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This sermon was preached on Sunday 24/12/2000 Am, by Kevin Matthews.
Some people seem to find evangelism to be the easiest thing in the world to do. It doesn’t matter when you come across them for they just always seem to be able to bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. One day they’re talking to a neighbour across the back fence, the next to a person they have found as they walked along the street.
But for many of us this just isn’t the case. I know that for myself I find evangelism to be a very difficult part of the Christian life, and perhaps you do also. There seems to be something of a longing that a foolproof method will eventually be found, and that that method will remove all the difficulties.
Well this message on ‘A wise example of evangelism’ is not that foolproof method, yet I do believe there are a number of things in this passage that will be of great help to us in the area of evangelism, or of witnessing to people in the real world. There may be some good practical ideas that you can use here, when speaking to your neighbour, to your relative, or workmate - but it is the principles of evangelism displayed in this example from the ministry of Jesus that I think will prove most valuable, and they will give you something of a firmer foundation for your evangelistic efforts.
We will not cover everything in this passage today, so this will be something of a mini-series within our studies in John, but Lord willing this mini-series will be a great help and a blessing to you.
So let’s begin by firstly considering,
1.Evangelism According to Plan
Last week we noticed how the disciples of John had reacted to the increasing influence of Jesus, and how they had believed that He was a real threat to John the Baptist’s ministry. The connecting thought here with that passage is that the Pharisee’s also seemed to view the rising influence of Jesus as a threat, and were motivated by that fear to do something about Him.
‘When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee (Jn 4:1-3).’
In response to the knowledge that the Pharisee’s had heard of His rising influence, Jesus moved His ministry team into Galilee. The reason for this move was because the time for a confrontation that would lead to His death was not yet appointed, that was for a future time, and must not yet come. And this is a thought that pops up from time to time in this Gospel of John. For example:
‘Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come (7:30).’ ‘These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come (8:20).’
Within the ministry of Jesus was a very pronounced sense of working according to the plan of God - nothing was to happen until the appointed time, and everything that would happen was within the Decree of God.
So Jesus with His perfect knowledge as God, moves from Judea and into Galilee in order to prevent the immediate threat to His life from becoming a reality, and in so doing fulfilled the plan of God and moved closer toward that time when His death was planned.
‘And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink (Jn 4:4-7).’
Though the shortest route from Judea to Galilee was the road through Samaria, there is much more than that in this verse. The exact route that He was to take needed to be this particular one, for it would take Him to Jacob’s well at exactly the right moment when the woman from Samaria would be there. And here again you see the consciousness of Jesus that He is working in accordance with God’s plan for His life, as you do throughout this Gospel. ‘Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work (Jn 4:34).’
It was probably the hottest time of the day, about midday, so Jesus fatigued from His journey sits by the well and waits while his disciples go to buy food.
Then along comes the Samaritan woman according to plan. The women of these times would often travel in groups to a water source to draw water and that usually in the evening. Yet Jesus has strategically positioned Himself at this well at the exact right moment that this particular Samaritan outcast goes to the well to get water.
The rest of the passage makes clear that this woman is a morally loose woman, and perhaps therefore frowned upon by others in Sychar, and therefore found it necessary to go to the well alone so as not to be ridiculed and mocked, and so on.
But the point is at this stage, that all of this evangelistic opportunity is according to God’s plan, and this is the first principle to remember when involved in evangelism. Every opportunity is according to God’s plan, whether the person is to be saved or not.
To begin with you have no idea who will be saved, but God does. He saves according to His own Divine Sovereignty and purpose.
‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (Jn 3:8).’
With this being the case, there are a number of practical implications that we should always keep in mind. Firstly we should be praying according to God’s will, and not to accomplish our own wants and desires. Pray that you will be led to those whom the Lord wishes to be brought into His Kingdom, for you don’t know who they are.
They could very well be those whom you consider to be the dregs of society, even those with whom you don’t wish to associate.
So often we are convinced that we know who will make the best Christians - if only they could be saved. And so we only go to those who we regard as pleasant, those who might be our friends or our family, who we think will respond, or who we think are receptive. Quite frankly you do not know that at all, but God does, so go to Him and ask Him to direct you to those He intends to save.
By all means speak to your friends and family about the Lord, but don’t leave it at that, take it to all whom the Lord places before you - for the Lord places His sheep across your path in His everyday providences, and you need to take those opportunities as they come, especially as you pray for these opportunities.
Secondly you need to remember that because people are saved according to God’s plan, not everyone you witness to will be saved. That’s the idea of election, only those whom God has chosen to be saved will be. So you ought not to be blaming yourself, and getting all discouraged if that neighbour or friend will not come to Christ, it may very well be that the Lord is allowing that person to continue in their sin, and will not exercise mercy toward them.
Not that God is to blame for them not becoming Christians - remember, these reject the Light because they love their sin too much, and so will not come to the Light that they might have life.
And not everyone will be saved according to you’re timetable - remember how John the Baptist testified to the Lamb of God on a couple of occasions recorded in the Gospel of John so far, and what happened? Well, the first time no one went after Christ, but the second time two did.
So you may find yourself telling people on more than one occasion, of taking tracts to the same area time and time again before the people begin to respond. So don’t despair, but wait on God, who does all things in the fullness of time, according to His own predetermined plan. The thing is they will come, so be faithful.
2. Evangelism by Action
The next thing we want to look at here is that Jesus did not just bombard this woman with words imploring her to repent, and so on - but what He did do was to conduct evangelism by action, and this I think is an important point to note.
How many Christians do we know of, who just seem to go like a bull at a gate when it comes to evangelism? These sorts of Christians just go charging right on in there accusing people of various sins, and casting hell fire upon them. Is this what Jesus does? Well He certainly doesn’t do that here.
‘There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans (Jn 4:7-9).’
There doesn’t appear to be too much in this, not too much evangelism by action here at all - not from our viewpoint in the year 2000 AD anyhow. But here the Lord Jesus Christ is conducting evangelism by action, and is doing something that will surely touch the heart of this woman - for He is showing a real care and concern for this woman, of being interested in her as a person. What do I mean?
Well the answer is to be found in the sarcasm of the woman in reply for Jesus’ request for a drink of water, for she more or less says, ‘so we Samaritans are all garbage and to be avoided until you want something.’ Now what did she mean by that - a little history is needed here,
In the year 722 BC the Assyrians carried of the cream of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and replaced these people with those of other countries. These people then interbred with the Hebrew people who still remained in the land, thereby corrupting the Hebrew line. But not only did this happen, but these people who would become known as the Samaritans, blended the true worship of God with pagan religions, and formed an ungodly religion that had clearly departed from the true religion of Israel.
All of this moved those of true Hebrew stock to a position of hostility against the Samaritans, and a refusal to allow them to participate in the true religion of Jehovah in Judah - and so eventually the Samaritans built their own religious centre on Mount Gerazim, which was not far from the site of Jacob’s well. This was then destroyed by the Jews in about 100 BC.
And because of the fear of religious pollution, the Jews would not dare share any utensils that the Samaritans used in eating or drinking, and so the correct translation for verse 9 should be, ‘For Jews and Samaritans do not use vessels in common.’ In fact Samaritan women were especially regarded as unclean, and eventually that would be legislated into Jewish Law.
So what Jesus is doing is cutting right across all this prejudice and hostility that had built up over the centuries and demonstrated a real concern and interest in this woman - evangelism by action. This very act speaks more than many words, and the woman will be more prepared to hear what He has to say because she knows he isn’t looking down His nose at her.
And this is a principle that the Church of Jesus Christ desperately needs to get hold of again in our day. If we wish the Gospel to be taken seriously, then we need to take a more serious interest in the lives of others, of those outside of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to stop looking down our noses at them as if they are the refuse of the earth.
How quick we are to do that - a new person comes along who isn’t the sort of person we normally would have as a friend so we ignore them. You may have confirmed in that person’s mind that Christians are all the same, and so they never go to a church again.
Be on the lookout for ways in which you can genuinely demonstrate an active care and concern in the lives of those to whom you would take the gospel - they will be more likely to hear what a friend has to say then someone they might consider as a hypocrite, or as being stuck up, or even self-righteous.
I’m not saying that you replace the spoken gospel with mere social acts or deeds of mercy, but I am saying that you need to demonstrate a genuine interest in the person to whom you wish to take the gospel.
Perhaps the person has some real needs to which you could minister, and therefore an opportunity to demonstrate Christian love, and the door may then open for you to share with that person the Gospel of the Christ.
Yes I am aware that this may mean an investment of time, of labour, and even money - but isn’t this that to which we are called?
What sort of things am I talking about? Perhaps a loved one has died, you could in that situation prepare a meal, go along to the funeral in support, offer some sort of practical help in getting through the tough time ahead.
Perhaps someone is ill, you could offer to mow the lawns, look after the gardens, supply transport to and from the doctors, take the kids out for a while, and so on.
And all the time you are offering and supplying practical help, and demonstrating genuine care, concern and love, you are also praying for the opportunity to speak a word for Christ, and actively looking for that opportunity.
Perhaps that opportunity will come by providing a booklet, explaining how the Lord has helped you through a similar situation before sharing how that person may know the same comfort and help you have received from the Lord
The point is, don’t expect a worthwhile opportunity to open up to you without an abiding display of genuine care, concern, and love for the person you are seeking to win for Christ. Non-Christians can smell a hypocrite long before you know you are, and the opportunity to witness will have been long lost.
But evangelism isn’t complete with just evangelism by action, Jesus moves on from there, to evangelism by thinking.
3 Evangelism by Thinking
When Jesus speaks to this woman, seeking to lead her into the saving knowledge of God, He doesn’t just chuck at her the latest proven method of evangelistic practice, neither does He just run through a quick check list to rush her into the Kingdom of God by manipulating a quick decision for Jesus out of her.
But what does He do - He exercises evangelism by thinking. He thinks about what He will do, and comes up with a wise course of action. This morning we are going to look at a bit of this, but this principle will carry over into much of what we have to say next week as well.
Firstly He appeals to her sympathy, knowing that in this eastern culture He will capture an ear for a period of time by doing so. ‘There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink (Jn 4:7).’
Jesus didn’t wait for her to offer Him a drink, for she may have been in a hurry to get home - instead He asks her. He went after her in order to create an opportunity to share the gospel, and so He appeals to her sense of giving hospitality to a stranger and asks for a drink, knowing that by her culture and tradition she would give Him one.
An unbeliever isn’t going to just drop an opportunity into your lap, at least not every time. Though you pray for opportunities, and look for them in the Lord’s providence, the probability is that you will need to seize on something, a slight opening, and to wisely move through that opening with the Gospel.
You need to always have you’re mind in gear, ticking other, ready to pounce. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about - how often has it been that you have found yourself in such a situation, you know the door has just opened but you say nothing. It is these opportunities that you must be ready to lay hold of.
The next thing Jesus does is to appeal to her curiosity, ‘Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle (Jn 4:10-12)?’
Notice here that Jesus doesn’t seek to get into a religious argument about the Jewish-Samaritan divide, for His goal is not to win points in a religious argument.
So often Christians want to try and gain some sort of argumentative victory with the unbeliever, as if he could win them to Christ by a sinful display of pride. If we can just get some points up we have achieved something. In reality however, that sort of thing is really one of the most harmful things that can happen.
You need to learn to not enter into such debates, for this is what the unbeliever wants in order to deflect you and have some fun with you. They know what buttons to push, and once pushed the opportunity is long gone.
But Jesus lets the sarcasm slide like water of a ducks back, and pushes on by appealing to the woman’s curiosity, by seeking to capture her interest, by seeking to get her to want more, to whet her appetite to hear more of what He has to say.
It wasn’t so much that the Samaritan woman had something that this Jew wanted at all, but that this Jew had something better than the water from the well that He could give her ... all this was designed to get the mind ticking over, to get her to think about this better ‘gift of God’, this ‘living water.’
The passage tells us that Jesus had got her attention, that she is thinking all this through now - but He has her stumped, ‘What is it that this Jew is talking about? Can He somehow get to the flowing spring water beneath the well, yet He has no bucket? Who is this man before me, is He greater than Jacob?’
‘Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (Jn 4:13,14).’
Jesus does not give a direct answer to the woman who is now hooked, but rather appeals to her desire for this thing that Jesus is talking about, by effectively telling the woman that yes, He is obviously greater than Jacob for the living water He gives means you don’t have to keep going back for more as you do with this well.
What He has to offer gives real satisfaction, and will continually do so. The water from the well provides a temporary satisfaction to physical thirst, but it will return - the living water answers the souls greatest thirst, and its greatest need, and will do so forever.
Of course the woman doesn’t really know what He is talking about, but she is sure keen to hear more, to try and understand what it is that Jesus is saying, and to get at this living water.
‘The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw (Jn 4:15).’
Without a doubt Jesus has this woman right were He wants her. She intensely wants to know more, and to get at this living water. And this is what we need to do, to attempt to arrest the attention of the unbeliever so that they will want to hear more - perhaps to get them to want what you now have.
Perhaps an explanation of how knowing the Lord Jesus Christ has been a refuge for you in a time of trouble similar to what the unbeliever is now going through. Perhaps how knowing the Lord Jesus Christ has given you purpose in your life when the unbeliever you are speaking to is struggling with direction, or is contemplating suicide.
For each sinner there is a living water to drink from that would give them everlasting satisfaction, and that would become in them a fountain of water springing up into eternal life - and it is our job toarouse their interest in obtaining it.
‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not (Is 55:1,2)?’
We need to be looking for an opportunity to excite sinners to want this most precious living water, and to offer it to them freely.
We will leave the passage for the time being and return to it next week Lord willing.
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