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Sun, Jan 03, 1999

33 - Witnessing in Samaria

John 4:1-7 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 52 secs

Witnessing in Samaria
John 4:1-7
John Lesson #033
January 10, 1999
www.deanbibleministries.org

John 4:1 NASB Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John [2] (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), [3] He left Judea and went away again into Galilee."

Jesus' popularity has been increasing and it is now taking the notice of the religious authorities in Jerusalem. According to their rules and regulations if anybody made the claim to be the Messiah then they had to send out an investigative committee to verify his credentials and to see if he could validate his claim to be the Messiah. So now Jesus is coming to their attention and they are going to be investigating Him, and Jesus realizes at this time that He will come into a head-to-head confrontation with the religious leaders in Judea. So it is wiser for Him in terms of accomplishing what the Father's plan is for His life for Him to do an end run around them, head north, and get out of Judea where it will be too hot for Him too soon, so that He will have time to fulfil His ministry.

It is an interesting note in verse 2 that Jesus understood the dynamics of the delegation of authority. It was not Jesus who baptised, it was His disciples. And so in the church the apostles recognised that principle of delegation of authority. Everybody in a local church has different spiritual gifts and they need to function in those gifts. The pastor has the gift of teaching, his job description is to teach the Word of God, the feed the sheep, the only way that the sheep they can gain the spiritual nourishment they need to grow to spiritual maturity, to learn the Word in such a way that they can apply it and grow. It is not the pastor's responsibility to get involved in other areas because he is not gifted in those areas. What has happened today is that people have lost sight that that is the unique role of the pastor-teacher.

John 4:4 NASB "And He had to pass through Samaria. [5] So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph." In v. 4 we have the Greek word edei [e)die], a verb for necessity. There was a necessity for Jesus going this way, "He had to." It was not simply because that was the route of the highway that heads north into Galilee but that this is the plan of God for Jesus' life, to go into Galilee and to witness to this Gentile Samaritan woman. This was the first time the gospel went to someone who was not a Jew. Generally speaking the Galileans would travel this route through Samaria whenever they were going to Jerusalem to the feasts, but the self-righteous Pharisees of the south would have nothing to do with the Samaritans because of their background. In other to understand this we need to do some investigation into the historical background.

2 Kings 17:22, 23 NASB "The sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them until the LORD removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day." In the Old Testament the monarchy began with Saul. When Solomon died there was a civil war. Jeroboam became the king in the north and he led the ten northern tribes in a rebellion against Solomon's son Rehoboam in the south. The northern kingdom became known as Israel and the southern kingdom as Judah. The northern kingdom went out under the fifth cycle of discipline in 722 BC; the southern kingdom lasted until 586 BC. The last king in the north transferred his allegiance to Egypt in rebellion against Assyria. He had been paying tribute to the king  in Assyria for a number of years and then he decided that he was going to get a better deal with an alliance with Egypt. That angered the Assyrian king and so the armies of Shalmaneser headed south under the command of Sargon, and in 722 BC they destroyed the northern kingdom. As a result of this the Assyrians applied their policy of resettlement. They would move the conquered people to various sections of their empire so that they would dilute their race and destroy any possibility of people reuniting in a rebellion against them. This is the background for 2 Kings 17.

Jeroboam was one of the first people in history to engage in historical revisionism. In the Old Testament God declared that the centre of worship for all of the Jews was in Jerusalem at one central temple. Once Jeroboam had led the northern tribes in rebellion he didn't like the idea of all of them going back down to Jerusalem five or six time a year for worship. So he changed Scripture, rewrite a lot of it, so that the centre of worship would be in the north in Samaria where he built a competing tabernacle.  There he erected an idol of a golden calf so the people would come and worship. So he not only rewrote history, rewrote the Scriptures, but he led the people into idolatry and that was the reason the northern kingdom was taken out under divine discipline.

2 Kings 17:24 NASB "The king of Assyria brought {men} from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and settled {them} in the cities of Samaria in place of the sons of Israel. So they possessed Samaria and lived in its cities." So not only did he take the Israelites in the northern kingdom away and resettle them into various areas of his empire he would bring foreigners from various parts of the empire back to Samaria in order to dilute and destroy the racial purity of the Jews in the northern kingdom.

2 Kings7:25 NASB "At the beginning of their living there, they did not fear the LORD; therefore the LORD sent lions among them which killed some of them." Divine discipline in the form of a plague of lions. So that generated a little thought in their minds and they thought maybe they had angered the god of these people, and they decided to see if they could solve the problem. [26] "So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, 'The nations whom you have carried away into exile in the cities of Samaria do not know the custom of the god of the land; so he has sent lions among them, and behold, they kill them because they do not know the custom of the god of the land'. [27] Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, 'Take there one of the priests whom you carried away into exile and let him go and live there; and let him teach them the custom of the god of the land'." Notice, now there is religious syncretism; they are going to treat God as just one of the many other gods. [28] "So one of the priests whom they had carried away into exile from Samaria came and lived at Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD. [29] But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the houses of the high places which the people of Samaria had made, every nation in their cities in which they lived. [30] The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, [31] and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech the gods of Sepharvaim." So we see the idolatry continue, they are just going to give it a little religious coating with the truth of the Old Testament.

People still do the same thing today. This is what happens in our society. People live in a world in which they grow up operating on experience, on mysticism, on subjectivity and arrogance, and then they get saved and they use that to cope. They never really have a change from the inside out, which is the goal of Romans 12:2, that we are not to be conformed to the world, but we are to renovate, completely renew and reshape our thinking. That is not what they were doing and this is the source of the problem that we find in John chapter four. There is a mongrel population here, and the name that was assigned to them was Samaritans after Samaria the capital city of the region which was originally founded by Omri. The result of this mixture was not only mixed races but there was divine discipline and an attempt to assuage the deity to an illegitimate religious practice.

The second thing we note is that later on after these events when a remnant of Jews returned after the Babylonian exile to the southern kingdom under Ezra and Nehemiah, they rebuilt the altar, they began to rebuild the temple, and they tried to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, the jealous Samaritans in the north tried to sabotage their activity. This is covered in Ezra chapters 3 & 4 and in Nehemiah chapters 1-4. This set up a hostile attitude between the Jews in the south and the Samaritans in the north. The Samaritans hated the Jews and they built a competing temple on Mount Gerizim to compete with what was taking place in Jerusalem. This temple was destroyed in 128 BC by one of the Maccabaean rulers, John Hyrcanus. But worshippers continued to come to Mount Gerizim to offer sacrifices and, in fact, some of the Samaritan descendants to that to this day.

Another thing we need to note here is that they rewrote the Pentateuch. They basically did away with everything after Deuteronomy and then rewrote various sections of Deuteronomy to make the giving of the Law occur on Mount Gerizim and to make Mount Gerizim the centre of religious practice. So we have historical revisionism, theological revisionism and Scriptural revisionism. They argued that Jewish ritual was completely wrong, that the temple was wrong, and so that developed an intense rivalry and hatred and bitterness and violence between the Samaritans and the Jews. All of this forms the background to John chapter four. Their religion was a heresy based on a complete reinterpretation of the Bible and history.

2 Kings 17:32, 33 NASB They also feared the LORD and appointed from among themselves priests of the high places, who acted for them in the houses of the high places. They feared the LORD and served their own gods according to the custom of the nations from among whom they had been carried away into exile."

The episode with the woman at the well in John chapter four is another classic example of evangelism and we have already spent some time with Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus. What we are learning from this is divine viewpoint examples of how to witness to an unbeliever. We live in an era when evangelism has been impacted by a lot of human viewpoint thinking. It has been impacted by entertainment, it is superficial, and too often it focuses on the wrong issues, e.g. that people need to invite Jesus into their heart. There are those who want to add discipleship and lordship to the requirements for salvation.

John 4:5 NASB "So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph." Notice how the apostle John is locating this in space-time history. This is not a myth; this is not legend; this didn't just happen with any woman anywhere, this happens at a specific place in space and time. This is a piece of ground that Jacob originally bought to use as a grave site and he gave part of that to Joseph, and that is where Joseph's bones were buried after they brought him out of Egypt and the exodus.

John 4:6 NASB "and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour." Mount Gerizim overlooks the Nablus Valley and the pass between it is the only access from the east to the west into the hill country if Ephraim. It was in this place that Abraham built his first altar after arriving in Canaan in Genesis 12:6. It was also here that the Israelites recommitted themselves to the Mosaic covenant under Joshua after they entered the land. So this is an area that has rich significance in the Old Testament. Jesus in His humanity is tired and He sits down to rest. He is thirsty.

John 4:7 NASB "There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give Me a drink'." This is fascinating because not only did a Jew never talk to a Samaritan but no man would ever engage a woman in conversation. The regulations for rabbis were that they weren't even to talk to their wives in public walking down the street because someone might no realise that is not his wife and might think that he is engaged in some kind of immoral behaviour. That is how strict the legalism was. So Jesus is violating all kinds of legalistic strictures here because He is going to engage a Samaritan in a conversation in violation of all the rabbinical regulations, and He is also going to engage a woman in conversation. He is breaking through all of the legalism that exists at this time. He says to her: "Give me a drink." This is important and we must draw a contrast between this and the conversation with Nicodemus. The most obvious contrast is that Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman is a woman. Secondly, Nicodemus is probably the foremost Bible teacher in his generation and she is just a wife, living with a man at this point. Nicodemus seems to be positive and comes to Jesus to ask a question. The woman is not curious at all and has no spiritual inclinations whatsoever. Nicodemus is wealthy; the woman is poor. Nicodemus is educated; the woman is not educated.

Jesus takes one approach with Nicodemus, He focuses on ultimate authority issues with Nicodemus: "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" He talks about the wind. Nicodemus's ultimate authority in his thinking was empiricism and Jesus challenged Him by showing him that he couldn't even explain where the wind came from or where it was going and that there were many truths that are beyond his ability to empirically learned and that he had to be willing to submit to the external authority of someone who came from heaven and spoke to him about heavenly truth. So with Nicodemus He addresses some serious intellectual issues. With the woman at the well He has a completely different approach. For her, He simply asks her a question: "Give me something to drink." He is establishing His common ground. This is one of the most difficult things between a believer and an unbeliever in a witnessing situation.

What is out common ground? Some will say the common ground is logic, let us appeal to the unbeliever on the basis of logic. Others will say history. We can both agree that Jesus rose from the dead, but the unbeliever may assign a different meaning to that. History is not neutral; logic is not neutral. Some may say let us appeal on the basis of reason. The Bible is more rational than evolution or some other religion. Some others may appeal on the basis of empiricism. Whatever it may be, common apologetics techniques say let us appeal to this area of common ground. Yet what  we have seen in our study of the Scriptures is that the only thing that the believer and the unbeliever have in common is on the level of their both being creatures created in the image of God. The unbeliever has the knowledge of God within him, Romans 1:18-20. He knows that God exists because the knowledge of God is evident within him and when he looks at the heavens he sees that the power of God is evident to him, and yet he is suppressing it in unrighteousness. He will never admit it, he is suppressing that in unrighteousness, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know it. Deep down in his soul he knows that God exists. So the area to appeal to is not logic, reason, history, but on the common ground of being a creature with creaturely needs, and that is where we find Jesus in John 4:7. Verse 8 gives us the parenthesis telling us that He had sent His disciples away, they would have been a distraction.

John 4:9 NASB "Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, 'How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?' (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)" What He has done by asking her for something to drink is He has raised here curiosity in engaging her in conversation.

Always remember this: everybody is different. One of the biggest problems in evangelism today is that people come out with these canned approaches as if every human being is the same, that if this works with this person it will work with somebody else. What we have to learn in the basics of the gospel so that we can articulate that clearly to anyone in any situation, using a variety of strategies and tactics in order to get them to the point where they are focused on the cross. That is why the way Jesus handled the woman at the well is completely different from the way he handled Nicodemus. The result is that this woman is going to ignite one of the greatest revivals in the ancient world in the biblical record.