Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Living Water Part 2 (Jn. 4:1-18)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 24 January 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 4:1-18

From Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, we see the deceit in human heart and the Lord’s wisdom. We see how personal ministry should be done in showing the grace of God and the needs of men.

That Christ came to earth is God’s greatest gift to humanity. In the conversation, the Samaritan woman had not discovered that Jesus is the gift of God. She did not realise how important that moment was. Other than this incident, she never met Jesus anymore. Apart from God’s grace, she would not have the opportunity to share a moment with Christ. Are we aware of the opportunities in our lives where we listen to the word of God?

Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink,…” (Jn.4:10) is very important reminder that we rely on God’s grace to live. We live our every single moment by the grace of God. Between life and death, there is only one line. It is not for us to decide when we live and when we die.

The Samaritan woman began to think after hearing this. Before that what was in her mind was that Jesus was a Jewish man and she was a Samaritan woman and they should not converse. Each time we try to share the gospel there will be conflict of concepts, cultures and dignity. It would seem that Jesus was at the losing end since He was thirsty and in need of water. But it is not Jesus who needed her, she needed Jesus. So often people think that the church need them and their money to build the church and increase the numbers. A sinner always reasons with his fallen mind that God needs him. But God is self-sufficient, self-existing, self-everlasting, and there is nothing we can add on to Him.

The question is who needs who. If we need God, we should come before Him and seek Him. But why is it that it is God’s Son who came to earth and went to Samaria, sat under the hot sun to wait for the Samaritan woman? This is the paradox of love. If Jesus did not convert the Samaritan woman, He had no loss. But if the Samaritan woman never met Jesus, her loss is great indeed. We need God forever. Even the air we breathe and the very function of our body is by His grace of sustainance. We receive His grace because of His love to us. Jesus came because the woman needed Him. He waited for her first under the hot sun.

When preaching the gospel, on surface it seems that you need the person we preach to since we seek him, but in reality it is the person who needs the gospel. When a person does not feel his need of salvation, he live passively.

Jesus continued, “… you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (Jn. 4:10) Here Jesus turned from being passive into active. When He asked for water He was passive. When He offered the living water He was active. When the Samaritan woman came around every day to draw water she was passive. When she started to ask for living water she was active. But she was still controlled by her own understanding.

She said, “You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” (Jn. 4:11-12)

In other words, she was skeptical of Jesus’ claim to give living water when just a while ago He was the one asking for a drink. The well is a special well. It is their cultural heritage since Jacob’s time. Even Jacob and his family was dependent on that well for a living. So Jesus’ offer of something greater, the living water, sounds unbelievable and she challenged if Jesus was greater than Jacob.

So here she was living a decadent life, but she could still talk loudly and criticise others and suppress others as she hid her sins. Often we are like that. Secretly we live a sinful life and we still criticise others.

When we try to minister to others and people trap us with their words, most of us just feel defeated and cannot minister further. Just because you have the heart and you like to preach the gospel does not mean you can preach well.

The Samaritan woman talked pragmatically. She had the rope and she could draw water and she doubted Jesus for talking about abstract thing like living water. Often Christians are criticised this way. They are criticised for talking about vague and abstract things in the sky while people have to face practical issues in life, they have to eat and work.

But Jesus’ answer to her is very unique. "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (Jn. 4:13-14) No other answer is better than His answer.

The woman started to think and asked for the living water. If you are able to draw out the need from the depths of heart, the person will become active.

When Jesus said to the Samaritan woman that grace must come after she saw the problem of sin. Jesus was most upright and a great gentleman. Everything He said was of the truth. And he speaks the truth in love. He asked, “go and call your husband and come back.” (Jn. 4:16) Here we see Jesus speaking to a woman and at a critical point He asked the woman to get the husband to participate the discussion. On one hand Jesus wanted to remind her of her problem.

The woman was very smart, she was able to have many husbands before. Now she was with the sixth one who was not her husband. Jesus did not say, “Call all your husbands.” But just say ‘call your husband’ and let her figure out which one. She replied, “I have no husband.”

Many people deceive the servants of God this way. Before God’s servant say they have no husband but they have a lot of affairs at the back. We often present half-truth, that is, just the good part of ourselves. And many preachers simply compromise. They do not care about congregation’s personal lives and morality as long as they still come to church.

Jesus then said the most important thing. He did not humiliate her. Church leaders and those who want to share the gospel often scare people away. We are not willing to be patient and as a result we mess up the whole thing. When we treat relative things with an absolute spirit, it can be destructive. We need wisdom and power to preach the word of God with love and patience. Jesus knew everything about the woman but He was very patient.

Jesus said, “You are right when you say you have no husband.” That is comforting. But He continued, “The fact is you had five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” She had been exposed completely. She must acknowledge that He knew everything about her. Here she concluded that Christ must be a prophet. When people are awakened that way, then revival is possible.

When people find that you cannot be deceived, they will begin to listen to you. If your wisdom is not greater than the person you preach to, it is hard to succeed.

John 3 and 4 present two most important examples of personal evangelism.

To be continued…


Post a Comment

<< Home