Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:26 ESV)
Many have made the story found in John 4, to be a study in witnessing. From this story we have formed whole theories on friendship evangelism, using a pattern from one conversation to suggest and prescribe a technique that can span 6 months to a year. We have learned to share the Gospel by finding a common area of interest or need and stealthily drawing the net to God. We have used this story to justify a whole lot of things, eliminate others and in general terms have often missed the simple honesty of this conversation.
Hearing some teaching on this passage has left me with the overall impression of Jesus sneaking up on the Samaritan Woman in some stealthy mind trap as if the truth wouldn’t have been enough. Many times I have seen Jesus viewing this lady as a project rather than the person she was.
Perhaps this has added to the intimidation factor that I so often experience in sharing my faith and my identity in Christ. I find myself arguing for a better time and place and try to justify my fears and laziness with the knowledge that at least I hadn’t gotten kicked out the door. And I find some consolation in the idea that I now have established a platform for conversation when I really want to get down to the business of witnessing. I find myself viewing people as candidates who may receive the message if I catch them in the right mood or present things the right way.
At times, I find myself gearing up for a sales pitch to move my product (the Gospel of Jesus) into another home or another life. Like the agent in outside sales, I dread making the cold call. I want to be assured of success, I want to know that I will be accepted. So I do my market research and analysis. I want the boss to be pleased with me. I don’t want to blow the company’s reputation. I fear that my paycheck depends on my skill, strategy and ability to close the deal.
It makes sense to me then when someone consoles me with the idea that Jesus showed us that cold calls aren’t needed in sharing the Gospel. He demonstrated this with the Woman at Well. Notice how He took the time to establish a relationship with the lady and how He established a basis from which to draw the gospel net home.
But is that really how it was? Is that really what we see coming from this conversation?
In our attempts to make systems and formulas, I believe that simple truth sometimes seems outdated. Jesus seems to be engaging in a very direct conversation, moving very quickly from a drink of water to a personal introduction. “I, who speak to you, am He.” What could be more simple and truthful? He isn’t embarrassed with who He Is? But am I?
When I meet someone for the first time, I don’t generally plan a strategy for introducing myself. Usually, I simply walk up, stick out my hand and say, “Hi, my name is John.” Simple enough, it’s not as if I am embarrassed to be me or that I am afraid someone will disbelieve that I am me. I simply tell it like it is. “This is who I am.” Except…I find resistance to, “This is who I am in Christ.” If not from the person I am meeting, then from within my own mind. I fear my acquaintance will reject who I am in Christ.
Jesus was about His Father’s Business and that business was reconciling the World to the Father.
Here was a woman with a checkered past and shady present. She was not the kind of acquaintance that looks good on a Preacher’s resume. She was marred by choices and lifestyle but these were a result of believing and following a lie.
Jesus, full of grace and truth, introduced Himself to her. He spoke of Living Water and a well springing up into everlasting life. The lady was interested, here was something that sounded different from the dead end her life to which her life was headed. Jesus asked a few more questions to connect the dots, and when she spoke of the Messiah, He introduced Himself.
In none of this was He stealthily advancing an agenda. When you are full of grace and truth, you don’t need stealth, you need boldness to speak and love for the person you are speaking to. Jesus had all of these and He introduced Himself to a lady who was looking for answers.
One short conversation introduced the God of the Universe to a lady who was estranged from Him. She was reconnected and found life. What a beautiful story! It is a story that Jesus intends for His disciples to repeat over and over. Many times we only have one opportunity.
If I accept this story only as roadmap for friendship evangelism, I may never find the opportunity to introduce people to Christ in me, the Hope of Glory. Jesus said in John 7 that if any one believes in Him according to the Scriptures, out of that person’s innermost being would flow RIVERS of Living Water.
That is convicting for me because I am questioning how many people have gotten wet from the Rivers gushing out of me in the last number of times I introduced myself or simply spoke to someone on the street. Have I introduced them to the Living water or did they leave our chance encounter to head back to their same old well of stale humanism, rebellion, hurt and bitterness?
Jesus, about His Father’s Business and with one opportunity, introduced Himself, “I who speak with you am He.”
So what is the question for me? Did I neglect to introduce myself –In Christ? Did I put a plug in the Rivers of Living Water? Did my acquaintance leave my presence, dry spiritually?
I welcome your response. I believe Jesus introduced Himself fully in a very short conversation. I don’t believe He tried to soften the blow or stealthily slip it in. Should I?
Just a note, I believe that this conversation was fully encased in the gentle goodness of God. You and I must always be gentle and sensitive, following the direction of the Holy Spirit. I fully understand that some are involved in planting and some in watering. It is always God who gives the increase.