Turning Offense into Opportunity. In chapter 4 of John Jesus gives us an iconic example of lifestyle evangelism. It begins with a tense exchange with a person of a different gender, ethnicity, and religious belief than His own. The woman initially insults Jesus and taunts Him publicly. How did you respond the last time a waitress treated you poorly? Did you respond in kind, or did you do what Jesus did here? Because of how Jesus responds, the entire city hears the gospel. Has your city heard the gospel? Maybe you can learn from the actions and words of Jesus in our lesson today.
[Jhn 4:1-26 KJV] 1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) 3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. 4 And he must needs go through Samaria. 5 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. 6 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. 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9 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. 10 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. 11 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? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 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. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am [he].
In the beginning of John 4, Jesus responds to gossip among the Pharisees that his disciples are outnumbering those of John the Baptist. This information is relayed to Him, and He decides to leave Judea altogether. Why do you think this is? Because His hour is not yet come. The more attention He draws through His ministry only brings Him closer to the persecution that will end in His death. He knows that this is not the season that this is supposed to take place; thus, He withdraws. This is an interesting feature in the character of Jesus that Isaiah, the prophet spoke of:
[Isa 42:2-3 KJV] 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
In other words, Jesus is not moved by outward provocation. For those of us in Christ and particularly those of us called to 5-fold ministry, we would do well to take note of this. Just because there is a bruised reed (a wounded person) before us, doesn’t mean we should get involved. Just because there is a smoldering problem ahead doesn’t mean we should try to quench it. There would be few pastors who don’t know what it is to spend the day putting out fires of unrest or contention among the members of the local church. It is one of the most exasperating things a pastor can do. The lesson of Isaiah is obeying the Spirit of God and not the demands of any given situation. Never allow in your life the tyranny of the urgent to supersede the priority of the important.
On His way to Galilee, Jesus comes to a city of Samaria in the north country and being wearied from the journey and late in the day, He stops at a well to refresh Himself. A woman comes to draw water, and Jesus asks her for a drink. The woman is surprised Jesus is addressing her because the old rivalry between the Jews in the south and the mixed-blood people of Samaria is so intense still to this day that they seldom speak to one another, not even in passing. Sadly, it is still true today in the church called by Jesus’ name, that it is the most segregated, prejudicial cultural component in society, being sharply segmented by race, creed, social class, and economic standing.
Jesus asks for water, and the woman bristles at the request, choosing instead to insult Jesus with a taunt concerning the differences between them. For the average person, the conversation would have ended right there. How would you answer someone who insulted your ethnicity in public? Jesus ignores the slight and says to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who I was, you would ask Me to give you living water…”
The woman brushes off Jesus’ remark and presses her insulting tone against Him, pointing out that He doesn’t have implements needed to draw the water. The woman has access to natural water, which she is impeding Jesus to partake of, and yet He is there with the spiritual refreshment that can change her life. Think about the service industries. We interact with them every day. Have you ever gotten incensed by a rude person at the drive-through or a neglectful waitress who didn’t fill your coffee cup fast enough, or came with a hair in your food? What was your response? How did it compare with this interaction and how Jesus is handling it?
The woman wants to argue. She is putting Jesus down. She is insulting His ethnicity and His religion. She is refusing even to give Him a cup of water to drink when obviously He has walked all day long, covered with dust and clearly exhausted. Do you get grumpy when you are tired? Is that an excuse to be rude in return when someone mistreats you? Have you ever used that as an excuse to be unkind? “Well, I was tired, and they shouldn’t have taken so long to bring me my food…” Have you ever done this? Does it sound familiar? What you have to understand is that this terse interaction between Jesus and the woman is the gateway to an entire city hearing the gospel because of what Jesus does and does not do next. How about you? What will you do next time you are in a similar situation?
Out of this tense situation comes one of the most quoted verses of the bible. Jesus offers the woman living water, and in retort, the woman in effect says, “prove it!”. Jesus says to her (v. 14) that the water He gives will cause those that drink it never to thirst again. He promises that as this well was dug to refresh this entire city, so He would put within the woman a well of water springing up to life everlasting. What is Jesus doing? He is comparing the well placed in this city with the well, the spiritual refreshing He is offering to place in this woman’s life. He is thinking of this woman as a city. Do we have a scripture that might have been on His mind? Solomon said:
[Pro 18:19 KJV] 19 A brother offended [is harder to be won] than a strong city: and [their] contentions [are] like the bars of a castle.
What is Jesus doing? He is exercising discernment not only to identify what is going on in front of Him but to determine what to do next. We often hear people speak of discerning of Spirits, but too often this alleged gift in a person is just a judgmental attitude used as an excuse to dismiss and put someone down. They might look at this woman and say, “I discern a religious spirit! Then they would just move on feeling like their “discernment” gave them a license to ignore the woman (she is the wrong ethnicity anyway) and move on. Jesus, on the other hand, uses the word of God both to discern the woman and to discern what He is to do next, or how He is to handle her:
[Heb 4:12 KJV] 12 For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
When Jesus looks at this woman and makes the statements He does to her, it is very likely that Solomon’s words came back to Him. He speaks to her as though He was her brother. He doesn’t see an ethnic divide between them, or a social or economic chasm separating them. He sees a defensed city. She has been insulted all her life by Jewish people, and her bristling attitude is not something Jesus takes personally. She is defending herself as a city would put up walls to throw back a siege from an invading army. What does Jesus do? He just keeps talking. He keeps pressing the advantage of His calm spirit and heart of love for someone – not a stranger but a sister, one for whom He will soon give His life, though she has no idea who He is.
The woman challenges Jesus to give her what she could have only thought of as “magic water” that would eliminate thirst, and in response, Jesus tells her to call her husband. Notice the coy answer the woman gives: “sir, I have no husband….” For many, if not most men, this interaction would have ended in a hotel room. What is the woman doing? By her words and her body language, she is propositioning Jesus. Jesus sees that she has had five husbands and was living with a man, not her husband. She wasn’t so successful in attracting men that she would not have had attributes that would have described her as attractive. Gentlemen, how will you respond next time a beautiful woman makes an overture of interest and availability to you? If you have any character in Christ at all, you might think, “I will just run away as fast as I can,” and that is certainly a good defensive tactic. But remember the words of Jesus when He said: “the prince of this world comes and has NOTHING in Me…” If your thought is to run far and run fast, that is understandable, but you also have to face the fact that is because Satan has a foothold in your life where the opposite sex is concerned, and it costs you the evangelization of your city.
Jesus had nothing in Him that would make Him vulnerable in this situation. You might say, “well, that is Jesus…” but what about the words of Jesus in John 14:12? “He that believeth in Me will do the works that I do and greater works…” Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a word full of predatory people who are looking for an advantage to quench a thirst in their lives, just as this woman putting herself with man after man after man was seeking to quench a thirst in her life. Are you going to allow the dealings of God to take you past yourself and cause you to indeed and in reality be a light to a sin-sick world, or are you going to nurse your pet vulnerabilities because they feed something on the inside of you rather than allow the work of the cross to so change you that you become the carrier of the glory for your city as Jesus was about to be in this situation?
The woman is intrigued by Jesus’ ability to know things about her He couldn’t have learned by any means other than God. She continues, however, with her argumentative tone, remarking on the religious differences between them. What did you do the last time you were in conversation with a Muslim? Have you ever even looked a Muslim in the eye, much less had a conversation with them? Jesus ignores her attempt to debate Him theologically and says to her, “woman, God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and truth…” Something in Jesus’ tone softens the woman’s next response to Him. “I know,” the woman replies in v. 25 that Messiah is coming…” Doesn’t everyone know that something is coming? It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe. Whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist, man, woman, rich or poor, there is something in us that John 1 calls the light that lights every man that comes into the world and that is what we are to speak to in every person we find the opportunity to do so. Jesus looks her in the eye and softly says, “what you know in your heart is coming is not an event, it is not the age of Aquarius, it is not a some-day, one-day pie-in-the-sky hope that your desperate life will be better … it is none of those things. It is not an event but a person and (Jesus says) I am He.
This is the Jesus who lives in us. This is the living Christ standing up on the inside of us, craning His neck to see out of the gun ports we have installed in the social armor by which we protect ourselves from anyone that would hurt or insult us. It is time to take off our six guns. It is time to come out from behind the social veneer by which we insulate ourselves from an alien world. We must allow Him to manifest Himself in our words, attitudes, and deeds to a lost and dying world. Are you willing? Are you ready? Will this be the day that you become a part of the solution and no longer part of the problem of reaching out to a thirsting world with the refreshing of the Spirit of Christ within you?