He used His surroundings to get His point across, He used the well. Jesus talked to her about drawing out living water from the well which again caused her to ask even more questions (JN 4:11). ASir,@ said the woman, Ayou don=t even have a bucket and the well is deep. So where do you get this living water?@
Now, He didn=t say, Alet=s have a religious discussion!@ He continued to focus the conversation on what would benefit her, living water.
Five, He was accepting and loving. When He asked her to go get her husband and come back, she had to admit she had no husband. Then Jesus did something we can=t do B wouldn=t it be great if we could B He said, you are right; then he told her life history with men. He accepted and loved her as she was.
Before we can get to the method we have to get at the heart of the matter B love. Love must be our motivation to walk across the room. Love for Jesus which spills over to love for people. That is where He started. That is where we must start too. Love must always come before a method. Otherwise folks will wish you hadn=t bothered to walk across the room.
We need to be radically inclusive. Over the last few years Tony and I have been approached by about 6-8 church members (not people we are close to) who have made comments about one of our extended family members sexual orientation. While their comments were not attacks against me personally, they were certainly not filled with love, radically inclusive or focused on my family member=s ultimate issue B his need for salvation. When we focus on someone=s ultimate issue we can be radically inclusive without any fear of watering down the gospel or compromising truth.
Ultimately, you know the story, Jesus told her He was the Messiah. She believed and ran to bring others.
Now, the question of the hour is: How do we engage strangers? Do we step forward and start the conversation? Do we sit down and invite others to join us? Do we ask questions about their life and listen to their stories? Are we accepting and loving? Do we have our story ready to tell when they ask questions of us?
What would we have done if we learned that our new friend, the stranger, was living with a man out of wedlock. Jesus was trying to help the woman. Can we love all people in such a way that we want to help them?
Jesus told the disciples following this experience what we must tell ourselves: AOpen your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest@ (JN 4:35).
Orthodox Jewish custom forbade dialogue with this woman for at least four reasons: her race, sex, religion, and morals. But Orthodox Jewish custom was not a binding influence on Jesus. Had He let it control Him, none of us Gentiles would be in the kingdom.
Jesus saw this Samaritan woman as a person in need. Our Lord never displayed the narrow heartedness which characterized His (and our) age. He preferred to help a hurting lady.
This lady=s worst Acrime@ was her being a Samaritan. The relationship between Jews and Samaritans has, even at its best, always been one of hostility. The Samaritans were descendants of Jews who had intermarried with Gentiles. To the purists, this loss of racial purity was an unforgivable crime.
Strict Jews would not traverse Samaria. Instead of being defiled by Samaritan soil, they would travel by a circuitous route through Transjordan.
Jews and Samaritans interacted with each other in business matters and in official political dealings, but casual conversation between the two groups was virtually non-existent. For a Jew to drink out of a Samaritan utensil was especially unthinkable.
Despite all these nationalistic animosities, Jesus said to her, AGive me to drink.@ These words expressed Jesus= acceptance of her. He was opening a path into her heart, which He wanted to own. Though hot and thirsty, Jesus desired faith from her heart more than He wanted water from her well.
In dealing with the Samaritan woman, Jesus did not use a rehearsed program, plan, or campaign. He witnessed Aas He went.@ Sharing the Good News was His life. His willing heart repeatedly created its own opportunities.
We commonly say Paul was the first missionary to the Gentiles. Actually, Paul merely followed the example of our Lord. Jesus Himself broke down barriers. This story shows us the message of Christ was from the first intended for all, regardless of race, sex, religious background, or moral standing.