12 Jesus Reaches Out
In the previous study we saw two different people approach Jesus differently. We saw the rich young ruler who was eager and keen to meet with Jesus, running and kneeling before him, only to leave in sorrow at the cost of discipleship. We then saw Nicodemus coming at night to Jesus in order to check out what Jesus was all about for himself. This time we will see two more people encountering Jesus under different circumstances, as he reaches out to them.
1. Woman at the well John 4
John 4:1-4: The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria.
Now we come to see somebody who accepted Jesus for who he was. Jesus went via Samaria as it was the shortest route back to Galilee. It was hot. Jesus was thirsty and wanted a drink. His disciples had gone into town to get food. So he asks a Samaritan woman to fetch him some water from the well. That he asked a Samaritan would have been bad enough, but to also talk to a woman!
We don’t know the name of this woman. But by looking at this conversation between Jesus and her, we discover several things about her?
That she was a Samaritan. There was equal animosity between Jews and Samaritans, hence the end of John 4:9: “(For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” This could equally be translated as “for Jews do not ask any favours of the Samaritans”. The Samaritans were a mixed race people of both Jewish and Assyrian descent from the time of the division of Israel into two parts and the annexation of the Northern kingdom by Assyria. 2 Kings 17 tells us that Assyria repopulated this area.
She was an outcast, that’s why she was fetching water at the hottest part of the day! This was probably due to her sexual immorality having had 5 husbands and currently in a 6th relationship (John 4:18). We also discover that she was waiting for the Messiah (John 4:25)!
What does this tell about Jesus?
- Tells us of his genuine humanity. He was tired, drained, hot, thirsty and hungry – normal human feeling and reactions.
- Jesus contravened tradition in that he spoke to a woman who was a Samaritan and a sinner. Respectable Jewish men never did that sort of thing!
- He showed great humility by asking for a drink of water; he was putting himself in her debt.
- He knew the woman’s life of sinfulness (John 4:17)
- Tells us of his divinity, when he offered her the water of eternal life (John 4:14).
- ·He was able to spiritually satisfy (John 4:14)
- Loved the woman, and gave her the most revealing and explicit statement we have in the Gospels as to who He really was (John 4:26).
- In showing love for the woman, he transcended cultural barriers. Ordinary Jewish men would never ask a Samaritan woman for a drink! Hence the disciples reaction in John 4:27! But Jesus is no ordinary man, his love is for all, whether they be rich, learned, male, female, wanted and unwanted!
- Shows us that Jesus’ offer of salvation is for all people, and not just the Jews.
The woman misunderstood the living water he offered as she probably thought he meant running water or water from a river! But the living water Jesus offered was spiritual water to cleanse her from sin and give eternal life. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, God is described as “a fountain of living water” (Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13).
When the disciples returned, the woman left her water jar and went back to the town to tell other people about Jesus (John 4:29-30). Many people came to faith in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony (John 4:39-42) and knew Him as the saviour of the world (John 4:42).
As Jesus’ ministry continues, we know that He spoke to people regardless of their social status, education, nationality or gender.
2. Woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11)
John 8:1-6: But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
Jesus, as all Rabbis and teachers did, was at the temple teaching and talking with people. It was also part of the role of the rabbi/teachers to ascertain what to do in certain difficult moral and legal situations. As part of this role, the Pharisees dragged in an unknown woman charged with adultery. Likewise with the Samaritan woman, we don’t know this woman’s name either! The Pharisees lay a trap for Jesus. If Jesus said to stone the woman, then the Romans could arrest Jesus, for it was Roman law that any death must be conducted by them and not by others. If Jesus says to release the woman, then the Pharisees would say that Jesus is contravening Scripture and the Law of Moses. So what does Jesus do? He writes in the dirt (John 8:6). We don’t know what He wrote, but from the Greek word for write, we understand that He was seemingly writing a report and that when in he says in John 8:7 “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”, He is in fact saying “If any one of you is without this sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” So if any of the Pharisees had not committed adultery, whether in the mind or the actual physical act, then they could have stoned her. As it was, they left one by one, the oldest first (John 8:9). He must have also been indignant at the way the Pharisees who were hypocrites were quick to condemn others, so maybe Jesus was reminding them also of Jeremiah 17:13: “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.” So instead of passing judgement on the woman and also by eluding the trap of the Pharisees, Jesus passed judgement on the judges. Jesus having forgiven the woman of her sin, then charges her to leave her life of sin (John 8 v11). This reminds us that with the forgiveness of sin, comes a responsibility to live a life worthy of Jesus and to pursue righteousness.
With both these women, Jesus showed His compassion and forgiveness. These two women were outcasts of their society, but Jesus showed them mercy and forgiveness and loved them. We read of the many people coming to faith because of the Samaritan woman’s testimony. There is no room in Christianity for actions and attitudes that defy Jesus’ ever-reaching and all-encompassing forgiveness and love. His Gospel, as he always shows, is for all people everywhere, regardless of gender, race, age, culture or social status.
For more to think about please do ask yourself the following questions and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. What do these two examples tell of us Jesus’ attitude towards sin?
Q2. How am I sometimes like the Pharisees in condemning others?
Q3. What can I learn about evangelism from both Jesus and the two women?