(Sixth of a Series)
This is one of the most studied examples of witnessing in the Bible because our Lord’s conversation with this woman is recorded in such detail. Naturally too it is an appealing study because of the immediate, positive results. Here both law and gospel are articulated.
Our Lord is casting the net of the gospel and drawing in this prospect for His heavenly kingdom.
The thing to take note of at the outset is that this woman was not interested. She did not come to the well to see Jesus and to inquire of Him. But the Lord came for her.
With examples from Holy Scripture we are trying to learn ways and attitudes which will better enable us to witness to our Lord. These examples, drawn from the four Gospels and from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, are by no means exhaustive.
As with the basketball strategy of one-on-one, we are looking at examples of one Christian witnessing to another individual. We are not considering what was said to individuals already in the faith, though that is also applicable. We are not considering what was said to groups, though that also is applicable as a witnessing technique. We will be considering various situations where it was one-on-one, and the one being witnessed to was living in unbelief….
The ultimate goal in all witnessing is to be like John the baptizer and point to Christ as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. While we want to try earnestly to develop our skills in this area, we don’t want to forget John’s motto, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
No matter what spiritual gifts we have and how we develop them, we are not looking for glory for ourselves. We are looking to have another soul join us in glorifying our Savior-God.
It all started with a request for a drink of water. The Lord then moved the conversation from the physical and material to the spiritual. Here we learn from Him. How many times haven’t we wondered how to change a conversation from the mundane to the spiritual?
First of all, His request took her off guard. She was not only a lowly woman but a Samaritan at that, and He talked to her. He treated her not as an inferior, for all are valuable to our God. There is joy in heaven over just one sinner who repents. God would have all people to be saved regardless of their nationality. Jesus shows this concern in His treatment of her.
How are we operating when we witness? Do we convey the idea of ‘now just sit down and listen do me’? Are we pedantic or caring?
Jesus transforms the conversation from earthly water to the water of life. In our everyday surroundings there are examples galore from which to spiritualize. Our Lord’s frequent use of examples from nature are well recorded and well known. Lilies of the field and birds of the air convey in image form God’s preservation. The loving care of the earthly shepherd reminds us of the infinite care of the heavenly Shepherd. Bread, a door, fishing and so on were used by our Lord to illustrate His truths. The reason why we have trouble moving from an earthly example to the spiritual may be that we don’t have our minds so firmly set on the spiritual and consequently can’t see the corollaries and illustration examples.
An integral part of our Lord’s encounter with the woman is the preaching of the law to convict of sin. “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband….” The sinful flesh detests hearing how wrong it is. It easily bristles. We have all had times when we had to tell someone that he was doing wrong only to have him turn on us. Likely this causes us to back off lest we be, as they say, ’judgmental.’
But it is in Christian love that we rebuke, reprimand, and expose sin. As long as we approach another with humility, knowing how sinful we are, we should not hesitate to speak the law. An important point here is that Jesus said it to her privately. When she exposed to Him what religious knowledge she possessed, He then sought to correct it and expand on what she knew. We should do likewise, but in a spirit of gentleness and humility.
Jesus moved on to the end things. We too want to give people perspective on the end of all things. People get so wrapped up in their own little world that they often lose sight of beyond. As our Lord did, we too want to move the conversation to eternal life and eternal death. Jesus did just that by culminating with the gospel truth, “Messiah…I who speak to you am He.”
The Lord’s “hooking her as He cast the line and drew her in” is, of course, an example of the Master Fisher of men. This is a skill that we want to be working on lifelong.
Know the Bible, know the Bible, know the Bible. Then it is that the Holy Spirit will give utterance with the Word.