OPPORTUNISTIC EVANGELISM OFFERS THE FREE GIFT OF SPIRIT PRODUCED LIFE, AWAKENS A SENSE OF SPIRITUAL NEED AND RECRUITS GENUINE WORSHIPERS
(:1-8) BACKGROUND: AVOIDING CONTROVERSY WITH THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS PHARISEES WHILE INITIATING CONTACT WITH A LOST SINNER
A. (:1-3) Avoiding Controversy with the Self-Righteous Pharisees
Jesus knew that His growing popularity (“making and baptizing more disciples than John” would cause premature conflict with the Pharisees.
Not that conflict bothered him, but He didn’t want to be distracted from his mission.
“He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee”
Stedman: First, the reason Jesus left Judea was to avoid a growing controversy. The Pharisees were distressed and aroused over the apparent rivalry between the baptism of Jesus and the baptism of John. They could not understand it. They were choosing up sides, and a rift threatened.
B. (:4-8) Initiating Contact with a Lost Sinner
1. (:4) Sense of Divine Appointment
“And He had to pass through Samaria”
Stedman: This direct route from Judea to Galilee was about 70 miles, or two and a half days’ walk. But many of the Jews chose not to go through Samaria. They traveled the hot desert road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and up the Jordan valley. Thus, because of the terrible prejudice that prevailed against the Samaritan people, they journeyed almost twice the distance on a much hotter and more uncomfortable road. But our Lord cut right through that ignorant, narrow-minded prejudice and went through Samaria.
Deffinbaugh: D. A. Carson, citing Josephus, maintains that Jews much more commonly passed through Samaria. It would therefore seem that only a few strict Jews refused to do so.
2. (:5-6) Scene of Jewish/Samaritan Hostility
a. Place of Historical Significance
“So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there”
cf. Gen. 12:6; 34:2; Josh. 8:33; 20:7,8; 24:1, 32; Acts 7:16
b. Place of Human Weariness
“Jesus, therefore, being wearied from his journey”
Piper: The Samaritans were the remnant of the northern Jewish Kingdom who had intermarried with foreigners after the chiefs and nobles had been carried into exile in 729 B.C. They had once built a separate worship place on their own Mt. Gerizim and they rejected all of the Old Testament except their version of the first five books of Moses. The animosity toward Jews was centuries old.
Stedman: According to this account, it was “the sixth hour” when Jesus stopped at the well. By Jewish reckoning that would be noon. But according to Roman time, which I think John uses throughout his gospel, it was six o’clock in the evening. So it was no surprise that Jesus was weary. He had been walking in the hot sun all day. He was thirsty, so he sat beside the well to rest while the disciples went into the city to find something to eat. Thus we have here a very beautiful picture of our Lord’s humanity.
Deffinbaugh: Why the emphasis on Jacob, and on this well which once belonged to him? It seems as though this woman (and perhaps the Samaritans more generally) took pride in claiming Jacob as their forefather. This is especially strange in the light of the way this patriarch is portrayed in the Book of Genesis. I don’t remember any self-respecting Jew boasting about being a descendant of Jacob, but only of being Abraham’s offspring (see Matthew 3:9).
Matthew Henry: Shechem yielded the first proselyte that ever came into the church of Israel (Gen. xxxiv. 24), and now it is the first place where the gospel is preached out of the commonwealth of Israel; so Dr. Lightfoot observes.
3. (:7) Simple but Surprising Request – Getting her Attention
“Give Me a drink”
Surprising that a Jewish man like Jesus would initiate interaction with her because:
– she was a woman
– she was a Samaritan
– she was of poor moral character
Tasker: The Samaritan woman is a timeless figure – not only a typical Samaritan but a typical human being. As she converses with Jesus, it becomes clear that like most men and women she is almost exclusively concerned with the provision of what will satisfy her physical needs, particularly thirst-quenching water which can often be obtained only by the expenditure of much time and energy.
4. (:8) Seclusion from Distractions
“For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.”
Provided Jesus some private time for interaction with the Samaritan woman.
Many different types of evangelism: Friendship, Confrontational, Visitation Programs, Crusades, Literature Distribution, etc.
But how would you categorize Christ’s dealing with the Samaritan woman at the well and her townspeople?
Coin a phrase: “Opportunistic Evangelism”
– being alert to seize every opportunity for evangelism (for both sowing and reaping)
– being creative to turn the occasion towards spiritual things without forcing things
– following the leading of the Holy Spirit
Def. of “opportunistic” is usually negative: the practice of taking advantage of opportunities or circumstances (fine so far — we will stop with this) esp. with little regard for principles or consequences
We minister with the highest possible regard for principles and consequences — but we minister aggressively because our confidence is in the God who can change people’s hearts
THE THREE OBJECTIVES OF OPPORTUNISTIC EVANGELISM:
I. (:9-15) OFFERS THE FREE GIFT OF SPIRIT PRODUCED LIFE = LIVING WATER
A. (:9) Contact Initiated Without Prejudice
“‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)”
B. (:10) Curiousity Stirred – Reference to Living Water – Analogy from Physical to Spiritual Realm
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
C. (:11-12) Confusion Surfaces
1. Confusion Regarding Physical vs. Spiritual
“Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?”
2. Confusion Regarding Person of Christ
“You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?”
Deffinbaugh: Jesus does not answer the question about being greater than Jacob quite yet. He momentarily sets aside this question and answers it indirectly by showing that His “water” is better “water” than that provided by Jacob’s well. Jacob’s well “water” temporarily quenches thirst, but only for a time, and then more water is required. This woman recognizes the “inferiority” of this “water” because day after day she must return to the well for more. The “water” of which our Lord speaks is vastly better. This “water” permanently quenches one’s thirst. The one who drinks His “water” will never thirst again—and this “living water” produces eternal life.
D. (:13-14) Contrast Defined (between physical water and living water)
1. Limitation of physical well water – Quenches thirst only temporarily
“Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again”
2. Longevity of spiritual living water – Quenches thirst permanently
“but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst”
3. Multiplying factor – Potential to quench thirst in others also as it is shared
“but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Note the evangelistic thrust here in keeping with this context as the Samaritan woman shares Jesus with the rest of the townspeople.
John 7:37-39 – defines the Holy Spirit in connection to this living water
Stedman: How do we keep from thirsting? We have water piped in, available to us all the time, so that when we feel even a little thirsty we take a drink of it. This is what Jesus means here. The water he would give would be available constantly so that when one was thirsty one could drink immediately and so would never get terribly thirsty.
E. (:15) Conversation Extended
“Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw.”
Now there is some give and take to the conversation; some opportunity to further explain the key issues …
II. (:16-19) AWAKENS A SENSE OF SPIRITUAL NEED — INSIGHT INTO HER GUILTY CONSCIENCE
A. (:16) Probing Command
“Go, call your husband, and come here.”
Piper: If people are spiritually asleep you have to shock them, startle them, scandalize them, if you want them to hear what you say. Jesus was especially good at this. When he wants to teach us something about worship he uses a whore. “Go call your husband!” “I don’t have a husband.” “That’s right. But you’ve had five, and the man you sleep with now is not your husband.” She was shocked. We’re shocked. But Jesus simply sits there on the edge of the well with his hands folded, looking at the woman with razors in his eyes ready to teach us about worship. . .
So now he touches the most sensitive, vulnerable spot in her life — “Go call your husband.” The quickest way to the heart is through a wound.
Carr: This may seem cruel of the Lord, but nobody will eve come to Jesus for salvation until they are first awakened to their own personal need. Until the sinners knows he is lost, he will never desire to be found. Thus, conviction is of vital importance. Without it, nobody can ever be saved – John 6:44, 65; Eph. 2:1. Please note that God is not as nearly afraid of revealing your sins as you are of having them revealed! He will do whatever He has to do to bring you to repentance.
B. (:17a) Personal Concealment (or Personal Confession??)
“The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’”
Answers question … but does not become transparent and open up with any type of confession.
Deffinbaugh: The “woman at the well” is a woman whose sins are apparent, but she has not sinned alone. In those days, husbands divorced their wives, but wives did not divorce their husbands. If this woman was married and divorced five times, then five men divorced her. This woman was “put away” five times. Think of how she must feel about herself. And the man she is now living with is not her husband. She isn’t even married this time, but just living with (or sleeping with) a man, perhaps another woman’s husband. This woman has been passed around by some of the male population of Sychar. Jesus’ words not only call the woman’s attention to her sins; they call our attention to the sins of the men of that city.
C. (:17b-18) Pastoral Counsel
“You have well said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”
D. (:19) Partial Comprehension
“Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.”
Stedman: Most of the commentators take her response to be an evasion on her part, a change of subject in order to escape a very unpleasant probing by Jesus. I once thought that, but I have come to see her response in a deeper light. I believe now that this is an admission on her part that Jesus is dead right: “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. You have seen me, and you are right on. You know all about me.” (Later, she goes into the village and says to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did.”) By her response, she is admitting that he is right; this is what she has done and been. Then she links with it not an evasion, not a religious question to try to turn him off, but an honest plea for help. “Where do I go to get life?” is what she is saying. “You Jews say that the only place to offer the sacrifice that can cleanse my sin is in the temple in Jerusalem. Our people say it is here on this mountain. Where do I go? How can I find God? “
Deffinbaugh: Her question does not look like a rabbit trail to me; rather it seems an honest effort to get to the heart of the difference between the “faith” of the Samaritans and the “faith” of the Jews.
III. (:20-24) RECRUITS GENUINE WORSHIPERS — INVITATION TO WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH
A. (:20-21) The Place of Worship is Not the Priority
1. Plea for Clarification Regarding the Proper Physical Location
“Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
2. Switching the Focus to the Spiritual Issue of Worship
“Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father.”
B. (:22) The Object of Worship is the Promised Messiah
“You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews.”
C. (:23-24) The Nature of Worship = “in spirit and truth”
1. Time Reference – inaugurating new era of worship
“But an hour is coming, and now is”
significance of First Coming of Christ
eschatological focus as well directed towards Second Coming
2. Nature of Worship Defined
a. Not bowing down in some physical locality limited by a temple structure
b. “in spirit” = Heart Worship
– in the realm of our spirit as energized by the Spirit of God
– impossible for non-believers
– opposite of insincere or mere intellectual worship
c. “in truth” = in accordance with God’s revelation
3. Nature of Worship Significant to God
a. Desires “true worshipers”
b. Desires Worship directed towards the “Father”
c. Recruits such Worshipers
“for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers”
4. Nature of Worship Consistent with the Character of God
“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”
Piper: When Jesus says in v. 23, “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,” some take him to mean “in the Holy Spirit.” I’ve taken him to mean that worship must come from your spirit within instead of being merely formal and external. But in John 3:6 Jesus connects God’s Spirit and our spirit in a remarkable way. He says, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” In other words, until the Holy Spirit touches our spirit with the flame of life our spirit is so dead it does not even qualify as spirit. Only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. So when Jesus says that true worshipers worship in spirit he must mean that true worship only comes from spirits that are made alive and sensitive and vital by the touch of the Holy Spirit.
(:25-26) CONCLUSION: IDENTIFICATION OF JESUS AS THE MESSIAH
A. Promise of Messiah
“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ)’”
B. Function of Messiah
“when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”
C. Fulfillment of Promise – Significant “I AM” statement
“Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’”