Sharing Our Faith
by Rev. Jonathan Gale
Sunday 23 March, 2014
Romans 5: 1 – 11
Results of Justification
5Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
John 4: 5 – 42
5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ 11The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ 13Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 15The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
16 Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ 17The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ 19The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ 21Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ 25The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ 26Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ 28Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ 30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ 32But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ 33So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ 34Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’
The area in which Jacob’s Well was situated was redolent with history. Sited between Mt Ebal and Mt Gerizim, it was in the area where Joshua built an altar before God after entering the Promised Land and where he divided the people into two groups, one on Mt Ebal and the other on Mt Gerizim and where they reaffirmed the Covenant with God made at Mt Sinai, where they recited the blessings and the curses associated with the Covenant. Where they repeated their understanding that obedience to God would result in blessing and disobedience would result in cursing.
In other words, now that their feet were standing within the land of Canaan they symbolically spoke the Law over the land, a Law not meant for erudite discussion but for obedience. A practical Law, designed to create a pathway to God’s favour.
As Jesus, the very fulfilment of the Law, sat there in the heat of the noonday, thirsty and tired, waiting for his disciples to return with some food, he must surely have had a heightened sense of his mission as the Messiah. He must surely have been thinking just how badly wrong Israel had got it, how their disobedience had got them into trouble time and again. At this very moment he, God’s Son, was on his way back to Galilee in order to escape the Pharisees who increasingly saw him as a threat as his following grew.
I wonder if Jesus knew this early in his ministry that in order to fulfil his role as the Messiah who rescues, he would need to bear on the cross the curse of the Law for humankind – the very curses repeated here so long ago as Joshua led the people into Canaan. Paul explains this to the church in Galatia in these words: (Galatians 3: 3) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
And into his reverie walks a Samaritan woman. Another reminder of how badly wrong Israel had got it. The Samaritans were the remnant of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and were notoriously confused when it came to God and God’s ways. The very legacy of getting it wrong comes up to the well, jar in hand, about to draw water.
Now we can learn a great deal from Jesus’ actions from here on.
His concern for her is evident in the fact that he even speaks to her at all. Jews simply avoided Samaritans and a man didn’t casually speak to a woman. We can see the disciples’ disapproval when they find him doing so. They were astonished, says the text. Jesus was risking his reputation by engaging with her.
But his concern for her is greater than his concern for his reputation.
So Jesus asks her for some water. She’s not about to give him anything. Instead she expresses surprise that he’s speaking to her. There is almost a guarded coquettishness about her response.
But Jesus is not put off. He says if you knew who was speaking to you, you’d have asked and he would have given you living water – which literally meant “running water” – i.e. good quality water, not stagnant well water.
She parries with – You’ve got no bucket Are you greater than Jacob who gave us this well?
And here begins a movement in the conversation which I’d like you to notice. Jesus begins with water. It’s what she’s about. In fact with jar in hand it’s where she has the advantage.
But he very quickly begins to shift to meeting (not his need for literal water) but towards meeting her need for spiritual water. He zones in on her real need – her need for God.
She’s very clever at avoiding him of course, and there are great subtleties in the conversation which one could discuss for hours, but the point is Jesus sticks to his guns.
Jesus says in Vs 14 The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ When Jesus mentions eternal life she responds inVs 15 with: ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty.
She’s still not too sure what he’s on about because she also mentions that she then won’t have to come back to the well to draw literal water. However Jesus, in order to make sure that there are no misunderstandings in his intentions, asks her to call her husband. She of course replies that she has no husband, whereupon Jesus reveals to her that he knows that she has had five husbands and that the person she is living with at the present time is not her husband.
When the Samaritan woman realises that Jesus’ motives are pure she gets all religious on him. I see you are a prophet, she says and goes on to rake up a religious argument about who is correct; the Jews or the Samaritans.
Again, Jesus sticks to his guns. He finds common ground by excluding both the Jewish and Samaritan religious obsessions (for the Jews, the temple & for the Samaritans the mountain), thereby drawing her closer. Jesus’ inclusiveness is in stark contrast to what she might have expected after his revelations about her relationships.
His concern for her is inexorable. It just keeps on and on and can’t be stopped. Nothing puts Jesus off bringing this Samaritan woman to faith. He tells her that God is looking for people to worship him in spirit and in truth. The implication is that she is one of these people.
But she’s still not buying. I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ This is her version of, “I have my own church. Don’t talk to me about God. I have a wiser, more authoritative voice to consult.”
O dear, the irony of her trying to trump Jesus with the Messiah. I would love to have seen the gentle look on Jesus’ face as he replied, ‘I am he’, and just in case she got the wrong end of the stick, ‘the one who is speaking to you.’
We can learn so much from Jesus’ approach to this woman which we can use to share him with other people.
- Jesus started with something he and the woman had in common – a need for water. He made her feel empowered. She had the ability to draw water. He didn’t. He didn’t make her feel ignorant or lord it over her.
- His concern for her outweighed what people thought of him. He was more concerned about her salvation than about his reputation.
- He was not put off by her avoiding the topic when he changed to discussing the spiritual dimension of her needs.
- He respected her. He showed he knew who she was and what she was like but her didn’t condemn her.
- Instead he found common ground with her (neither the Jewish nor the Samaritan religious preferences) and included her in the people God was seeking to worship him.
- He simply did not give up but made his motives clear. He was concerned to meet her spiritual need.
- He spoke plainly, not wandering off into some compromise in order to make her feel welcome. He tells her plainly that the Samaritans are wrong and the Jews right on these things. He spoke honestly, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’
That’s the first thing I want to share; the example or pattern Jesus has left for us to follow.
No sooner has the woman gone off to town (you’ll notice she disappeared when the disciples returned. Probably the heavy vibes of disapproval, I should imagine). No sooner has she disappeared than Jesus comments that the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reason for this is that we are not alone in growing the Kingdom of God. God Himself is at work.
We often forget just how spiritually hungry people are. Like the woman at the well people will make all sorts of attempts to derail the conversation, but in the end Jesus pressed on in love and won through. We have a great ally in the Holy Spirit when we are sharing our faith. Not everyone will respond positively, but the spiritual need is still there, deep and insistent, because human beings were made for fellowship with God. Don’t forget that.
Neither do we labour alone with God. Many other people may have spoken to the person, could in fact be praying for them. Don’t be put off by anyone or anything. Simply share your faith.
And that’s the second thing I want to share with you; that we have a great ally in the work of the Holy Spirit.
The final point is in the form of a question. How qualified does one have to be to share one’s faith? This is what the woman said: ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’As a result 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.
Not exactly brimming with formal qualifications, was she! Her exact words were:29‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ She doesn’t actually assert much other than the very personalhe told me everything I have ever done! She simply poses a question: ‘He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ and the following verse tells us 30They left the city and were on their way to him.
Sometimes less is more. Had the woman begun a teaching right there in the town square of Sychar on the living water and how both Samaritans and Jews are wrong about God – and she knows this because the Messiah told her, how many people do you think would have listened to her? Not one, I can guarantee.
She gave a simple testimony of her personal experience of Jesus. That’s it.
In conclusion: Paul tells us, 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. That overwhelming fact, along with the knowledge that God is actively seeking true worshippers who will worship him in spirit and in truth; these two things alone should encourage us (and by that I mean motivate and give us the courage) to see everyone we meet as a potential child of God – someone whom God is seeking. There is great power in maintaining the focus with everyone we meet that they are a potential Christian, greatly committed to God. That’s how Jesus saw the woman at the well, and within minutes she was an evangelist. Our job is to join God in the work He is already doing.
We have every reason to be confident in sharing our faith, wherever we are on the pathway. As someone once said, “Read the last few pages of the book – we win in the end”.
Here’s something to take away. Work out your one-line personal testimony. The woman said ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!Write down yours on a bit of paper “Come and see ….” What you fill that gap with may be different from everyone else. What are you going to ask people to come and see? What has Jesus done for you? Your answer to that question will be revealing.
God bless you.