Summary: People are different in so many ways, but in many ways, they are also the same. But no matter how similar or different people are, they all share the same core problem with the need for the same solution.
The fourth chapter of John is a very familiar event to us. Most of us are very familiar with the woman at the well. So we should just be able to fly right past it, right? Wrong—because, like every other event in this book, this one is rich. It is full of truths about people and about how best to reach them. It is full of tips and techniques and theological truths. And tucked neatly in the middle of it all is a discussion about worship. If you want a way to sum up the application of this chapter, it’s like this. This chapter teaches us as Christians how to interact with people. It also teaches us how to interact with God. Now it’s going to take us several weeks to unpack everything this chapter has to offer us. And even then we won’t get it all unpacked. But I trust that over the next several weeks that each of us will be able to apply the truths that we will discover as we go along. One of the things that will help you in doing that is to read this chapter several times over the next few weeks as we go along. The more familiar you are with the text itself, the more benefit you will draw from the teaching that it contains. For those of you who were here for the watchnight service, I think we all had a wonderful time. It is always a special highlight of my year to gather together with God’s people and pray in the New Year. But right before we gathered around the sanctuary and held hands and prayed, I got to preach. I got to preach, but it wasn’t really a typical sermon. It turned out to be more of a challenge to the church. Of course, it was late and the whole church wasn’t there. There are more of you here this morning. I’m not going to go over all the challenge from the pulpit this morning, but I want you to make sure and get a copy of the newsletter. Take it home and read it, because I’ve got it all outlined in there. Just a word about it. A challenge is exactly that—it’s a challenge. It’s not a dictatorial mandate. It’s not a new program that the pastor is going to push through. The challenge will only be as successful as you make it. I am the undershepherd of this flock. I’m not the cow herder. Shepherds lead, they don’t drive. I make green pastures available and do my best to keep the wolves away. I don’t force feed and manipulate and push and whip and drive. It is my prayer that in 2009, we peacefully feed on the green pasture that is before us in this challenge. Like I said, I’m not going to go into every part of the challenge—you can read it for yourselves. But I am going to talk about one part of it. Because it fits so well with this passage we’re going to be in for the next several weeks. Sometime within the next few weeks, we’re going to start a bi-weekly church-wide visitation program. I’m hoping that we can alternate between a daytime and an evening time visitation. I want to be strategic in the way we do it. I want to be smart about it. I want an evangelism director to help me organize and promote it. And I want everybody to participate—no matter how scared, or shy, or backward, or busy, or whatever you might be. God is good. He has seen fit to line up the timing between preaching through this passage focused on evangelism… and the timing of beginning to put together a purposeful, strategic outreach program. This isn’t my timing—it’s God’s. But God’s timing is always right. And if He’s seen fit to line these things up, then I think we’d better listen to what He’s trying to tell us, don’t you?
As I said, this is a very familiar event. Jesus and His disciples had been in Judea, just down the river from John the Baptist… and they had been doing the same thing John was doing. They were baptizing people. John the Gospel writer gave us a little insight into what John the Baptist’s disciples were thinking in a conversation that closed chapter 3. They were jealous of the success of Jesus’ ministry. But that was just the opportunity that John needed to explain to them again what the true nature of his ministry was. The true nature of his ministry was to point people to Jesus. It was to point people to the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. It was for the focus on himself to decrease in order that the focus might increase on Jesus. It was all about pointing people to Jesus. It was all about reaching the lost. It was all about showing a lost and dying world their need for a Savior. And then pointing them to the only One who could save them. And as it turns out, that little incident with John the Baptist serves as the glue that holds two other events together in the text. Right before it, you have Jesus’ encounter with a lost person. And right after it, you have His encounter with another lost person. Before it you have His encounter with Nicodemus. And after it, you have His encounter with the Woman at the Well. The passage we just read from John 4 shows us several patterns that we’re going to be looking at over the next several weeks. In it, we see the pattern of evangelism as Jesus reaches out to this pitiful, lost woman. We see the pattern of response as she goes through several stages in reaction to Jesus’ words. And then wedged into the evangelistic encounter, Jesus gives us the pattern of worship. But before we can look at any of these patterns, we need to take a step back and look at the object of evangelism. People are different, aren’t they? I’m different than you are and you are different that somebody else is. Each of us have different personalities, we have different emotions, we have different likes and dislikes. That’s why, before we look at the pattern of evangelism and the pattern of response over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to look at the pattern of people this morning. And the way that God laid out this text through the Apostle John gives us a wonderful example of the pattern of people in Nicodemus and the woman at the well. Now, we’re not going to go back and read about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. If you need a refresher, you can go back and look at chapter 3. But what we find there and what we find here in chapter 4 gives us some good insight into the pattern of people.