An Example to Follow

Series: Preacher: Date: July 22, 2018 Scripture Reference: John 4:1-42

A Matter of Priority

Have you ever come across people who clearly have misplaced priorities? We can look at them and realize what they care about is completely out of whack. One such example is that of Marcin Muchalski. Marcin was a tough New Yorker – I’ll give him that much – who was approached by a thief at gunpoint while walking across the Williamsburg Bridge. What did the robber want? His cell phone. His Nokia 3390, to be exact. Naturally, Mr. Muchalski preferred to risk parting with his life than with his phone. He surmised that the armed bandit would be too timid to shoot him in public at 7:00 a.m. on the bridge, perhaps not realizing this guy was already willing to pull a gun on him. So he dared the guy to shoot him over a phone.

Well, the man found the request reasonable and readily complied, shooting Muchalski in the thigh. I imagine that was the moment when Muchalski considered the gunman to also be a tough New Yorker. Did he then hand over the phone? Nope. He hobbled away, clutching his mobile as he went, presumably because it came with that Snake game. The gunman fled the scene but was later caught because Muchalski used his phone to call the police.[1]

The age of this phone technology highlights how foolish – and fortunate – Muchalski was. I’m sure his medical bills exceeded the cost of several Nokia 3390’s, which retailed for $74.99 at the time.  His assessment of the situation was that the stakes weren’t that high. Yet we have examples of the same sort of behavior in our own lives. We bring our work home with us at the expense of family members. Students neglect study time to binge-watch the latest Netflix series. We take things of lesser importance and elevate them to a status they do not deserve, and we forego attention to the greater matters in the process.

The same is true when it comes to sharing our faith. Yet we follow the examples of people who do not prioritize it. The result is that other things in life take priority over sharing the gospel.  Our assessment isn’t that different from Muchalski’s: we think the stakes aren’t that high.  But they couldn’t be higher.

Turn to John 4.

As we continue our Waking the Dead series we recognize our call to share the Good News of Jesus with those around us. Using a familiar scene in Jesus’ life – his conversation with the woman at the well – our goal today is to study the example of Christ in sharing the Good News.  After all, sharing God’s hope is a task for all of us.

Our topic involves all of the events of John 4, including Jesus’ interaction from the Samaritan woman.  Here is a portion of the passage, where Jesus is speaking to his disciples.

John 4:35-42
Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.
Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”
So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.
And many more believed because of his word.
They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

How to focus on the Good News

If sharing God’s hope is for all of us, we must shift our focus to the Good News. When it comes to our eyesight, we have a fairly wide range of vision but a narrow cone of focus. An expert photographer knows how to take a large, beautiful shot that only focuses in on a specific element. The overall beauty of that picture is seen through the focal point.

The gospel of Jesus must be the focal point of our lives. So how do we make it the focal point?

Check your  sight

First you need to check your sight. This involves making sure we are looking at the world the way God is. How do we do that?

Notice people

First, we notice people. Jesus took the time to notice people. He had a habit of it, actually. One of the remarkable things about Jesus, as we read the Gospels, is that Jesus could be surrounded by a crowd of people and single someone out who needed special attention. That special attention often expressed his heart far better than the large, public acts. Do you remember the blind man crying out to Jesus as he walked along the crowded road? The disciples tried to shush him, but Jesus restored the man’s sight. Or Zaccheus? He stopped and looked up at him in the tree, noticing the wee little man who was ready to follow him. One Sabbath, Jesus singled out a woman who would have been in the back. She was bent low and stooped because of her debilitating physical condition. Jesus saw her and healed her.

Here was a woman at the well who was also bent and stooped, not physically, but emotionally, socially, and spiritually. We can imagine after five failed marriages and a live-in boyfriend that things had gone far wrong from what she pictured her life to be like as a young lady. There was surely dysfunction, abuse, anger, and disillusionment that gave her a very hard edge. It’s the kind of edge that would repel most of us, but Jesus saw through it. He noticed her. He was looking out for her before she arrived.

We all wait by the well from time to time. That well can be your driveway, where you could stop and talk with your neighbor but instead rush inside. Did you notice who is outside? Whose grass is long? Whose spouse’s car hasn’t been in the driveway for three weeks? That well can be in the checkout line. Do the people around you have to compete with the people in the tabloids? Is your well the waiting room at the doctor’s office? Is it the sideline of the soccer field or at the gymnastics center? Maybe your well is at a literal well.

Wherever it is, What do you do when you find yourself waiting by the well? Are you in the habit of noticing people? Me – I’m probably checking my phone. Think about that. One day we will have to give an account to God and explain why, wherever we were, we didn’t notice people who were there, because we were busy noticing people who were not there. Let’s keep our eyes open so we can notice people.

Ignore barriers

We also have to ignore barriers. I think this interaction with the woman at the well is iconic because Jesus ignored so many barriers. He ignored the barriers of bad blood, racial bias, religious differences, gender stereotypes, historical failures, and possibly social customs.

He was at a site most people bypassed, opting for the “scenic route,” meaning it’s scenic because we don’t have to see those people, those animals. He was standing where Israel stood to hear the blessings and curses described at the end of Deuteronomy; those curses were largely the result of these people straying from God and then intermarrying so that they were tied to other religions. It was the same site where Jeroboam held his new kingdom, breaking away from Solomon’s son and establishing a rival religion that led all of Northern Israel astray. This spot was in view of the temple on Mt. Gerizim, where the Samaritans decided to hold their sacrifices, where they claimed God was present instead of at Jerusalem. That temple was in ruins during Jesus’ time, because 150 years earlier John Hyrcanus of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty attacked Samaria and had this temple destroyed. The Jewish people saw a perpetual state of apostasy in the Samaritans. The Samaritans saw the same in the Jews. There would be a bloody conflict 10-20 years later between Samaritans and Jewish pilgrims. This place was a powder keg of conflict and rival religious claims.

Jesus overlooked all of that. The history didn’t matter. The bad blood wasn’t an issue. He didn’t pay attention to the do’s and don’ts of society, whether he should talk to a woman, or to any Samaritan, for that matter. He overlooked it all and instead saw a woman who needed the Good News.

So what barriers stop us from gospel conversations? Do racial barriers hold you back? I’m not necessarily talking about actual prejudice so much as fear. Do you fear that you won’t have enough in common or something you can offer someone else? Is age a barrier to you? How about personal interests? Perhaps you avoid the sports nut because your biggest athletic contest was competitive crocheting. You carry the one message known for breaking down all barriers.

One place where Christians have been known to overcome barriers is in the Kairos ministry to prison inmates. In Jim Mitcham’s book, Because God Loves Them Too, a man named Jeffery writes about his experience with Kairos as an inmate. “I was overwhelmed by my Kairos weekend. I felt love and compassion from everyone and truly believed that love was the only motivation for all they did.” [2] Another, named Steve, writes of the letter he received from a stranger at a Kairos event, believing God chose the letter for him.

“[It] was about LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. It was about the love of Jesus. It was about no more rejection but full acceptance into the family of God. In that first letter, I read the words that I needed to hear for so long, that someone loved me. Someone out there who I didn’t know loved me with the love of Jesus, genuine and true love without conditions. Amazing Love!” [3]

This is the kind of impact that can be had when we ignore barriers between people and begin to focus on sharing the hope found in Christ with all people.

Check your  appetite

Once you check your sight, check your appetite. In our story, we see the appetites of different people. The disciples are first. Jn 4:8.

John 4:8 ESV
(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)

The city was probably about a twenty minute walk. It’s possible that Jesus sent them, but I don’t think so. I think they simply wanted to go and get food. Their appetites were purely on physical food, while Jesus’ appetite was on spiritual transformation. Because of this, the disciples completely miss out on all of the action that takes place in this chapter. The action of God’s Spirit working in the heart of the Samaritan woman was missed. They came as she left and got townspeople. They left town – without sharing a thing about Jesus – and the woman went to town to share Christ’s message as best she knew. Then, as the townspeople are asking Jesus questions, the disciples had to have been off to the side, munching on their snacks. I can’t imagine that they were in the thick of things helping share their own experiences about Jesus. No, they huddled apart, until a few of them tried to pull Jesus away from the people for the sake of food. Their appetite was so food-oriented that they couldn’t understand Jesus’ response. Jn 4:32-34.

John 4:32–34 ESV
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

Jesus tells them to check their sight to help adjust their appetite: “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” In other words, “Do you not see these gobs of people who have hungered for this message?”

If we are honest, we’ll admit that most of us spend far too much time satisfying our cravings and meeting our creature comfort goals. Sharing the Good News is hard, because we haven’t developed an appetite for it. Where is your appetite? Do you hunger and thirst after eternal things or temporal?

Check your  history

Here’s a closely connected point to the previous one: One of the ways to identify your appetite is to check your history. What does your calendar show that you valued? How about your purchase history? How about your internet history? If you looked at your recent posts, what did you want to share with the world? What did you take interest in? We are living in a time when we can analyze what we care about most just by pulling up our calendars or social feeds or credit card statements. And they make a statement.

Looking again at the disciples, we see their history was oriented around themselves. There is nothing wrong with buying food and meeting our needs, but Jesus identified in them a lack of awareness or passion for what was most important. What does your history say is most important to you?

Principles when sharing

Once we focus on the Good News, we want to identify principles for sharing our faith. Looking at Jesus’ example, we find four principles that we can begin following today. When I was a teen, I played a lot of baseball, and pitcher was my favorite position. One day I got a copy of Nolan Ryan’s Pitcher’s Bible. I still remember some of the great advice in there and the way it improved my pitching game. But one of the most helpful aspects of the book was not the words. It was the flip animation at the top right corner of the page that showed Nolan Ryan in a full pitcher’s windup. When I read about the balance point, I could then view it and see what he was talking about. Keep in mind, this was in the day of the Nokia 3390’s, so this was high tech. I used that flip animation to see what Nolan meant about his high leg kick and what he called the “tall and fall” delivery. The words needed an example. The principles we are about to cover are like this. Jesus puts it into action so we can see what he’s talking about.

Use life’s  circumstances

First, Jesus used life’s circumstances, and so should we. In Jn 4:6, we read,

John 4:6 ESV
Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Jesus had finished a marathon ministry tour and was traveling to his next one. He had walked half the day and was simply exhausted. The disciples had gone into town, and, knowing their own tendency to bicker, he was probably thankful for some alone time.

Jacob’s well, I am told, still exists today. There’s an ancient set of stone steps that lead down to it. So it was a cool, quiet space to be during the heat of the day. Jesus’ life circumstance was that he needed to rest, and while resting, he found an opportunity to share God’s truth with someone.

I find this fact to be incredibly freeing. Jesus got tired, just like we do. He might have considered going with the disciples into town to talk to more people, but he just wasn’t up for it. His dogs were barking after that long walk. Christian, if you feel like sharing the gospel is yet another thing that you’re being told to squeeze into your over-crowded schedule, then let yourself off the hook!

Our strongest call to share the gospel comes from the Great Commission, where we are told to “Go and make disciples.” But did you know that “GO” could also be translated, “As you go”? So as you go, make disciples. As you sit by the pool, make disciples. As you shop at the store, make disciples. You get the idea. As you go through life, make disciples. Let the natural circumstances of life be your connection points.

Build  interaction

Second, Jesus shows us how to build interaction. Life’s circumstances still require some level of interaction to take place. Jesus could have used his time of rest to be by himself. He could have easily justified his need to take a break. The woman didn’t even expect him to speak to her. But he chose to start a conversation with her. At the well, he chose to bring up a deep subject. We should seek to interact with people when we can.

This will look different depending on the scenario. You make regular connections with your neighbor over time, while the person behind you in the checkout line might get an invite to church right away. But the bottom line is that interaction is happening; a relationship is being formed, and there is some intentionality behind it.

I find some noteworthy elements to Jesus’ interaction with the woman. He spoke in a way that encouraged a response. He created curiosity in her while steering to the real need. He had her attention by surprising her with his comment. He didn’t answer questions directly but instead went deeper in the conversation. The woman asked why Jesus, a male Jew, would speak to a female Samaritan. He didn’t answer that question but instead said she should be asking him for a drink of living water. That took the conversation toward matters of substance.

The kind of interaction we want to build goes past the surface and toward matters of substance. We can’t keep talking about the weather or casual plans. We go toward what is most important.

Find  gospel intersections

Along the way, we have to find gospel intersections, opportunities to discuss spiritual things. Jesus was at a well, so he spoke about living water. The woman challenged him and what looked like unpreparedness to share water with her. Jn 4:11.

John 4:11 ESV
The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?

And then Jesus drew a distinction between regular water and living water. Regular water quenches for only a short time, while Jesus offers to quench thirst eternally. He continues about this water in John 4:14:

John 4:14 ESV
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman talks about the need to reach down to reach regular water, and Jesus says his water will well up out of her. We find this word “welling up” used in only two other places in the New Testament. They occur in Acts 3:8 and 14:10. Both involve the healing of lame men and are translated “leaping” and “sprang.” The same sort of physical transformation that caused lame men to immediately jump energetically is the term that describes the spiritual transformation in the one possessing this water of life. There isn’t a need for a long rope to get to the stream, because it is right there and accessible.

Jesus had more to say about water elsewhere. In Jn 7:37-39, he makes a similar bold, public claim that he has the water of life.

John 7:37–39 ESV
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

The Spirit of God bubbles up and flows from the believer. Christian, you are not doing this alone. You might feel like all of this is difficult, and you’re worried about what to say and how to bring something up, and whether you might mess up, but know this: You possess the living water that gushes forth and quenches the thirst of a parched land. Isaiah 44:3 says,


Isaiah 44:3 ESV
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,

and my blessing on your descendants.


You get to be one of the jars used to pour out that water, and the land is thirsty. People need this hope; they are craving it. That’s why Jesus later says the fields are ripe for the harvest. People may look like they have everything together – they project an impenetrable wall, but they are often internally hurt, lost, and thirsty for something to quench their longing.

Perhaps that describes you. We talk about Jesus as an example to follow when sharing our faith, but maybe today the Samaritan woman is your example to follow. She’s the one who left her water pot behind because she discovered the living water that truly quenched her thirst. She’s the one who told the town all about Jesus. Today can be the day that you decide all the old sources of satisfaction in your life continually leave you parched. You can decide to turn to Christ and place your faith in him.

For those of us who have this living water in us, we need to let it flow from us and share this gospel message with people.

Point to  God’s Word

But we can’t just stop there. We have to point to God’s Word. When it comes to sharing your faith, eventually you have to eliminate the middle man – YOU! This is that nugget of an example nestled at the end that we might easily overlook. Jn 4:39 says that many of the people in the town believed in Jesus “because of the woman’s testimony.” But then it says this in Jn 4:41-42,

John 4:41–42 ESV
And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

When you share your story of what God has done in your life, invite them to make it their story, too. Invite them to go directly to the God who makes these promises. Invite them to be able to say, “I know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” Keri Folmar writes,

“Testimonies about God’s work in our lives are not enough. Only the gospel – the objective truth about God sending his only Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for the sin of anyone who repents and believes in him – saves.”[4]

By all means, share your testimony, but connect people with the gospel truth that saves. The gospel hope is what brings transformation.

This sort of transformation is what happened to two Kenyan neighbors. They hated each other’s guts and had a long rivalry with one another. Then one of them was invited to join a Bible study group. Over time, she connected with the gospel hope found in God’s Word and placed her faith in Christ. The streams of living water that flowed from her prompted her to go to her neighbor and ask her forgiveness. This softened the neighbor’s heart so that she, too, joined the Bible study and became a Christian herself. These two rival neighbors are now sisters in Christ, and they know the transformative hope found in him.

What about you? Do you know that hope? Perhaps you have seen it but haven’t taken the step of faith to declare yourself all in. Perhaps you’re trying to quench eternal thirst through temporary water pots. It’s time to turn to Christ, and you can do that today.

If you are a Christian, then what part of Jesus’ example do you most need to put into practice?


[2] Mitcham, Jim. Because God Loves Them Too. p. 238.

[3] Ibid. p. 234.

[4] Furman, Gloria & Nielson, Kathleen B., Eds., Word-Filled Women’s Ministry (Crossway: Wheaton), 2015. p. 146.

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