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Recap of Chapter 23

If God’s prophets were meant to be peculiar, John the Baptist did not disappoint. Eccentric is too mild a description for this wilderness dwelling preacher who wore odd clothes and lacked both a sense of tact and a balanced diet.  His message, though, was right in step with a long line of prophetic predecessors.  He called for Israel’s repentance and baptized the penitent in the Jordan River.

John was awestruck when Jesus came to be baptized by him.  Then he watched in amazement as heaven opened wide and the Spirit of God came to rest on Jesus. John and those with him were astonished to hear the voice of the Father Himself broadcasting His divine approval.  The community of God had gathered to bear witness to their incarnation. The Spirit then led Jesus to a lonely wilderness, where he spent the next 40 days in one-on-one combat with Satan, the enemy of God. He confronted Satan’s evil allurements and proved Himself obedient to the Father and triumphant over sin.

John the Baptist denied claims that he was Messiah, pointing to Jesus and announcing, “Look, the Lamb of God.”  Andrew heard John’s message and rushed to tell his brother, Simon Peter, and others that Messiah had come.  Jesus gathered His band of followers and began training them with marvelous words and miraculous ways.  His first miracle took place when He went to a wedding in Cana with his mother, Mary, and his disciples.  The wine ran out, so Mary turned to Jesus to remedy the embarrassing state of affairs.  Jesus simply instructed the servants to fill six jars with water and serve the guests.  When they did, the guests marveled that finest wine had been kept such a secret until now, and Jesus’ disciples caught their earliest glimpse of the One who shared creative power with His Father.

The disciples became increasingly aware that Jesus was indeed their long-expected Messiah, but others were not so sure.  A religious leader called Nicodemus had a clandestine encounter with Jesus to find some answers.  Jesus’ simple reply was, “You must be ‘born again’….of the Spirit.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Jesus had a similar conversation with a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water from a well.  With her, he spoke of ‘living water,’ but the message was the same:  receive His gift and be saved.  When she mentioned the Messiah, Jesus confirmed His identity.  She believed and shared the news with her entire village, as the second missionary of the new Messiah.

Jesus traveled the area, taught in the synagogues and healed the people.  He ousted demons and cleansed socially exiled lepers.  The crowds grew and so did His critics.  On one occasion, four men dug through the roof of a house so they could bring their paralytic friend to Him.  Before he healed him, Jesus forgave the man, while the religious teachers grew indignant over such claims.  But Jesus validated His authority by commanding the paralytic to get up and walk. The Pharisees missed the miracle and were incensed that Jesus had violated tradition by healing on the Sabbath.

This Sabbath infringement, coupled with his absurd claim to be the Messiah Himself, on top of his questionable social circles, quickly turned the establishment against Him.  And so the conspiracy to kill Jesus began.  While many debated, questioned and wondered about Jesus’ identity, one thing was certain: Jesus was controversial.  Some saw hope, but others hated Him and wanted only to be rid of Him   John the Baptist had loved Him from the beginning but now, languishing in prison, he began to doubt as well, demonstrating that even the best of us have our faith tested under difficult circumstances.  But throughout this chapter, His baptism, His triumph over temptation, His miracles and His message confirm Him as the long expected One who confounds expectations, is drawn to the least and the lost, and whose message is indeed for all, from the graduate professor to the immoral woman to the leper – the Anointed One indeed.

Jesus travels

This is a map of the journey Jesus went on and his encounter with the Samaritan Woman

Woman at the well

A woman at a well

The Power of the Testimony

Never underestimate the power of your testimony. Brian “Head” Welch was the lead guitarist for the nu-metal rock band Korn.  He had all the worldly fame, money and success that anyone could want.  But he also had a methamphetamine addiction, alcoholism and frequent suicidal thoughts.  His personal life was out of control.  In 2004, he got invited by a friend to church and they took him in.  He went home, started snorting drugs and prayed to the Lord that He would reveal Himself.  Within a couple of weeks, Brian’s drug addiction was healed.  In 2005, he startled the music world when he left Korn.  People thought he was crazy—and probably still do.  But he had an encounter with Jesus.  He went to Israel with a group from the California church and got baptized in the Jordan River.  Like the woman at the well, he cannot stop talking about God.  He continues to use the medium of nu-metal rock to share his testimony so that others might experience an encounter with Jesus.  He now has three Christian music albums and has written a book entitled Save Me from Myself.  Brian told Christianity Today magazine, “My prayer is that people would realize how real God is and want to hunger after Him more than anything in this world.  I just pray that eyes will be opened.  He’s lovable, man.  He’s so awesome.  It’s like I’m so content with everything…And I want the whole world to be saved.  I know that’s kind of an immature Christian, but ‘why me, you know?  Why do I get this goodness, Lord?’  I’m saved by grace only.  I didn’t do anything except just ask Him.  He led me into that church…He’s a big God.  I pray that it [his book] imparts a hunger to Christians and others.  And if tons of drug addicts get set free from their drugs, that’s awesome.”  Brian gets it!  He understands the gospel.  He understands the redemption and new life that Jesus offered to him and to the world.  He so loves the LORD that he cannot refrain from sharing the good news of who Jesus is.[1]

Brian is a modern day “woman at the well.”  In this week’s chapter, we see her and the cleansed leper share their testimony about their encounter with Jesus.  Brian, the woman and the leper all point others to their Savior with their short but powerful testimonies.  Never underestimate the power of your story.

Feel free to check out Brian’s story on YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs7i_ckEHVA

Brian is not the conventional looking Christian, he still wears dark eye make-up and has long braided hair. We are reminded once again that there is no one beyond the gracious redemptive work of God.


[1]   Jeremiah Gregier, “Interview:  Former Guitarist of Korn Reflects on Conversion, Freedom from Drugs,” Christianity Today, July 2007.

I.    The woman at the well

A. Three Problems. The woman at the well had three strikes against her from the standpoint of Judaism.  She represented everything that the religious leaders despised.  She was the marginalized and not worthy of someone’s time and attention.
  1. She was a Samaritan.  Samaritans were a mixed race, a people who resulted from the intermarriage of the Northern Israelites and foreign captives who were imported by their Assyrian captors after the Assyrian invasion in 722 BC.  They were “unclean” and “impure.”  Their religious practices were also a mix between Judaism and foreign pagan gods.  They only accepted the Pentateuch, or the five books of Moses, as Scripture.  They rejected all the other sacred writings.  The Samaritans had threatened Nehemiah when he tried to rebuild the Jerusalem walls.  These things all led to constant hostility and hatred between the Jews and Samaritans.

  2. She was a woman.  It was stunning for a man to speak to a woman in public like Jesus spoke to her.  The cultural norms of the day prohibited men from speaking to women in public, prohibited Jews from speaking to Samaritans, and this was particularly astonishing since they were strangers.

  3. She was a sexually immoral sinner.  She was the quintessential outcast.  It was unusual for a woman to come to get water by herself and during the heat of the day.  Perhaps her immorality led other women to avoid or despise her.  She may have been at the well at this time of day to avoid experiencing their rejection and humiliation.  She represents the person that we Christians might look at and consider too hopeless, too mired in sin, to ever respond to the message of Jesus.

  4. She is the typical human being.  The woman at the well is me and you.

B. Personal Encounter. The woman experienced a personal encounter with Jesus.  He met her at a point they both had in common—the need for water.  He then tapped in to her curiosity by implying He had something greater to give her than she could give Him—living water.  This began a conversation about spiritual things.  Then He stunned her with His knowledge of her marital status.  Notice that He did so tactfully, not to bring further humiliation upon her, but to reveal something about Himself and God.  He revealed Himself as the Messiah, opening the door for her to come to Him for salvation.

C. Evangelistic Effort. The woman’s encounter led to her excited, evangelistic effort.  She left her water jar (Jn. 4:28) indicating that she rushed back to the village to tell about her discovery.  She believed Jesus to be the Messiah based upon both His words and His works.  His claim was supported by His ability to know her past.  Not willing to keep her encounter to herself, she simply told them what He had done in her life to convince her that He was the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior (Jn. 4:29).  “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.  Could this be the Messiah?”

D. Testimony. The woman’s testimony led to the Samaritans’ personal encounter with Jesus.  John records her testimony in only two simple sentences but it was effective enough to cause some to initially believe (Jn. 4:39).  God uses the testimony of all kinds of people to bring others to faith in Jesus.  It caused others to seek Him to find out more (Jn. 4:40-41).  Her testimony opened the door for others to seek and believe.  The woman was not responsible for the people’s response.  She was only responsible for inviting them to experience Jesus for themselves.

E. Message. His message was the cause of their faith.  Their faith grew into their own because of their personal encounter with Jesus.  His two days worth of teaching caused more to believe.  Their faith could not rest on her testimony alone.  It needed to be combined with His words.

F. Personal testimony + Jesus’ message -> salvation by faith   The combination of a personal testimony and the Word of God is a powerful evangelistic means.  The woman at the well provides us with a wonderful example of the effectiveness of a simple testimony.  Nothing “big” changed in her life—no miraculous healing, etc.  She discovered Jesus and based on His works and His words, she believed.  A dramatic testimony is not necessary for effectiveness.  God can use our simple encounter and our simple faith to plant seeds and reap a harvest.

II.    The Leper (p. 272-273, Mark 1:38-45)
A. Two Problems. The leper had two major problems:  leprosy and leprosy.  Physically, leprosy was a general term that encompassed a wide range of skin diseases.  In the hot climate of Israel, it would have been very painful and incapacitating.  Spiritually, leprosy made this man ritually unclean.  Therefore, lepers were required to live outside of the city and avoid contact with anyone including family members.  Leprosy was associated with sin.  In the Bible, people are not “healed” of leprosy, they are always “cleansed.”  Leprosy was regarded as incurable.  The Bible only records two people who were cleansed of leprosy by God—Miriam (Num. 12:10-15) and Namaan (2 Ki. 5:1-14).

B. Personal Encounter. The leper had a personal encounter with Jesus. The leper broke the Jewish Law and all social rules when he approached Jesus.  But Jesus touched the leper and cleansed him.  Jesus demonstrated that He was willing to become “unclean” to make someone else “clean,” perhaps alluding to His mission on the cross.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” (2 Cor. 5:21).  However, Jesus instructed the leper to keep the encounter to himself (Mk. 1:44).  Why?  Perhaps Jesus wanted to avoid becoming known as a miracle worker, drawing people to the miracle rather than the Worker.

C. Evangelistic Effort. His witness led to others’ personal encounters with Jesus.   The leper’s news spread quickly and had a powerful effect.   People came from everywhere to Jesus.  But the leper’s disobedience actually hindered Jesus’ work.  Sometimes we think our way is better than God’s way.  Our good intentions can still be contrary to God’s plan.  Jesus could no longer enter a town openly (Mk. 1:45).  His primary mission was not one of healing but one of redemption, which He later emphasized with the paralytic who was let down through the roof (p. 273).  While his testimony led others to Jesus, he still hindered the work of God by his disobedience.

D. Testimony. The results are unknown.  We know that many came to Jesus from everywhere, so in that sense, his testimony was effective.  However, we do not know if anyone actually believed because of it—and that is OK!

  1. The outcome is not the responsibility of the leper.  Nor is it the responsibility of a Christian’s testimony—for that work is left up to the Holy Spirit.  This truth should free the Christian to scatter seeds and know that the Lord is responsible to bring the growth.
  2. In another sense, one must keep in mind that redemption rather than reward was and is God’s plan.  The leper seems to have had the Lower Story in view and may have missed the Upper Story.  If the leper focused on the miracle rather than the Miracle Worker, he might have missed the main thing.

E. The woman at the well and the leper show us how effective a simple testimony can be to draw people to encounter Jesus.  What was true then is still true today.  God still uses unlikely people to fulfill His story of redemption.

III.       Applications and Implications
A. A personal testimony can be an effective means to invite others to encounter Jesus.
B. I do not need a dramatic testimony to be effective.
C. Jesus meets all kinds of people where they are at.  So should I.
D. The woman and the leper were marginalized outcasts.  I should never assume that someone is beyond the reach of Jesus.
E. Jesus’ compassion compels Him to touch the untouchable.  I should cultivate that kind of compassion.
F. If we limit our evangelistic efforts only to those with whom we are comfortable, we will fail to reach very many people.
G. I am not responsible for whether or not someone else believes—that’s the role of the Holy Spirit.  I am just responsible to be a witness to others that they can get to know Jesus.
H. I don’t have to have all the answers.  I just have to have one.

A Savior for All People

The greatest thing about a sandwich is rarely the bread.  Some artisan breads are rich, robust and hearty, adding texture and taste to the sandwich.  These designer breads are the pride and joy of bakers.  They are pretty and tasty and more expensive.  They are proud breads that others notice.  Then you have your dollar-a-loaf, ordinary, lackluster white bread.  This hum-drum bread is pasty, limp and cheap.  It’s mass-produced so it goes unnoticed.  It’s just there.  Whichever way you slice it—pardon the pun—it’s all just bread.  The point of the sandwich is what’s in the middle.  The bread is not there to conceal the middle.  The bread serves to showcase what is in the middle.

John the Apostle used two characters in this week’s chapter of The Story to “sandwich” the message of John 3:16.  It is the best-known verse in the whole Bible.  It appears on posters at sporting events.  It makes its way onto T-shirts and bumper stickers.  Someone even wrote a book recently, simply titled “3:16.”  Today we’ll take a fresh look at this familiar message by looking at Nicodemus and the woman at the well.  The gospel writer used these two characters to make his 3:16 point—Jesus really is a Savior for all people.

I.    The top slice:  Nicodemus

A. Nicodemus represents the best of the religious Jews.  He was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council.  He was an educated man who was also a great teacher. (Jn. 3:10)  He was a man with the right pedigree, position, prestige and power.  As a Pharisee, he would have had great respect for the Scriptures and paid careful attention to observe and obey the Law.  Obedience to the Law was the way of salvation for the Pharisees.  He came to Jesus by night, probably to avoid conflict with the Pharisees who were already beginning to oppose Jesus.

B. Whenever John refers to nighttime in his gospel, it has spiritual and moral allusions to darkness.  Bible study note:  The biblical authors rarely include details that are insignificant.  The stories they choose and the details they include are there to make more than a historical record.  They are part of their theological point.  Nicodemus, even as moral and religious as he was, remained in spiritual darkness.

II.    The bottom slice:  The woman at the well

A. This woman does not even rate having being named.  She represents the opposite extreme from Nicodemus.

  1. She was a Samaritan, which means she was of mixed race between the Northern Israelites and the foreigners imported by the Assyrian captors.
  2. She would have had a mixed religion—part Jewish and part pagan.
  3. She was a woman.  In those days, it was culturally unacceptable for men to speak to women in public, especially strangers.
  4. She was the worst kind of woman (by religious standards)—a sexually immoral woman.  Though we do not know the circumstances of her first five husbands, we know that the man with whom she lived was not her husband.

B. Jesus approached her in the middle of the day, out in the open for anyone to see.

Let’s compare and contrast these two people:

Sex

Place

Race/Ethnic group

Social status

Time of day

Occasion

Initiator

Conversation

Content

Result

Outcome

Nicodemus-named

Male

Jerusalem / Judah

Jew

Highly respected, ruler, teacher

Darkness, night

Pre-planned visit

Nicodemus

Dialogue became monologue

New birth – didn’t “get it”

Not mentioned

No witness to others

Samaritan Woman-no name

Female

Samaria

Samaritan (mixed)

Immoral, discarded

Light, daytime

Spontaneous

Jesus

Dialogue continued to the end

Living water – didn’t “get it”

Believed

Witnessed, others believed

 

III.    Between the slices:  Jesus

A. These two characters represent the whole spectrum of people in the world, from super-saint to super-sinner.  And the one thing they had in common was their need for Jesus.  It’s not about the people, it’s about the Savior.  “Sandwiched” between these two characters is John’s famous 3:16.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John’s point between the Samaritan woman and Nicodemus is that they represent “the world.” They both need salvation which could be found only in Jesus.

B. While Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about needing to be “born again” to Nicodemus and “living water” to the Samaritan woman, neither one of them understood initially.  But they both came to realize that Jesus’ words were about eternal life.  They both needed salvation by faith in Him.

C. Jesus really is a Savior for all people.

  1. All need a Savior—Jew and Gentile, the moral man and the sinner.  Paul’s argument to the Romans is that the pagan, the moral man and the religious man are all in the same sinking boat.  “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  (Rom. 5:23).  “For we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one.”  (Rom. 3:9b-10a)
  2. Salvation is equally available to all by faith.  “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  (Rom. 10:12-13)
  3. Paul affirms equality in Christ in his letter to the Galatians.  Those who are moral or religious get no more brownie points than the filthy sinner.  Once saved, our new identity is in Christ. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Gal. 3:26-28).

D. Jesus is worth sharing with others.  One big difference between these two characters is their response to Him.

  1. We do not have a response from Nicodemus.  If he did believe after his conversation with Jesus, he did not rush out to tell anyone.  At some point in time, it seems that he probably came to faith in Jesus.  He defended Jesus against the Sanhedrin’s irrational hatred (Jn. 7:50).  More importantly, the next encounter we see between Jesus and Nicodemus is at the cross.  Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare Jesus’ body for burial.  Nicodemus supplied a large amount of spices and a linen cloth for the body, showing his deep respect and regard for Jesus (Jn. 19:39-40).  This he did in the light of day.

  2. The Samaritan woman immediately believed and ran back to her village to evangelize all her neighbors.  Her testimony brought many others to faith in this Jesus, further proving John’s point—Jesus is the Savior for all people.

IV.    Applications and Implications

A. Jesus is the Savior for all people.  I should not consider any sinner beyond His redemptive reach. 

B. Religious people need to be born again.  Being a religious, moral person is not synonymous with faith in Christ alone.
C. Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman represent the whole range of mankind.  Where was I on the spectrum when I first encountered Jesus?
D. An encounter with Jesus is worthy of sharing with others.  I need to develop the ability to share my faith with joy like the Samaritan woman.
E. Faith doesn’t necessarily come with the first encounter with Jesus.  Like Nicodemus, it might take some time.  I should not give up on others.
F. Jesus, the Son of GOD, is the ONLY Savior.  There is no other way to have eternal life.

Conversation to Conversion: John 4:1-42

We have come to the point once again this week to take a look a the pages of Scripture with our own eyes. You will need your Bibles open (in whatever form it comes in). We will go through the Samaritan woman story to see how Jesus interacts with others and what that interaction does to others.

Jesus’ ministry on earth is introduced in Chapter 23 of The Story.  His words and his work revealed who he was.  As he went about preaching and performing miracles people began to follow him, as well as  those twelve men he had chosen to mentor and train for his ministry.  They would tell his story to the world.  However, men were not the only followers.  In fact God’s word reveals that many women were among his followers and even some of the most broken women experienced his acceptance. One day in Sychar, Jesus’ own thirst brought him to satisfy her spiritual thirst. It was a tender, yet honest, conversation that led the tainted Samaritan woman to worship.

I.  A Simple Drink of Water.  John 4:1—9

1.  Why was Jesus passing through Sychar in Samaria?  (vs.1-4)

2.  What was significant about the place he chose to rest?  (vs. 5-6; Genesis 33:18-20; Joshua 24:32)

3.  Why did it surprise the woman that Jesus initiated a conversation with her by asking for a drink of water? (vs. 7-9)

4.  What does this show about Jesus’ priorities?

II. More Than a Drink of Water.  4:10—18

1.  What insights can we gain from the way Jesus directed the conversation to spiritual things? (v. 10-12)

2.  What did the woman’s response in vs. 11 and vs. 15 indicate?

3.  From this passage, we know she was aware of the religious history of her people.  What was she thinking about Jesus’ identity at this point? (vs. 12)

4.  What was Jesus really saying to the woman when he talked about living water? (See John 6:35)

5.  Explain the significance of the underlined words from verse 14: “a spring of water welling up to eternal life”.

Up to this point Jesus had been conversing with the woman about spiritual things, yet it seems that she was only hearing an enticing offer provide water.  Perhaps she realized that he could be a prophet; she may have even heard of a teacher who was been traveling around the region doing miracles.  Now Jesus made the conversation personal to make his meaning clear.

6.  What did Jesus’ comments about her husbands reveal to this woman?  (vs. 18-19)  Hint: Do you think there was more conversation than we have recorded in the passage?

7.  Describe in your own words the kind of life that Jesus knew this woman had experienced.

 

III. From Words to Worship.  4:19—42

1.  In the following passage, underline the word “worship” in any form it appears.

 “‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’

Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers, must worship in spirit and in truth.’”  (John 4:19-24)

2. Who brought up the subject of worship?

3.  According to Jesus, what is true worship? (vs. 23)

4.  What change in thought did Jesus force the woman to make? (See vs. 15 and 23)

5.  What startling announcement did Jesus make? (vs. 25-26)

6.  What was the woman’s response?  (vs. 28-30)

We know that Jesus had many more conversations with the Samaritans.  In fact, he stayed with them for two more days.

7.  Note the key dynamics of fruitful evangelism that we can observe from this story? (Hint: try to experience the range of emotions the Samaritan woman would have felt.)

8.  Describe how the woman’s worship was in ‘spirit and truth’ after she was convinced Jesus was the Messiah.

IV. From Conversations to Conversions.

Jesus cared about the Samaritan woman. His conversation with her resulted in the conversion of many Samaritans.  This was more than just talk; Jesus touched her life in meaningful ways.  Both Jesus’ approach to the Samaritan woman, and her response, provide us with a powerful example.

1.  Note the instructions about our conversations

Ephesians 4:29-

Colossians 4:6-

2.   If you had been the woman, would you have been offended by Jesus?  Why or why not?

3.  What was the true solution to the woman’s problems?  To ours? (vs. 23-26)

True worship that is “in spirit and truth” brings blessing to the worshipper and to the world around him.  Mark Moore explains worship in his book How to Dodge a Dragon: “It is not what we do, but what we are aware of…it’s fair to say that you have not worshiped until you get a clear vision of God.

4.  When did you really see God?  Were you aware of who he is and what he has done?” (vs. 34, 35).

5. The Samaritan woman heard Jesus’ claim, and she realized who he was.  It changed everything.  Soon the whole town knew.  Explain how this might happen in your town to show that your worship is ‘in truth’?

6.  One of the reasons Jesus is worthy of worship is because he was the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Messiah.  Note the promises to us that are found in Revelation 22: 7, 10, and 12.

Key Question:  What things will you remove from your life that block your vision of God and hinder your worship?

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