Summary: BIG IDEA: Following Jesus involves walking through walls with the gospel.
“Gospel Without Walls”
INTRODUCTION: “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” is an action movie starring Tom Cruise. Early in the film, Tom and an IMF teammate must sneak into the Kremlin and steal something out of the vault. How in the world will they attempt that? By tricking a security guard with a fake wall that he won't see. While the guard is distracted, they throw up a screen and rear-project an image of an empty hallway. Then they sneak behind the screen undetected toward their objective.
The screen that obscures the guard’s vision and conceals an enemy action is a wall that he can’t see. If there’s a wall in front of you that you can’t see, you’re likely to either accept it unknowingly or you’re going to run into it painfully. There are walls we cannot see with our eyes but that are very real—and this morning I’m talking about walls between Jesus and lost people. Sometimes we run into such walls; often we just accept them. But when we look in Scripture at what God wants us to do as followers of Jesus in our world today, there’s a third way: TO FOLLOW JESUS IS TO WALK THROUGH WALLS WITH THE GOSPEL. That’s not easy to do and we aren’t often inclined to do it. But it’s vitally important, as we’re about to see, that we walk through walls with the gospel. So we need to understand what & where these walls are. [READ John 4:1-4]
The most direct route followed by Jewish travelers heading north from Judea to Galilee passed through Samaria. The alternative was to cross the Jordan near Jericho, travel north up the east bank, and cross back to the west bank near the Sea of Galilee. Often Jews would have taken this route to avoid Samaria so great was their antipathy toward Samaritans.
• After the Assyrians captured Samaria in 722BC, they deported many Israelites and settled the land with foreigners, who intermarried with the surviving Israelites and adhered to some forms of their ancient religions. After the exile, Jews returning to their homeland viewed the Samaritans not only as the children of political rebels but as racial half-breeds whose religion was tainted by unacceptable elements.
• About 400BC the Samaritans erected a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, which was destroyed by the Jews toward the end of the second century BC. This combination of events fueled religious and theological animosities.
I. JESUS WALKS THROUGH WALLS OF OUR PREJUDICES WITH THE GOSPEL (5-10)
A. While the disciples are in the city, Jesus requests the favor of a drink from the lone other person at the well—a Samaritan woman. The woman’s response is her reminder to Jesus that Jews and Samaritans have no dealings.
1. There is a gender wall between them
2. There is a racial wall between them
3. There is a religious wall between them
We can appreciate this woman’s surprise that a Jew would speak to her at all. She is troubled by the walls that exist between them.
B. Jesus ignores her reservations—he doesn’t even allude to the walls. Instead, he walks right through them and dares her to see both the gift of God and who is talking to her. He offers her “living water.” She is intrigued by this strange offer, but does not understand it. So Jesus equates it with eternal life. She responds in the affirmative.
>> Jesus delights in walking through walls with the gospel. He speaks; he reaches out; he takes a risk. What does that look like for us?
C. [ILLUSTRATION] Every three years InterVarsity Christian Fellowship sponsors the Urbana Conference, a gathering that challenges university students to get involved in world evangelization. About 16,000 students from around the world attended the 2009 conference.
After the main session each evening, students would leave the larger conference auditorium to meet in smaller groups for prayer and reflection. In one of the banquet halls, there was a small group comprised of Chinese students, another group of Taiwanese students, and another group of students from Hong Kong. Large dividers stood between the three. These walls were important, because historically these three peoples have harbored bitterness and animosity toward one another. They felt it was best to pray and worship each with their own people.
But as the Chinese students were praying one night, they told their leader they wanted to invite the other countries to join them. When the Taiwanese students received the invitation, they prayed and sang a little while, and then they opened up the wall divider. It wasn't too much longer before the students from Hong Kong pulled back their divider, and some 80 students mingled together.
"In Christ, we are all one family," said one leader. "And [Christ] breaks down political boundaries. In Christ, we have the desire to make the first steps to connect." The Taiwanese students asked the students from China and Hong Kong to lead them in worship. The next night, they invited the Korean and Japanese groups to join them, nations which also had experienced fierce animosity. The leader told them, "We are living out what we have learned this week in John: This is 'God with us.'" One girl from China said, "It was a really moving time. This kind of thing would not happen [without Jesus]"