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Sun, Jan 31, 1999

36 - Grace and Genuine Revival

John 4:27-42 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 16 mins 50 secs

Grace and Genuine Revival
John 4:27-42
John Lesson #036
January 31, 1999

We live in a world that is dominated by superficiality. The secular world around us is often dominated by superficial views of life, of music, of the arts and entertainment; superficiality and shallow observations seem to rule the day, and the church is not immune from the superficial and the shallow. Too often the views that many believers have of the Christian life, of even God and grace, are superficial and shallow. The same is true when it comes to evangelism. Too often the evangelism that is conducted by believers, if it is even close to being right, is superficial and shallow. One of the things we are learning in our study of the Gospel of John is just what God means by evangelism and witnessing. One of the things we have seen is that this is going to differ from individual to individual. How Jesus conducts Himself and His conversation with the woman at the well in John 4 is different from the way He approaches Nicodemus. However, there are certain things that are common to both.

One thing we have to remember today is that evangelism is not salesmanship. We live in an era when evangelists often use salesmanship tactics in order to communicate the gospel. But what we find in most evangelistic techniques has more in common with Amway and other multi-level marketing approaches and very little to do with the techniques that are given in Scripture. The reason is that we have forgotten that the gospel is a supernatural message. The problem is spiritual so it has to be confronted with a supernatural message, empowered by a supernatural power which produces a supernatural end. The rejection of the gospel has nothing to do with human intellect, human emotion, psychological needs, social background or anything else, because the issues in the gospel are ultimately spiritual. But when it comes to sitting down with someone to give them the gospel we are comforted in knowing that it is not up to us to convince them rationally, to give them every truth in the world, because the issues are spiritual and we rely upon God the Holy Spirit to make the gospel clear. It is our responsibility to explain it to the best of our ability and that we do all that we can do to explain it, to answer their questions, and to make it clear. But it is up to God the Holy Spirit and His convicting ministry to convict them of the truth of Scripture.

The Samaritan woman is beginning to realise that Jesus is the Messiah. Forty-two verses in this passage are related to Jesus and the Samaritan woman, as opposed to about twenty verses related to Nicodemus. Which does John think is more important? He is giving us a lot of information about this episode because of its significance. She is realising that he is a prophet. Remember, John says, I am telling you all this so you can realise that Jesus is the Messiah. He says he is going to marshal several witnesses throughout the last three years to substantiate my case. First there is John the Baptist, and the second is going to be this woman because she becomes a witness to the town and the instrument by which a revival takes place in this small town of Sychar and almost the whole town becomes saved.

But she has some theological questions. And this is another thing: don't get distracted in witnessing with legalism and sin issues, number one, and theological questions, number two. They may be legitimate questions but don't let somebody distract you from the gospel with those. The woman raises the whole question about where they should worship, in Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim, and Jesus gives a prophecy that worship is getting ready to change. It is no longer going to be based on ritual or in a temple but it is going to be based on a new formula and we get the new formula in verse 23. The new formula is based upon the filling of the Holy Spirit plus epignosis [e)pignwsij] doctrine in the soul, and that equals true worship. Worship, Jesus said, is by means of the Holy Spirit and truth or Bible doctrine.

Then Jesus goes on to say that the reason for this is that God is spirit, i.e. He does not have a material existence, a material body, and those who worship Him must worship Him by means of the Holy Spirit and doctrine. John 4:24 NASB "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

John 4:25 NASB "The woman said to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us'." Look at what she says here. You know it is then Messiah because He declares all things to us. What happened? Jesus declared everything about her back in verse 18 when He tells her all about her husbands and everything. Then when she goes into town and starts witnessing, what does she say? John 4:29 NASB "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I {have} done; this is not the Christ, is it?" What is the point that she is making? The point that John wants us to catch is that Jesus displays His omniscience as the Son of God in this episode. That is what gets her attention and that is the sign of His Messiahship; it is part of His messianic credentials which he uses to establish His position and His veracity with the woman.

Jesus responds with a very interesting statement in the Greek that is poorly translated in the English. John 4:26 NASB "Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am {He.}'" In the Greek it begins with the first phrase, ego eimi [e)gw e)imi], "I am." Then the next phrase is a relative participle, "the one speaking to you." "I am" is a title of deity. Later on when Jesus is in an interaction with the disciples and he uses this phrase, e)gw e)imi, they realise he is making a claim to deity and the Jews pick up stones to stone Him. So when Jesus says "I AM the one speaking to you," He makes a specific and explicit claim to be the Messiah and to be God, and that point her mind just goes into overdrive and she starts understanding everything he has been saying to her. Just as he makes this self-revelation to her the scene shifts and the disciples come bouncing back from their little trip into town, not having a clue as to what is going on. So the scene shifts, the drama begins to build.

John 4:27 NASB "At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, 'What do You seek?' or, 'Why do You speak with her?'" The disciples are flabbergasted and shocked to the very core of their being that He is speaking with the woman. But they showed a little poise and a little grace orientation. They have been with Jesus now for nearly a year and have learned a little bit and that they need to keep their mouth shut. This is something a lot of people never learn in life, when to keep their mouth shut and when not. They are shocked because rabbinic tradition said that it was completely sinful for a rabbi to talk to a woman in public, and yet here Jesus sits talking to this woman. But she is not there for long. They watch this, see her talking, and then all of a sudden as the scene develops and Jesus makes this claim she stands their looking at Him and the light really dawns, and she gets excited and then heads for town.  

John 4:28 NASB "So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men." She left her waterpot for two reasons. First, she is excited and she wants to get into town to tell the news. Secondly, what started the conversation? Jesus said: "Would you give me something to drink?" So she leaves the waterpot so Jesus can have something to drink. There is a point here, and that is that we ought to have this kind of excitement in our spiritual life about the doctrine we are learning, and about the gospel. This is a woman who has been ridiculed and shunned and ostracized by all the small-minded, small-town gossips in Sychar but she has suddenly lost all of her reticence. What is the first thing that has happened? This woman has understood grace. She has seen it displayed to her right there at the well when this man just ignored all of the cultural barriers, all the prejudices of the day, He spoke to her, and she has understood what grace is all about. So she can't wait to get back into town and tell the self-righteous crowd that she has found the Messiah. She is not doing it our of arrogance, she is doing it because she knows that this is real, that the only way to transform things is the Messiah.

John 4:29 NASB "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I {have} done; this is not the Christ, is it?" Notice that she is tactful. She doesn't run into town and say: "I've found the Messiah, you guys need to be saved"! She puts it on them to check out the facts for themselves, to make their own decisions.

John 4:30 NASB "They went out of the city, and were coming to Him." This is a process, it is a present tense; they are coming to Him.

John 4:31 NASB "Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, 'Rabbi, eat'." They are hungry and the tradition is that they can't eat until the rabbi eats. But Jesus is not focused on food at this time.

John 4:32 NASB "But He said to them, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about'." He says that there is a higher priority right now than eating. Think about what is going on here. The woman came seeking water, the Lord starts speaking to her about not just everyday water but living water, and she can't get past the physical and so he finally has to really make the point clear. Now the disciples who are believers but haven't learned much doctrine yet can't get past the physical either, they just want to eat, and so Jesus is going to have to train them a little bit before the crowd comes. This is what is called a teachable moment. He has to explain a few things because He knows that in about ten or fifteen minutes all these people are going to show up who need to have the gospel explained to them, and the disciples need to get their focus off of their stomach and on to eternal realities and focus on giving the gospel. He has to address the problem of priorities right here.

What does Jesus' statement remind us of? When He is being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, what does He say? "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." As believers we have higher priorities. We know reality from a spiritual dimension and that that explains to us what the real issues in life are. The real issues in life are beyond the details of life. If you can't get to the point through application of doctrine to master the details of life, to get beyond the daily concerns for friends and family, for social life, for material things, for money, all the details of life that plague us every day, then we are never going to get anywhere in the spiritual life. So Jesus is challenging them to put their focus beyond their physical needs and the details of life—not that that is illegitimate, those things are very fine. It is legitimate to have lunch! What Jesus is saying that we have to understand what the priorities are and that sometimes we have to quit having lunch so that we can focus on the really important details in life, such as communicating the gospel, spiritual things.

John 4:33 NASB "So the disciples were saying to one another, 'No one brought Him {anything} to eat, did he?'" They still don't get the point, it just goes right over their heads. They've heard Him talk to John the Baptist, they saw Him transform the water into wine, they heard the discourse with Nicodemus, they were with Jesus in the Temple and throughout Judea, they had seen the miracles, but they just don't quite get the point. They are operating on a very superficial level, unfortunately the kind of level that most Christians live in. Jesus has to get their focus on to true things.

John 4:34 NASB "Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work'." This is the priority in Jesus' life. What is the will of God in Jesus' life? Ultimately it is to go to the cross. At this point Jesus is focused on the cross. He is looking at them, He sees the crowd coming from town, they all have on their white robes which was typical of the dress of that day, and so the hills are being transformed into this flowing white. He knows that in a few minutes they are going to come and are going to hear the gospel, they are positive to the gospel, they are going to get saved. But beyond that he sees that he is the one who is going to have to die on the cross for their sins. Every time in the Gospels that Jesus starts thinking about the cross he loses His appetite.  The word here translated "accomplish" is from the Greek word teleioo [teleiow]. It means to complete. In the perfect tense it means to finish, and Jesus uses the perfect tense form of the verb as the last thing that he says on the cross—tetelestai [tetelestai]: "It is finished." So here He is already anticipating the cross by what He says here. In other words, our priority needs to be to fulfil God's will, and that is beyond whatever we want in terms of the details of life. We are never going to have happiness or find meaning in life until we find our meaning in completing the will of God for our lives rather than trying to get the details of life that we think will make us happy.

Then Jesus is going to get their attention. John 4:35 NASB "Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and {then} comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest." What is He referring to? All the people who are coming from town. The hills are being covered with people and they are ready for harvest in terms of the gospel.

John 4:36 NASB "Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together." The one who sowed in this case was the woman. The reapers are the disciples. They are getting ready to talk to those people, giving them the gospel, and they are all going to be saved. They are the ones who get the immediate blessing of leading these people to Christ, but they wouldn't get where they did if the woman hadn't done what she did. That is the issue in the gospel. Someone plants the gospel, someone sows, someone plants, someone else explains and someone else comes along and explains a little more, and ultimately a person is saved. It may take more than one explanation of the gospel before somebody gets saved. All along everybody is involved and they all rejoice together; that is the point of verses 37 & 38.  

John 4:37 NASB "For in this {case} the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps. [38] I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor'." So the disciples learn a lesson here in evangelism, that everybody has a part to play and that at the end they will all rejoice together.

The response: John 4:39 NASB "From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, 'He told me all the things that I {have} done'." Remember, John is building a case. John has said: "These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name." John is saying he will prove that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.

John 4:40 NASB "So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. [41] Many more believed because of His word." Faith is not just faith in faith, it is faith in specific words, in specific content, that Jesus is the Messiah. The proposition that John makes is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you will have life in His name.

Notice how the society was transformed. Up to this point the woman is the social outcast? The society is dominated by prejudice, prejudice between the self-righteous and the sinner, prejudice between the men and the women, prejudice between the women and the immoral in their perception, and prejudice between Jews and Samaritans. What happens as a result of the gospel and grace orientation? All that prejudice, all that social division, is knocked down. It didn't happen because the government passed a law that there was not going to be any prejudice anymore, for equal opportunities, or anything like that. There is no civil rights legislation here. The government can't solve the problem. The problem is not government oriented, the problem is spiritually oriented. What really transforms society is salvation and grace orientation. Society is radically revolutionised in Sychar because they understood grace and they understood the gospel. They were regenerate and became new creatures in Christ and that changed everything, because all of their relationships and the people who ostracised the woman are now talking to her. 

John 4:42 NASB "and they were saying to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world'." Transformation because of an understanding of grace. That is where it starts. If we don't understand grace and if we can't communicate grace, not only in what we say when we witness but in our whole demeanour of how we witness and who we witness to and what we make issues in witnessing, then we will never get anywhere and we will never be successful in evangelism.