34: Seeing Beyond (John 4:27-30)
34. Seeing Beyond
“Just then his disciples came back. They marvelled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.” (John 4:27-30)
The disciples return from the City with the food that they had gone to buy. When they get back to the well they are shocked to find Jesus talking to a woman. They don’t seem so shocked that he is conversing with a Samaritan. They obviously hadn’t witnessed him spending time alone with an unknown woman before.
Of course, Jesus hadn’t gone looking for her. The Holy Spirit had obviously brought her to Him. And this wasn’t some private hidden conversation. They were in a very public, high traffic, area. There is no indication that Jesus hesitated to talk to her when she came. On the contrary He had initiated the discussion.
When the disciples returned they saw Jesus talking to a woman and they marvelled. Jesus didn’t see it that way. He saw Himself as talking to a person, someone created in the image of God. He gave her the respect and the dignity that deserved, regardless of her gender or race. She almost immediately seemed drawn in by the manner with which He spoke to her. She was disarmed by it.
And yet Jesus knew her. If He hadn’t known the minute He saw her, it didn’t take Him long to get to the real issues of her life. But even that didn’t stop Him from addressing her with kindness and dignity. At best she was a broken, wounded, woman, desperately in need of a man. At worst she was a serial seductress and adulteress. Either way, many of us would have shied away from talking with her. The disciples certainly would have. But Jesus didn’t.
Moreover He addressed her as the daughter of Eve that she was. And she quickly responded to Him with even greater dignity and respect than He had afforded to her.
The returning disciples broke up the discussion. Maybe she could feel their reaction. More than likely, she did not notice. She was too enthralled with what she had just experienced and she wanted everyone to know.
She came to the well for water, but by the time the disciples returned, she didn’t need it anymore. She left her empty bucket behind and hurried into her town to tell everyone about Jesus.
“So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’” (John 4:28-29)
The people in the City probably knew her well. Many of them must have attended at least one of her weddings and if not they should have at least heard about her. Whatever they thought about her, the testimony that she brought to them was enough to bring them out to meet the man who had told her everything about herself.
Can this be the Christ? She asked them. They wanted to find out. And so they too came to the well of life, to see if there really was living water there.
It didn’t take long before they believed. They had heard her report, so they came to Jesus. But when they heard Him for themselves, that sealed the deal.
“ They 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 indeed the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:42)
Isn’t that the way. We can talk to people about Jesus, but it is when they hear Him speak to them, whether through the scriptures, or a song, a thought in their minds or a word from a preacher or friend, that’s what seals the deal for them to give their lives to Him.
And so a whole town in Samaria is touched by the good news of Jesus. He had a special heart for these people. When He gave the disciples the strategic plan for reaching the world the Samaritans were second on the list after the Jews. They were actually the only other nation named.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
And that’s what they did. The first place mentioned in the Book of Acts for receiving the gospel after Jerusalem and Judea is Samaria. And it was Philip who took the good news to them.
“Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.” (Acts 8:5-8)
Why did Philip go there? Well, Jesus had told them to go there. But more than that, Philip had watched Jesus with this woman at the well, he had seen the response of the town to her testimony. He had witnessed first hand how much Jesus loved these people and how thirsty they were for Him. He caught Jesus’ heart.
And we cannot miss or underemphasise the fact that the first person Jesus used to bring a community to Him was a woman, who didn’t even really understand what it meant to be saved never mind have any training or experience. She had just met Jesus and He had spoken with her like no other man, or woman had ever done. Her heart had been touched and her life changed.
This was breaking the rules. She shouldn’t have been speaking for God or leading people to God. From a Jewish perspective she was the wrong person for the job on at least three counts: She was a gentile. She was living promiscuously (the man she was currently with wasn’t her husband) and she was a woman.
We need to track with the Holy Spirit as He moves John to write this gospel. Jesus has just met with a “ruler of Israel” (John 3:1), Nicodemus. He ticks all the boxes for someone God should use to speak for Him and lead to Him, at least to a Jewish perspective. He was a Jew and a man, a Pharisee learned and steeped in the scriptures, he probably had a faultless outward moral life. Jesus called him “the teacher of Israel” (John 3:10), there’s a title you can work with. But Jesus isn’t working with him, despite ticking all the boxes from a Jewish perspective. Nicodemus doesn’t get it, at all. Jesus tells him he needs to go back to the beginning and start over. Then the Holy Spirit, through John, shows us the exact opposite, a gentile, a woman, confused in her understanding of God and how and where to worship Him with a far from faultless moral life. But the Father, through Jesus, uses her to reach her entire town. Do we get what the Holy Spirit is saying?
If the church ever needs a reminder that Jesus doesn’t play by our rule book when it comes to who He chooses to work through, then this is it. The 21st Century church needs to take serious note, because this generation of young people, both Christian and Non-Christian have little tolerance for what they see as a strict adherence to an interpretation of the rule book which limits people being able to flourish in who God has made them to be, because they come from the wrong background, are not educated or experienced enough, or are women.
I believe God has been knocking at the door of the church on this issue for more than a generation. If churches don’t open the door to what He is saying and doing, then I think there is a possibility that Jesus will just move on and work with those who will work with Him, with His heart.
The Jews called the town “drunken”, that’s what they thought of the people who lived there. Maybe the disciples had the same view. Jesus saw a thirst in them for God that no one else saw. Underneath whatever exterior lifestyle they led, they were worshipers, they just didn’t know Who to worship or how to worship Him. Jesus called the worship out of them, not initially through the trained and tested Philip who would witness the resurrection, but through a woman who, in spiritual terms, was probably amongst the most thirsty and lost in the entire area.
The disciples saw a woman and a Samaritan. Jesus saw something else. He saw a lost soul. But He saw something beyond that. He saw a lost soul who could bring a City to Him. He saw in her capacity to seduce men a twisted gift. She could draw people, but she had used it to draw people to herself, for her own selfish ends. But if she met Jesus, drank of the living water and no longer had to satisfy those sinful cravings that had led her into the lifestyle she was addicted to, then that gift could be used in a different way. Not now seductively and sensuously but from a pure heart and pure motives. The adulteress became the evangelist, in just one visit to the well of life. And the whole town was reached.
What was Jesus doing at the well? Just passing through? Initially it seemed that way. But what was His Father doing? He was looking for worshipers. And He saw in this place exactly what He was looking for.
“Lord give me such eyes. To see beyond and to see through to what someone can really become in You, once they have been transformed by Your love and kindness. Deliver me from being bound by prejudices and judgements that may restrict me from seeing the true potential in people. If I am restricted from seeing, then maybe You are restricted from moving through me in the way that You want to and I want to repent of that.
Give me Your eyes to see, not just the sin and brokeness, but beyond to the wonderfully redemptive gift that anyone can be in You. Give me eyes to see the worshippers, even though they look the exact opposite when I first meet them.”Posted on: June 9, 2018Peter Todd