We recently read of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, wherein a private, deeply theological discussion resulted in a new understanding of spiritual life. Jesus told Nicodemus something that seemed absurd. He said, “you must be born again.” Today we see a similar discussion with someone who was a social counterpart to the Pharisee. She was a Samaritan, a race that the Jews looked down on as having no claim on their God. She seems to be an outcast in her own community since she came by herself to draw water from the community well. In biblical lands drawing water and chatting at the well was the social highpoint of a woman’s day. In this woman’s own village, she was ostracized and marked off as immoral; an unmarried woman living openly with the fifth in a series of men. She was confronted with an absurd suggestion too. As Jesus and this Samaritan woman talked, she tried to turn the conversation to theology (John 4:19-26). So, Jesus said, “How would you like some living water? I can give you water that will never leave you thirsty.”
A changed attitude leads to a changed nature.
As with Nicodemus, Jesus quickly established the fact that God sees humanity with eyes of Grace. What we do, good or bad, is not the basis of our relationship with God. Jesus desires that we focus on what God is willing to do for us. Imagine how it sounded to hear that the Son of God was willing to “give” what could not be earned. In both conversations, the gift Jesus promised eternal life, welling up and supplying every need by its freshening springs. Despite the similarities, there are differences in the way Jesus unveiled grace to these two people. To Nicodemus, Jesus stressed the fact that all stand condemned before God. Nicodemus took pride in his keeping of the Law and did not recognize his need for God’s grace, but the woman at the well knew she was a sinner. Jesus did not mention man’s lost condition to her; she already knew. Besides, she quickly learned that Jesus knew too, and he was still ready to offer her a gift. He told her the good news that the Father seeks persons to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).
Nicodemus needed to see himself as a sinner to understand grace, while the woman needed to see herself as a person of worth and value. In which way to you go to God? Do you lack the humility needed to be born again? Do you feel so unworthy that you would resist even a sip of Grace? What if God finds us worthy of love despite our sin? What if God loves you enough to say, “stop taking yourself so seriously!” God values us enough to actively seek us, to welcome us into intimacy, and to rejoice in our worship. Only someone like the Samaritan woman can understand what it means to be wanted and cared for when not even she could see anything of value in her!
My Food is to Do the Father’s Will
Both conversations serve as illustrations of how Jesus did the work of evangelization. It is a work that Jesus expects us to do too. The story we’re observing also includes this expectation. When Jesus told his disciples that he was hungry anymore it was because of his excitement about the Samaritan response to his good news. Jesus was probably watching the approach of Samaritan people even as he told his disciples to forget about dinner for a while.
Jesus’ friends seem to have been more focused on their stomachs than the Joy of their master. If they had been more perceptive they would have seen the people who had heard the testimony of the woman coming from the city. The Samaritans wanted to know more about this Jew who can change lives, and before he leaves. They saw the potential the Apostles overlooked – they believed that Jesus is the Savior of the World and they received eternal life. (John 4:39-42)
What if we would lift our vision beyond the horizon? We might see with the eyes of faith. We would see the Spirit preparing a people to praise God. Close your eyes. Do you see them? “Moved with compassion” when He saw the multitude, He likened them to harassed and scattered sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). “The harvest is plentiful – but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Though limited by his humanity, Jesus did all he could to help them. Jesus told His disciples to ask “the Lord of the harvest” to send out workers into His harvest field (Matthew 9:38). Jesus asks that we concentrate on helping people find the answers they need. Each gathering of believers must call upon its members to shepherd and love the lost sheep and lead them to God.
Reaping and Sowing is the Church’s Business
Reaping and Sowing is the Church’s Business. Feeding ourselves is not as important as feeding the hungry and lost. Seeing that evangelization – giving away the good news, is a central theme of the New Testament, and we’ve seen it plainly in today’s text. It is essential to salvation and to the life of the Church. The desire to join in the harvest is definitive in that it shows which local churches are healthy and which are not. It is as essential to a church’s spiritual well-being as healthy food is to the human body. When a church loses its evangelistic vision, it is at a low ebb spiritually. The Lord promised imperishability for the Church, saying Hell could not stand against it. However, that does not guarantee the survival of every local church. The Church is the Body of Christ. If the Body does not obey the Head is it really part of the Body? Jesus said if your eye cause you to sin, cut it out. Would he not do the same to a proud, sinful part of His Body?
While it is true that for some crops, it takes four months after planting for the plants to be ready to harvest, that is not necessarily true of the spiritual harvest. There are those who are ready to respond to the truth and spirit right now, like this Samaritan woman was. We need to be aware that God is working on people throughout the world – rich people, poor people, successful people, unsuccessful people, Jewish people and non-Jewish people – revealing truth to them, preparing them for the truth about Jesus and the salvation he can provide. We need to share the Good News even with people who might not seem to be ideal candidates for salvation. We must remember that the true work of evangelization is still done by Christ, the Lord of the harvest, and through the Holy Spirit.
Once she’d heard the good news she left the jar of water. Like the Samaritan woman, we must rearrange our priorities so that we are engaged in evangelization regularly. We must open your eyes and look at the fields because they are ripe for harvest. Try looking for opportunities to witness to all kinds of people, even those who seem unlikely. Look to different races, people from a different social, economic or educational backgrounds. Count no one out, like the apostles did in Samaria. True worshipers must do so in spirit and in truth. The woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
Telling others about Christ isn’t always easy. There will be insults and rejection. We must always know that God will be pleased, so we can be pleased to serve God. If we are so fortunate as to see the harvest running toward Jesus, like it did that day, we can share in his joy.