The three evangelistic missions of John 4

Hi friends,

Did you know that there are three evangelistic missions in John 4?

There is Jesus’ mission to reach the Samaritan woman.
There is the disciples’ mission to reach the town of Sychar.
There is the Samaritan woman’s mission to reach the town of Sychar.

Notably, the mission of Jesus and of the Samaritan woman are quite successful! But the disciples completely fail, it seems, to mention that the Messiah is within walking distance of the people they encounter when they go into town to buy some bread.

I think it might be helpful for us to look at this in detail together.

In John 4:27-30 we read this:

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”

30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Notice the activity of the disciples in this passage.

So far in John’s gospel, we have learned that these disciples have spent considerable time with Jesus. John the Baptist has explained who Jesus is to them.

They were present at the wedding in Cana when Jesus turned the water into wine. As we learn in John 2:11, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

They’ve seen Jesus clear out the temple at Passover. During this time, Jesus did many other signs that led to others following him.

In the encounter with Nicodemus, they likely overheard Jesus teach, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

To recap, we have men who believe in Jesus, who have been trained by him, who have seen Jesus do miracles, who have seen others choose to follow Jesus, and who know that the Son of Man must be lifted up before all men, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

It would seem that everything is in place for them to tell others the good news that the Messiah has come, right? So these men go into the town of Sychar to buy food. They have money, they are going to talk with merchants in the town, there are going to be opportunities for conversation.

Surely, they will return to Jesus saying, "Jesus, while we were getting food for our journey, we met these people. They want to learn more about what it means that you are the Messiah. They also want to be your disciples.”

But…. no.

Instead, we see that the disciples just come back with food. Can you identify with them?

You are a believer in Jesus.
You have seen Jesus do miracles.
You have seen others’ lives changed by Jesus.
You know that Jesus is the only hope of the world.
You believe that people must be told about Jesus to be saved.

And yet.

You have gone shopping, been out to eat at a restaurant, had lunch with friends, had a family gathering, had dozens of meetings and phone calls with coworkers, and yet, you’ve never brought up Jesus.

From their perspective, we look just like the disciples. Just some guys who needed some bread. Money exchanged hands, the bread was handed over, and that was that. At the end of your work, you come back to Jesus to check in with him again.

In fact, what the disciples are mystified by is how Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman.

When they see God on the move, they are confused. As they are passively watching the mission of God unfold, they don’t know what to make of the experience.

So Jesus explains it to them. He says the fields are white for harvest. He says, ‘One sows and another reaps.’

I want to suggest to you that perhaps God is the ultimate sower. He goes ahead of us that we might reap.

And of course, sometimes we are the ones who sow, and others reap.

The disciples are not engaged in witness, but Jesus is still out in places that might surprise us, revealing himself to people we would overlook, and bringing people into his kingdom.

Likewise, perhaps we are not witnesses for Christ, but that is not stopping God from advancing his kingdom.

The challenge John 4 brings to us is NOT, “Won’t you share your faith? God needs you! How will the church grow without your witness? Man, we really need you to decide to be evangelistic!”

Instead, the challenge is this: are you part of God’s mission? God is on the move. Are you moving with God?

If the disciples aren’t going to share that "The Messiah is here, don’t you want to meet him?’ when they go into Sychar, then what does God do?

God finds a Samaritan woman that no one thinks is important and uses her to bring her own village to faith in Christ.

I imagine that Peter thought he was a pretty big deal. I gave up everything to follow Jesus! I left my fishing business behind! I’ve walked all over Judea. I’ve even gone into Samaria. I’m soaking up wisdom from Jesus himself every day. I’m part of the inner circle of the inner circle. And yet, when it came time to be bold and share that Jesus was available to save the Samaritans from their sins, he dropped the ball.

How many of us think we are pretty great Christians? Yet we aren’t willing to tell anyone about our faith in Jesus.

Do you think that will slow down God? Not for a second. Even if we are faithless, he remains faithful.

Here’s my encouragement to you.

Jesus didn’t give up on Peter.

He didn’t replace the disciples with another group of guys.

He wasn’t like, ok, you totally failed, I hope you are embarrassed, guilty, and ashamed of yourself.

No!

Instead, Jesus showed them what it looked like to see God on the move.

And before long, as you can read in the book of Acts, the disciples are going all out with boldness to tell others about Jesus, no matter the threats or the persecution.

Jesus kept loving the disciples until they could not keep themselves from testifying about him.

And Jesus will keep loving you.

He wants to break through until you can say with confidence that he is your joy, your ultimate treasure, your everything. And when that happens, you will be as unstoppable as the Samaritan woman was in sharing about Jesus.

Questions:

  1. Does your life look more like that of the disciples or the Samaritan woman?

  2. What would it look like for you to embrace the boldness of the Samaritan woman in your life?

  3. Where do you see God ‘on the move’ in your context?

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