To understand this encounter, one must know something of the historical, social, and religious context. 2 Kings 17 and Ezra 4:9-10 describes the origin of the Samaritans. After the Assyrians defeated the northern kingdom of Israel, they moved the upper echelons of
Israelite society to other countries and moved people from all over their empire to the former Northern Kingdom. Many of the Israelites intermarried with their new pagan neighbors. The Samaritans affirmed Mt. Gerazim as the “navel of the earth” because of a tradition that Adam worshiped on the mountain. They accepted only the first five books of Moses as Scripture and believed in a coming prophet who functions as the restorer of truth. The Jews of the first century regarded the Samaritans as racially impure, religiously false, and ceremonially unclean.
What principles can contemporary believers learn about witnessing from the Master?
First, witnessing necessitates contact with unbelievers (Jhn. 4:1-6). I have never caught fish in the bathtub. To catch fish, you must go where the fish are. In his ministry, Jesus had 132 contacts with individuals, yet only ten occurred in the place of worship (six in the temple and four in the synagogue). Jews avoided walking through Samaria, yet, John stated, “It was necessary for Him to pass through Samaria.” The little word “must’ refers to compulsion—a divine necessity. Jesus had a divine appointment to keep. Do you look for divine appointments to share Christ?
Second, in witnessing begin where people are not where you want them to be (Jhn. 4:7-13). The woman came alone despite the social event drawing water was for women in that culture. She came to the wrong well; she neglected the well in the village. She came at the wrong time of day, at noon, rather than the normal time of drawing water. In a counter-cultural manner, the Jewish man Jesus addressed this outcaste woman.
Jesus creatively addressed her greatest need of a relationship with God through the imagery of water—living water (10), always satisfying (v. 14), and a continual source (spring) resulting in everlasting life.
Third, witnessing entails confronting people with their darkness (Jhn. 15:18). The woman attempted to satisfy her thirst in relationships with men. She had five husbands (three was the maximum number). Jewish women could not initiate divorce; therefore, the men in her life discarded her. She cohabitated with a man. Her lifestyle was symptomatic of the disease of sin. As long as an individual lives in denial of the disease, he or she can never experience the gift of God through Jesus.
Fourth, in witnessing avoid theological smokescreens (Jhn. 4:19-26). The woman changed the subject to a theological debate regarding the proper place of worship. In my experience, many people to whom I witness use this tactic to avoid the issue. The issue is “Who is Jesus?’ Keep the focus on Jesus.
Fifth, remember, every day is harvest day (Jhn. 4:27-38). Common wisdom affirmed a period between sowing and reaping. In the spiritual harvest, the the sowing and reaping may not involve a discernible period between the actions. Yet, an individual may sow and another individual may reap. The harvest time is now! Open your eyes to see the harvest.
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