Introduction: Connecting Worship & Mission.
It has been a long time since we have been in the Gospel of John, so I think there might be some wisdom in reviewing where we are. In John 4 Jesus has left Judea and gone back to Galilee. While Jesus was on this road trip He passed through Samaria.
There are few things we need to keep in mind about Samaria. First, the Samaritans were an entire nation of biracial people. They were the 10 northern tribes that were defeated and enslaved by the Assyrians. Second, while in exile these northern Israelites fully integrated with their captures. They did not just integrate racially, but also religiously. In the economy of God’s kingdom the first is not a problem, but the later is. Third, they developed a religious system that was very offensive to the southern tribes. They only included the first five books of the OT as Scripture. They also designed and built their own northern temple around 400 BC.
With all that in mind Jesus, a Jewish man, still decided to engage in an intentional conversation with a Samaritan woman a scandalous reputation. Jesus centered the discussion on satisfaction, fulfillment, joy. As we explored this passage weeks ago we focused on worship. For the Christian any discussions around fulfillment, satisfaction, and joy they are always related to the idea of worship for us. What Jesus reveals to the woman is true worship transforms us from the inside out. According to passages like Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 true transformative worship flows from God writing His Word on our hearts. God transforms us by conforming our desires to His desires. And what is the cornerstone of God’s heart? His own glory! Therefore, true transformative worship makes us into missionaries. We carry out God’s Mission of spreading His fame throughout the earth.
Theme: The deep satisfaction Jesus offers propels us to carry out His Mission.
1. The Fuel of Missional Worship—John 4.31-34.
In this part of our passage the disciples come back and find Jesus talking the Samaritan woman. While the woman has gone off to tell other people about Jesus, Jesus uses this brief moment to continue discipling on satisfaction and fulfillment. The disciples encourage Jesus to eat, but listen to what Jesus says—READ John 4.31-34. What Jesus understands is there is deep satisfaction, true fulfillment and everlasting joy in doing the will of God. Obedience to God is a source of joy. The fuel that energizes us to carry out God’s Mission is joyful obedience. We lose a sense of purpose when we run from, ignore, or neglect this aspect of our faith.
What are a few hindrances to this fulfilling mission? Let me give you a few. First, we fear they won’t be interested in the Gospel. Like most fears we have there is an element of truth to this. Many non-Christians are not interested in the Gospel. In fact some self-proclaimed Christians are not interested in the Gospel. But we don’t get to pick and choose whom we deem worthy of the Gospel. It is not for us to determine who is ripe or not for the Gospel. When we do this we allow certain groups of people to become “Samaritans” to us. Take some time this week and think through those people whom you are afraid or unwilling to share the Gospel with? Who are you unwilling to share your time with?
Second, some of say, “I’m just too busy to share the Gospel.” Once again there is some legitimacy to this hindrance. We certainly live in a past fast society. We have so many things pulling for our attention. In our Refuge Communities we have certain leaders who are trained to help you with this. One of the things they are taught and they are supposed to teach is to help us all look for ways to share the Gospel in our natural rhythms of life. Far too many times our personal evangelism becomes another thing on our task list. But when we try to engage unbelievers with the Gospel in the natural rhythms of life in which God has placed us, then we notice there are more Gospel opportunities than we thought. Here is what the prophet Jeremiah has to say about this, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”—Jeremiah 29.7 (Jer 29.7). Wherever you live, work, and play we must all remember God has placed us there.
2. The Ecosystem of Missional Worship—John 4.35-38.
The final hindrance many of us use is we can always do it later. But this does not match what Jesus says—READ John 4.35-38. Jesus uses an agricultural illustration to tell us about the healthy ecosystem He has created for God’s Mission. When the farmer plants the seeds and cultivates the crops, the final step is waiting until the harvest is ready to be gathered up. What Jesus is telling us is He has planted the seed, He has cultivated the soil, and now He is calling us to gather the crop. The ecosystem is ripe; therefore, the time of the harvest is now, not later. According to Jesus the great news is our part in the ecosystem is fairly easy—READ John 4.38. Much like the prophet Jeremiah Jesus is telling us He has SENT us to go reap the fruit of the harvest. Our task is much easier than those who have come before us.
Friends, I can tell you going out and gathering more disciples is a fulfilling task. Many of these same hindrances are struggles for me too. But the reward is great. If you have been a Christian for some time and you don’t feel close to God as much as you used to then I would offer the same suggestion Charles Spurgeon does. You might have what he calls, “spiritual indigestion”:
“Some of you good people, who do nothing except go to public meetings, the Bible readings, and prophetic conferences, and other forms of spiritual [indulgences], would be a good deal better Christians if you would look after the poor and needy around you…go and tell the gospel to dying men [and] you would find your spiritual health restored, for very much of the sickness of Christians comes through having nothing to do. All feeding and no working gives men spiritual indigestion.”—Spurgeon, p. 132
3. The Results of Missional Worship—John 4.27-33, 39-45.
As we approach the final sections here let’s not forget the disciples were greatly troubled by the conversation Jesus was having with the Samaritan woman—READ John 4.27. I mentioned earlier there is a massive tension between Jews and Samaritans, so that is certainly one of the dynamics, but there was also another social dynamic. In this culture it was deemed inappropriate for a man to talk with a woman in public or private. One rabbinical law said:
“One should not talk with a woman on the street, not even with his own wife, and certainly not with somebody’s else’s wife…It is forbidden to give a woman any greeting.”—Milne, p. 85
Another layer to this is the type of woman Jesus is talking to. This was a woman with a less than stellar reputation. This woman has been married 5 times, and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. But even with all the social implications Jesus thought it was worth the risk to talk with this woman. It was worth risking His own reputation to care for this lonely social outcast. There were some results of Jesus’ calculated risk.
First, the woman’s life was radically changed. It was uncommon for woman to come out to a well by themselves in one of the hottest parts of the day. The woman was clearly a social outcast. But after she has miraculous encounter with Jesus she is transformed in a bold missionary—READ John 4.28-30.
Second, there was a very positive response to almost everyone in this passage—READ John 4.39-40. The people first saw something radically had happened with this woman. They recognize some kind of transformation. This peaked their interest, but when they encounter Jesus themselves it become much more real and person for them—READ John 4.41-42. According to John 4.43-45 even after Jesus leaves Samaria, and returns to Galilee, He is still met with another interested group of people.
Let me close with this friends, this story is one of the most powerful stories in all of the Gospels, and probably have not even scratched the surface of all the layers in it. It is rare in a Gospel for so many positive responses to Jesus, but in this story there are many. The only negative response was Jesus’ disciples. So I think it is fair to ask, which one these is your response to what Jesus is offering us and asking us to do? Jesus is offering us truly satisfying living water and an opportunity to have fulfilling life in continuing His Mission. Are we responding the way this woman did? Are we regularly requesting Jesus to stay with us? I don’t know about you but the older I get the more I see I need to regularly invite Jesus into every part of my day. For instance, since the beginning of the year I have been trying to use “The Book of Common Prayer” as a guide in this. I have an app with it on my home. It reminds to be pray in the morning, midday, and in the evening. It also provides basic prayers I can pray with other Christians all over the globe inviting Jesus into our entire day. Many times these prayers encourage us to care for the poor and ask God to ignite a passion for our evangelist efforts.