Seeking Sinners to Save
18 January 2015
A study in the series on the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
Seeking Sinners to Save
Introducing a subject requires organized thought. At work years ago, our department was tasked with giving presentations to franchise owners how we managed their pricing and inventory. My co-worker, let’s call him Bruce, was to introduce one of the reports we used. While we were preparing our presentations, Bruce came up with a very good, helpful opening statement.
I encouraged him to write out an outline of what else should follow, but he thought he could wing it. So when he stood nervously in front of the crowd, he delivered his clever opening line. That was a great start and he had their attention. But Bruce froze. In the awkward silence one of the franchisees asked him a question about the report but by this time Bruce was a block of solid ice. So I came up next to Bruce and said, “What Bruce is saying is that…” and I walked them through an outline of points explaining how we used the report.
Have you ever missed opportunities to share the gospel because a) in the moment you couldn’t remember what to say; b) being nervous you couldn’t remember how to say it; c) you just didn’t know where to begin? Organized thought can help. You could learn an outline or a series of steps to follow. It helps you remember what to say and but it also helps you make sense to the listener. I don’t recommend reading from an outline on note cards. Work it out ahead of time so you’re familiar with the points and they can jog your memory. It also can help you deal wisely with rabbit-trail questions the listener may toss out to throw you off track.
Jesus sends us out into the world to share the Gospel with sinners. In fact, we ought to be like Him by looking for sinners. Fortunately, John recorded one of the methods Jesus used. This method leads the listener to realize their need and the gift Jesus offers, and to discover His identity.
This isn’t the only outline you can use. You’ll find others in Scripture. But the beauty of an outline is that you can fill it in with appropriate truth and illustrations and answers as you go. It will look different every time. Can you use something like this? I certainly find it helpful. And I find the product wonderful. Within that framework I’m free to present the truth in my own words and pulling in the Scriptures that seem the most likely to prick their soul. And when God’s Spirit is working in that person, I see their indifference turn to curiosity which turns to conviction which turns to wonder and worship of the true God. Let’s learn how Jesus did this.
I want to make two passes through this passage: 1) there is a wealth of spiritual truth here. But 2) there is also an important lesson about method. That method is what we’ll focus on this morning.
I. Make a connection (1-9). [read 1-9]
Jesus’ sudden popularity caused the Pharisees to take note of His activity. They’re paying close attention. Jesus’ time had not come to be arrested and crucified so He used their opposition as signals to keep moving. He plans to return to Galilee. There were two or three ways to get to Galilee from Judea but the shortest route ran right through Samaria. But because of their hatred for Samaritans, many Jews would take the longer route just to avoid Samaria. But Jesus had Gospel business there. Jesus had to pass through Samaria. Jesus said that He “has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10). Samaritans were on His radar.
I plan to explain next time why there was so much tension between Jews and Samaritans. For now, know that there was a lot of animosity between them. Samaritans were half Jewish and half pagan. Jews would try to avoid Samaritans altogether if possible. The rabbis taught that you never knew when a Samaritan woman was ritually unclean, so you should assume that she’s always unclean. If you ate or drank from something she touched, you would be unclean too.
On His journey, Jesus stopped at a city named Sychar which was near the land that Jacob gave to Joseph. John points out that Jacob’s well was there which was at the foot of Mt Gerizim. It was about 6pm (if official Roman time) and Jesus was weary from the journey.
In your evangelism, don’t look for just one type of person. Consider how different this woman was from Nicodemus. Nicodemus “was seeking; she was indifferent. He was a respected ruler; she was an outcast. He was serious; she was flippant. He was a Jew, she was a despised Samaritan. He was (presumably) moral; she was immoral” (Blum, p. 284) He was religiously trained; she was incorrectly taught. But they had one thing in common: they were sinners in need of salvation.
And so there came a woman. Why is she alone? It was customary for women to draw water in groups but this woman is alone. She is most likely considered an outcast by the other women.
How do you start a conversation? There are endless ways to initiate contact. It can be helpful to think of ways before you need them. Here Jesus uses the social awkwardness as an interesting way to start a conversation. It certainly got her talking! While His disciples were in the city buying food, Jesus does a surprising thing—He speaks to a Samaritan woman. Being human, He is weary and thirsty. So He appeals to her sympathy for a weary traveler who had no way to draw water.
Typically, a Jewish rabbi would go thirsty to avoid contact with a Samaritan woman. This surprised her and made her curious. He has her attention. Next,
II. Secure their interest in spiritual things (10-15). [read 10-12]
Jesus now appeals to her curiosity. Having captured her attention, He shows her that she would be even more shocked if she knew WHO was speaking to her. Three things cry out for more explanation: What is this gift of God? What is this living water? And who is this man?
The Gift of God, because it is a gift, is free. What is it? God gives the right to become children of God (1:12-13). And God gave His only Son for us (3:16). The gift is eternal life as children of God.
Along with this gift from the Father, Jesus gives living water. What is living water? We’ll explore this more next week. Living water refers to the Holy Spirit (7:38-39). Only the Spirit can cause new birth (3:5-8) and only the Spirit can provide lasting spiritual refreshment and satisfaction.
But the woman misunderstands this reference, thinking Jesus was referring to the water in the well next to them. She knows that this well is deep (currently 100 feet deep). So she wonders about who this man is since He has nothing to draw water with. She skeptically asks, You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You? Jacob is the common ancestor between Samaritans and Jews.
Jesus appeals to her desire for ultimate rest and satisfaction (Hendriksen, p. 158). [read 13-15]. Jesus answers her question with an enigma. Anyone who drinks from this well next to us will get thirsty again. But the water that Jesus gives “provides continual satisfaction of needs and desires” (Blum, p. 286) causing that person to never thirst spiritually. Like her, unbelievers won’t get it yet. So,
III. Demonstrate need because of their sin (16-20). [read 16-20]
Jesus now appeals to her conscience and targets her primary problem: her sin. Jesus suggests that she retrieve her husband. He knew what was in her heart (2:24-25). She desires His gift of living water but she is not ready to receive it. She needs to understand why she needs living water. He needs to bring her spiritual thirst to the surface. Her life was messy. We must see our need of grace before we’re ready to receive grace.
Because of His supernatural knowledge, the woman considers Jesus a prophet. Talking about her sin is uncomfortable. She ties to change the subject. So she asks Him to use His supernatural knowledge to solve an age old conflict between Jews and Samaritans. Which mountain is the correct one to worship on? Her sin has bubbled to the surface and Jesus skillfully uses her rabbit trail to bring something else to the surface. So next,
IV. Demonstrate need because of God’s character (21-24). [read 21-24]
Jesus didn’t answer her question directly. He told her that a day is coming soon when the question of ‘where’ will no longer matter. When Jesus dies, worship is no longer restricted to the temple. But he also pointed out that the Samaritans are wrong about the question of ‘what’ regarding worship. Their worship was a mixture of Jewish and pagan ideas. In fact, salvation is from the Jews. That is, the Savior would be born among the Jews. Salvation will only come through the Jewish Messiah.
A new order of worship is now prescribed for God’s people. True worshippers will understand that the ‘what’ of worship is the Father. God alone is the focus of our worship. ‘Where’ no longer matters. ‘What’ matters. And also, ‘How’ matters. God is not material. He is spirit. Genuine worshippers will worship Him in spirit and truth. True worship is spiritual. What matters in true worship is what is going on in the heart. Genuine worship also goes through Jesus, the truth (14:6). True worship conforms to the truth as revealed in Jesus. God the Father actively seeks this kind of worshipper. Once the person recognizes their need, it is time to…
V. Introduce them to Jesus (25-26). [read 25-26]
Like the Jews, Samaritans were expecting a Messiah. This woman looked forward to the day when Messiah would come and clear up disputes between Samaritans and Jews. At this point, Jesus revealed His identity to her and it blew her doors off. Who is Messiah? Jesus said (literally): “I am, [I] the one who is talking to you.” Yes, “I am” in the sense that God revealed Himself to Moses! Messiah is more than both Jew and Samaritan supposed! Messiah is the God whose name is “I AM” (Ex 3:14). He says to her, “I am infinitely more than someone who can answer all of your questions. I am the God of the Bible. My name is Yahweh!” You’re not done until Jesus is revealed to them.
This is not the only outline or method you can use. You’ll find others in the Bible that all revolve around the same body of truth we call the Gospel. But depending on the person, you will need to emphasize certain things that may already be understood by others. Consider how differently Jesus dealt with Nicodemus and this woman. You may even take some points of the Gospel in a different order. Sometimes it’s best to talk about the holy character of God before talking about the person’s sin. This is just a tool. But without organized thinking before you go into it, you’re in danger of freezing up like my co-worker, or worse, not even trying at all.