Do you ever feel insignificant or ineffective when it comes to sharing the Gospel?
Are you tempted to leave the task to preachers and missionaries and evangelists? Many people assume that some kind of special training is required to share the Gospel, but today on Truth for Life weekend we'll see how God even used a social outcast to lead others to Jesus. Alistair Begg is teaching from John chapter 4. We resume our studies here in this fourth chapter in the twenty-seventh verse, the twenty-sixth, twenty-seventh, where it is recorded for us that the declaration of the Messiahship of Jesus has just been made very, very clear to this individual. A nameless lady, in many ways from a human perspective, a strange individual to be on the receiving end of such a bold and point-blank declaration—something that has not occurred very often to this point in the gospel record. But Jesus has declared to her that while she had an expectation of the Messiah coming and explaining things, he said, I who speak to you am the very one you anticipate. Now, the disciples had gone into the town, you will recall, from the opening verses of the chapter to buy some food. It was around lunchtime when they had left Jesus, and now they return. They arrive back in verse 27, not too soon to interrupt what's going on, nor too late to miss what has actually happened. We're told by John that they were surprised at finding Jesus talking with this woman.
Now, that may even be a surprise to us. Why would they be surprised at such an encounter in such a conversation? Well, the culture of the day was so very different. Indeed, there was a rabbinical rule to the effect—and I quote—"Let no one talk with a woman in the street, no, not with his own wife." But the context was such that the disciples, knowing Jesus to be rabbi and teacher, were intrigued and perhaps more than a little confused that Jesus would be addressing the lady in this way. However, their reverence for the master superseded their surprise, and John tells us that none of them were bold enough to ask the question, What did you want? or What do you want of the lady? Had they done so, Jesus would have said, I just wanted a drink of water.
Nor did anyone ask, Why are you talking with her? For if they had asked the question, Jesus would straightforwardly have let them know the reason he spoke with her was in order that he might offer to her living water. And in passing, we have a wonderful example of the true emancipation of women in the fact that Jesus speaks to this lady concerning her soul, a matter of far greater import than the cultural configurations that apparently made it impossible for such a conversation to take place.
Now, it is with this concluding section, up into verse 42, that we will spend the remainder of our time. First, then, we consider the woman's invitation in verse 28. Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, I want you to come and see a man who told me everything I ever did. Do you think that this might be the Christ?
Her invitation to them. Well, we may spend just a moment thinking about this water jar. It is interesting that all this time, if you have any thirst about you at all in reading this record, you're intrigued to find out, Does Jesus ever get a drink of water?
Because this has been going on a long time since he asked, Do you think I could have a drink of water? And we're now well into the thing, and apparently there's no drink of water. And the matter of what was going on here with the water is not insignificant, nor is the question, Why did the lady leave her jar? Was it, as some have suggested, that when she arrived at the well, before she had occasion to draw any water, she was interrupted by the question from Christ?
The conversation then followed as it is recorded for us. There was no water drawing, and there was no water drinking. And when she finally heard the news concerning the nature of her condition and the need for her response, she suddenly, in all of her excitement, went away into the town, leaving the water pot empty behind her.
It's one possible explanation. Another possible explanation, which I tend to favor, although we'll have to wait until heaven to find out what the true answer is, because it's something of conjecture in any case, is this, that the lady came to draw water. She drew the water, filled it up to the brim, set it down, and just as she set it down, Jesus looked across at it and said to the lady, Do you think I could have a drink of that water?
She, looking back at him, realized that he had nothing to draw water with, and so if he was going to have a drink of water, she would have to be the provider in this instance. But instead of responding to his request, she follows it up with a series of questions, which begins the conversation. And as the conversation proceeds, she hears the message of her true condition. She is convinced of the nature of her sin, of the presence of the Messiah. And as a result of that, she leaves the water pot behind. She proceeds to go to the town because she has more significant business now to care for than that of simply returning with the water. Furthermore, since Jesus had made it clear to her that this discrepancy between Jew and Samaritan, this racial overtone, if you like, was completely obliterated when men and women understood what it means to worship in spirit and in truth, it may well be that the lady left the jar knowing she was returning for it and recognizing that Jesus could drink from it in her absence, because he was the one who had declared that this divergence between them racially was irrelevant in light of the message that he brings.
Now, irrespective of which answer is correct, I think that the latter is more likely, because the word which is used here for the leaving of her water pot—in verse 28, then, leaving her water jar—it is the same verb that is used in verse 3, describing Jesus leaving Judea. And John does not use the verb for forget. And the notion is that she forgot the jar, but John says she left the jar, and she left it purposefully. We can't be certain as to the nature of her motives. One day we'll get the chance to ask her and find out.
But it seems at least possible. Now, what was this invitation that she offered to the townspeople when she saw them? You'll find it in verse 29. Come see a man. Now, just stop there for a moment.
That's not where she stops. But imagine that you're in the town, perhaps you're a tradesperson. It's not a particularly large community. Everybody knows everybody else. Family members are known to one another. The various shops and stores would be well acquainted with each other, and it would be unlikely that this lady would have been able to move about on a daily basis without actually being identifiable. Because after all, as we've said, she was probably a social outcast. She was probably at the well at this time of day because of her checkered history. And indeed, when the people began to hear her walking back into the community, as presumably she did—I can't imagine that she went from person to person, she maybe did a combination of both—but the chances are that she began to walk in amongst the crowd, and she began to say, Come see a man.
Now, you can imagine the response of some of the cynics in the group. After all, this lady had been seeing a lot of men. And the people probably say to one another, Goodness gracious, I can't believe she's blown the next one out.
She's on number seven. What is she talking about today? And then they began to listen a little carefully. No, she's not saying, Just come see a man.
This man is a different man. She's saying, Come on and see a man who told me everything I ever did. There's a pardonable kind of exaggeration here on the part of the woman, because the profound impact of Jesus' insight into her life, whereby he, as it were, peeled back the layers of her existence and showed to her that he knew her inside, made her feel as though this man had just actually laid her whole existence bare, and he had told her everything about herself. And you'll notice the way in which she gives this invitation. She doesn't say to the people, I have met the Christ, and I want you to meet him. Although she might surely have said so, because that is clearly the conviction of her heart.
But she puts it in a negative way, hoping for a positive response. She says to them, Do you think that maybe this is the Messiah? Interesting that she would approach it in that way, wouldn't you say?
After all, isn't that just what Jesus had done some moments before? Do you think this lady was a smart lady? I think she was. I think she not only got a hold of the message, I think she got a hold of his methodology. I think she understood his approach instantaneously. She learned from him. She realized, He drew me in. He didn't jam me.
He drew me. Some of us are experts at jamming. Big wheelbarrow full of biblical information dropped on the poor souls. We go to visit somebody in the hospital. Now they're lying on their backs. Boom! We'll give them everything. Here!
Try this and this and this. The poor fellow has to press the button for the emergency nurse. They're drowning under the weight of all this literature. No, she says, Do you think this might be the Messiah? It was enough to intrigue them, enough for them to say, I don't know what happened to this lady, but something happened to her.
I think we'd better go and find out what she's on about. That's the way to speak to people about Jesus. Salt makes people thirsty. And when we're salty, people get thirsty. When we're saltless, people get sick of us. We're just obnoxious.
We're just a nuisance. But salt creates a thirst. And there was a tang about this lady. Oh, to have a tang about our lives!
The tang which comes from the Master's touch. Now, her invitation was no great shakes in many ways. It was clear, it was concise, it was convincing. And as a result of that, verse 30 says that they came out of the town and they made their way towards him. I want to ask you, how does that happen?
How does that happen? Well, somehow or another, the Spirit of God accompanied her. The Spirit of God preceded her. The Spirit of God enlivened her life and spoke through her words in such a way that an ordinary woman with ordinary words was extraordinarily used.
I love this, you see. I love this about Jesus. All the Pharisees are expecting that they're going to his house for dinner. Jesus is coming through Samaria. The people presumably think, you know, if he shows up, we can probably have him over to our home.
And the lady that comes into the town to tell him that they should come and meet Jesus is a lady with a checkered past. You know, what gave us the idea that God is on the side of the religious establishment, huh? We spend all our energy trying to establish religion in the continental United States. This place is full of religion.
It's absent of Jesus. Now, what can we learn from this? We can learn, I think, from the lady's unashamed enthusiasm. And presumably, that was it. There is no record of Jesus sending her. She just went. There was no time for her to go through a course on the foundations of the faith, no time for her to be trained in discipleship, no opportunity for her to be schooled in personal evangelism. She just went, and she said, I met a man, and I think you ought to meet him.
Her approach was straightforward, just straightforward. I want you to come and see this man. That's what our task is. Not, I want you to come and encounter religion. Certainly not, I want you to come and experience spirituality. We're not going to speak about a specter or about a ghost or about a theory, but we go out to speak about an historical Christ. This is the message of Christianity. We're not up there on the stage with the multiple religions of the world offering our wares. We have a simple mandate.
We need unashamed enthusiasm, and we need a straightforward approach. Come on. I'd like you to meet this man.
It was a song years ago in the coffee bar scene in England, and the groups used to sing it, I have met the Master, won't you come and meet him too? It was based right out of John 4. That's enough on that. Let's go to Jesus' explanation. Meanwhile, his disciples urged him, Rabbi, eat something! Now, we don't know whether they were motivated. We must assume they were motivated by a desire for his well-being, but they may also have been motivated by the fact that they had just walked their dusty little feet down the road and back up and brought the stuff, and now it appears that he didn't even want the stuff he went to get. And they said, Come on, eat the stuff!
I mean, we went all the way down there for it. The deal was, You stay here. You get a drink. You get a rest. We go down there. We get the stuff. We bring it back. Some woman's here.
She takes off. Now you don't even want the food! Oh, you don't think the disciples ever spoke like that? That's because you've seen too many of these pictures of Jesus hanging in shrines. He wasn't in a glass box.
He's not going in a glass box no time, no how. He was an ordinary man, extraordinarily endued. He was a hundred percent man and a hundred percent God. And they did speak to him like that. That's why Jesus turned to him one day and says, Hey, Peter, get behind me, Satan! Come on, rabbi, eat the sandwiches. Jesus says, Nah, I've got food to eat that you don't know about. Now, we all think, because we read the whole story, that we would have immediately said, Oh yes, spiritual food, Jesus, huh? Because we all think we're really bright, because we read the end of the story.
But let's be honest. You go away expressly to get food. You come back. He says he doesn't want the food, because he's got food to eat that we don't know about.
What do you say? Where do you get the food? Did the woman give him food? Did one of those vans, you know, that workmen buy stuff from, did that come by? They presumably had those things, a couple of camels and, well, you know, Diet Pepsi hanging on the side.
I mean, where did he get the stuff? And once again, we've got this wonderful, wonderful paradox and irony that pervades the whole of John's Gospel. Jesus speaks about water, the lady misses the point. Jesus speaks about food, the people miss the point.
No, says Jesus, let me tell you, my food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. And in that statement, he declares his mission, his devotion, and his ultimate satisfaction. What's your mission? Why are we here? Jesus says, my mission is really clear.
I can tell you it in a phrase. It's to do the will of him who sent me. It's to finish his work. That's why by the time you get to John 17, Jesus says, Father, I have given you the glory that was due your name, and I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And he was looking forward into the very face of the cross, where from the cross he would cry out in one word, completed, finished, tetelestai.
Obedience to the Father's will was for Jesus his major concern. And so, in his explanation, he provides us with a lesson in priorities, and he also provides us with a lesson in Christian service. This little piece here about the harvest is quite wonderful. Any of you who are brought up in farming communities will know that in the realm of nature, it is possible that somebody may reap where another has sown. It is possible that I might get to reap where I didn't sow, but it's unlikely. It is actually quite likely that I may sow and never reap. I may sow, and as a result of illness or as a result of death, I may never be around to reap the harvest, and so I sow, do all the hard work, and I'm never there to reap it. But, says Jesus, here's the wonderful thing when we deal in the spiritual realm. It is the usual pattern that one reaps where another has sown.
Do you get that? It is the usual pattern that we reap where others have sown. Today, in all of our lives, we are reaping the benefits of those who have labored in the past. And indeed, one of the great challenges for us at a time like this is that we realize that God may have chosen to make this period of time a period of sowing rather than a period of reaping. And that, you see, is one of the great dangers of buying into the numbers game in evangelical Christianity, believing that success will always be quantified by the numbers involved. What we're saying there is that we must always, always be adding and reaping when, in point of fact, history reveals that there are significant periods in time when it's all about sowing. And here's a thought. As focused as we are on the now, it may be the generations that are presently in the nursery who will be those who reap the benefits of the work of these days.
The implications are clear. The reapers need to remain humble. And the sowers should not be discouraged. Some of us are suffering from what I call the sower syndrome. Woe is me.
I don't see anything happening. I just go out there and I sow and I sow. It's kinda discouraging, isn't it? Let me tell you this. Keep sowing. Keep sowing. Because when the harvest is garnered, it'll be the sowers who did the hard work who will lead the procession. Those who are apparently first will be last. And those who are apparently last will be first.
Do you believe that? Jesus said that. I got one point left.
I have only time to mention it. The people's affirmation. The ladies' invitation, Jesus' explanation, the people's affirmation.
Verse 42. In response to the woman, they said, Listen, we no longer believe just because of what you said. We're thankful for what you said. You stirred our hearts.
We came out to see, but now we've heard. Verse 40 tells us that they actually earned Jesus to stay with them for two days, and as a result of the two days of hearing his word—and it's interesting—because of his words, not because of his miracles. It was because of his words. And it is because of his words that people believe. That's why we preach.
That's why we teach. That's why we set forward the Scriptures. And so these people's lives were changed. He broke the chains that bound them to their past, gave them power to live in the present, and joy to face the future.
And why was there this great affirmation from the townspeople? It's because of the impact of one life. Just one life.
One of the great lies of the devil, you see, is to say to us—X or Y, whatever our name might be—you know what? You really can't do much. In fact, what you do is so insignificant that you ought to just stop doing it altogether.
You ever feel like that? The Anglican bishop put it in this way, I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, with God's help, I will do. You prepare this morning to go out and say to people, Come and see a man. Jesus' main concern was to do the Father's will and finish His work.
Is that your main concern? You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend. That is Alistair Begg explaining that God's Spirit can enable the most unlikely people to do the extraordinary. Today's message concludes our series titled Frangelism.
If you missed any of these messages, or would like to share the message with a friend, you can access the entire series, as well as thousands of other messages, on our website at truthforlife.org. You know, even small children need to hear the gospel, but it can be hard to know how to help them understand it. We want to recommend to you a book that does a super job of introducing the concept of God's grace to preschool-aged children. The book is titled His Grace Is Enough, How God Makes It Right When We've Got It Wrong. It's a colorful little book that presents the key points of the gospel. First, that we are sinners who make mistakes. Second, that we can't fix it by doing good deeds. And third, that God offers grace and forgiveness when we trust in Jesus. You can learn more about the book His Grace Is Enough when you visit our website at truthforlife.org.
I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Sometimes at the end of a particularly grueling or heartbreaking week, we can feel more abandoned than loved. So how can we still come to worship and praise God when that's how we're feeling? Hear the answer next weekend. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
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