Pastor Mike Cepela
Updated June 2015
The story of Jesus with the Women at the Well is probably one of the most read (as well as the most taught) Scriptures I believe in the New Testament. Some believe this Scripture shows how we the believer the need to develop relationships with those whom we wish to evangelize.
I have many thoughts on this very subject. But, most importantly, we should always look to the Scriptures as to what they show us in regards to any pattern that we may adopt in our everyday, spiritual walk. John 4:1-27 begins by Jesus sitting at a well known as Jacob's Well. And as the Samaritan woman approaches, He asks her to get Him a drink.
We must ask ourselves: How would this have been viewed by the Samaritan Women? Friendly? Unfriendly? Awkward? Uncomfortable? In this era, Palestine had many rules and requirements as to men talking to women in public. A typical rule that was said in those days was that, "A man shall not be alone with a woman in an inn, not even with his sister or daughter, on account of what men may think. A man shall not talk with a woman in the street, not even with his own wife, and especially not with another women on account of what men may say."
Jesus talking to this woman at the Jacob’s Well would have made her extremely uncomfortable as well as threatened. This simple act could have brought her reputation into complete ruin. Her being a Samaritan would even put her at a higher risk of danger due to the already low social caste that Samaritans were put in by the Jews as well as the Romans.
The story of the Woman at the Well tells us that man's spiritual needs are more important and trump man's comfort zones, likes, dislikes, or traditions. John 4:10 says, Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
The modern day equivalent of this would be like someone saying, “If you only knew what I know, you wouldn’t be asking me the thing your asking me, but something else.”
It’s also saying, "I know something that you don’t know.”
Notice after verses 11-14, Jesus explains "living water" and at this point, she then asks Jesus for a drink of this water. Instead of telling her how to get this water in verse 16, He then tells her to go and get her husband.Keep in mind that Jesus already knows the answer to this request. So, in truth, He is about to reveal her sinful state that she lives in.
Think about it. You’ve known someone for less than thirty minutes and already they're bringing up their greatest failures making this already awkward and uncomfortable situation more awkward and more uncomfortable than it already is. None of the actions by Jesus so far are those you would qualify as friendly or that which would cultivate a relationship, nor would she get the impression that He wanted to get to know her better. At this point, it might even appear that Jesus only has an interest in pointing out her faults to make feel like more of a failure then she already is.
What does this show in its elements? The revealing of one's greatest failures as well as revealing one's sinful state is one of the steps of becoming a believer. In other words, the conviction of one’s sinfulness with the offer of Eternal life (Living Water). Jesus said in John 4:22, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews." Jesus at this point is basically saying to her that:
1. You are ignorant in your worship.
2. You don’t know God properly.
3. Your version of spirituality is wrong.
Imagine that: you don’t know a person thirty minutes, and already you have brought up their greatest failures, as well as revealed the sin that they are living in as well as telling them that their spirituality is one of ignorance, and simply wrong. The meeting at this point is awkward and uncomfortable. You might say this meeting is outright scary, depressing, and violating every comfort zone imaginable. The last thing this woman would feel is uplifted with a desire to develop a greater friendship!
It’s important to always keep in mind that the Gospel is something that has such a gravity that we ought not to ever couple it in any way that would take away from that gravity. We must be careful of the very framework that we present the Gospel in, whether it’s relationships or any other medium we try to use.
I’m by no means saying that you shouldn’t be friendly or display manners. But keep in mind that the very proposition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is something of such gravity and soberness that it goes far beyond the realm of relationships that when it’s proposed to someone, a relationship is probably the last thing on a person’s mind.
When you think about the Women at the Well, it’s evident that Jesus violates so many social and ethnic graces of the day that you wonder at first glance if He’s trying to get her to dislike him. In reality, what Jesus shows is that the truths man needs to deal with are so different in nature and scope that thinking somehow that a relationship can give the process of witnessing a boost may come short of what’s actually needed.
Remember, if we want to use relationships as a method to evangelize we must understand the rules that the world follows in what they call an acceptable relationship which are:
1. Don’t offend those whom are your friends.
2. Don’t try to change them.
3. Don’t make them uncomfortable.
4. Love them as they are and leave them as they are.
When you think of the things that the Gospel requires people to do (see that they are sinners; confess their sins; ask for forgiveness; and realize that the Lord wants to transform them), then you come to realize that the rules of relationships in the world are almost all completely violated in every sense of the word.
Back in the 70's, a young man in a shopping mall witnessed me to. As he began to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ to me, I remember thinking about the claims the Bible was making. At that point, it wouldn’t of mattered to me whether I liked the young man or not, or whether I had a relationship with him or not because of what was being said was so much greater than any of that.
Are we suppose to have friendship with the world, especially in evangelism? 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
We need to have such a love for the lost that we are always driven to sharing our faith. At the same time, we must realize that whether or not we form a relationship with them will depend, according to the Scripture, as to what they do with the Person of Jesus Christ.
Remember, if the reason I’m showing a relational interest in a person is so that I can share the Gospel with them is in a sense a front and, at best, is insincere as well as dishonest! We as Christians must be careful when talking about how a Biblical mandate should be done. We must consider if it’s actually a Biblical concept or if we have just assumed that it’s biblical because others have said so without actually checking for ourselves as to whether it actually is.
Even what I have written today has either been able to stand up against Biblical scrutiny or else it’s simply the thoughts and philosophies that are mine with no Biblical authority and are worthless. Saints of God, there has never been a time where it’s more important that we understand how it is that we need to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what elements should or shouldn’t be used in this process.
Pastor Mike Cepela is the Senior Pastor of New Life Assembly.