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Lesson 6: Jesus Teaches us to Witness, Part 2 (John 4:1-42)

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Years ago, a missionary doctor removed cataracts from the eyes of a Chinese farmer. A few days later, the doctor looked out of his window and noticed the farmer holding the end of a long rope. In single file, holding onto the rope, was a long line of blind Chinese who had been rounded up and led for miles to the doctor who had worked “miracles” on the farmer’s eyes.

That Chinese farmer is an illustration of what we should be doing. If Jesus has opened our eyes spiritually, then we ought to be bringing others to meet Him. That’s what this Samaritan woman did: after she realized who Jesus is, she got so excited that she left her waterpot by the well, went back into the village, and told everyone (John 4:29), “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” As a result of her testimony, the whole village went out to meet Jesus and then invited Him to stay. In the two days that He was there, many more believed in Him (4:40-41). Last week we saw that…

Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well teaches us much about witnessing and much about Jesus Christ.

We are working our way through 20 lessons about witnessing gleaned from this chapter. We have seen:

Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well teaches us much about witnessing:

1. Contact others socially (4:7).

2. Establish a common interest or link (4:7).

3. Buy up the opportunity (4:10).

4. Cross cultural barriers, if need be, to reach people (4:9, 27).

5. Use a common situation to introduce spiritual matters (4:7-10).

6. Arouse interest by your life and words (4:7-10).

7. Use the natural to explain the supernatural (4:9-15).

8. Don’t expect a completely mature response from a seeking person (4:15).

9. Point out the need, but do it graciously (4:16-18).

10. Avoid arguments (4:12-14, 21-24).

11. Don’t make concessions, but offer gentle correction (4:22).

12. Stick with the main issue (4:20-26).

Today we will finish looking at the other eight principles, plus look at seven truths about Jesus Christ, who is the focal point of our witness. That’s the next witnessing lesson:

13. Confront directly with the person of Christ and His claims (4:13-14, 26).

The main issue that every person must consider is the question that Jesus asked His disciples (Matt. 16:15), “But who do you say that I am?” If Jesus is who He claimed to be (we’ll look at some of these claims in a moment), then we had better believe Him and submit our lives to Him. In this story, Jesus first claims (4:13-14) to be able to give the woman living water that will satisfy her thirst and spring up in her to eternal life. That is an astounding claim! If any mere man said this, we would conclude that he is crazy.

Then, at the climax of His encounter with this woman, Jesus claims to be the promised Messiah (4:26): “I who speak to you am He.” This is the only time before His trial that Jesus plainly affirms that He is the Messiah (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 273). The Greek phrase reads literally, “I am” (“He” has been added by the translators). It probably is not in this context a statement of deity (referring back to Exod. 3:14; cf. D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 275). But it is a clear affirmation to this woman that Jesus is the Messiah.

The point for us is, when you’re telling someone about Jesus, let them know who He claimed to be. The Gospel of John is a great testimony to His claims (especially, see 5:17-47). Also, show them 1 Corinthians 15:1-19, where Paul asserts that if Jesus is not risen from the dead, our faith is worthless. If the person tries to go off on rabbit trails, bring him back to the person of Christ. He is everything in our witness!

14. To be a witness, be a worshiper (4:23-24).

Jesus tells the woman that the Father is seeking those who worship Him in spirit and truth. You can’t truly worship God in spirit and truth if you are not obedient to Him, with your heart in submission to Him. So the best witnesses are always those who tell others about Jesus out of a heart that overflows in worship to Him.

To worship God in spirit means to worship Him on the heart level, or with the inner person. This strikes at hypocrisy. One of the most common objections that you will hear when you talk to others about Christ is that there are too many hypocrites in the church. The answer is, “Yes, you are correct! There are also a lot of hypocrites outside of the church. But what do you do with Jesus?” But if our witness is an overflow of our worship, then at least we will not be hypocritical witnesses.

To worship God in truth means to worship the one true God as He has revealed Himself in His Word and through Jesus Christ, the living Word. This strikes at idolatry. As we saw last time, if someone worships “God, however he conceives him to be,” he is worshiping an idol, a manmade god. Those who worship God in truth realize that He is both a God of love and also a God of holiness and judgment. So they will bear witness truthfully, not softening the justice of God to make Him more “user-friendly.”

15. Focus on the need for a heart relationship with God, as opposed to outward religion (4:23-24).

The woman has just brought up (4:20) the centuries-old debate in which the Samaritans claim that Mount Gerazim is the proper place to worship, but the Jews claim Jerusalem as the proper place. But Jesus asserts that the real issue is not outward religion, but rather that a person worship God in spirit and truth.

When you witness, invariably you will encounter people who think, “I’m right with God because I go to Mass or I go to church once in a while.” They confuse the rituals of Christianity for the reality of a heart relationship with God through knowing Jesus Christ personally.

The apostle Paul had been there. He was a Pharisee, zealous for his religion. But when he encountered the risen Lord Jesus Christ, he counted his religion as garbage for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord (see Phil. 3:2-11). Ask person you’re witnessing to, “How much religious observance will it take to get into heaven?” Does God punch your “go to church card,” so that when you get enough points, you’re in? No, the Bible is clear that our hearts must be right before God through faith in Jesus Christ. God looks on our hearts, not on our religious rituals.

16. Anyone who has met Jesus can be a witness (4:28-30, 39).

Here is an immoral woman who hasn’t even had time yet to clean up her living arrangement with a man who is not her husband. She doesn’t know very much, if any, correct theology. In fact, she’s probably still got a lot of incorrect theology from her Samaritan religion. In her excitement, her words were somewhat exaggerated (Jesus had not told her everything that she had done). She hadn’t memorized a clear outline of the plan of salvation. But she got so excited about meeting Jesus that she left her waterpot, ran back to the village, and excitedly told everyone about this extraordinary man whom she had just met.

Your testimony about what Christ has done in saving your soul is one powerful way that the Lord reaches others. This woman’s testimony is an example of how God can use you. You may not know much, but if Jesus has forgiven your sins, you can invite people to “come and see” (4:29). Like the blind man whose eyes Jesus opened, when the Pharisees tried to trap him in a theological debate, he simply said (John 9:25), “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” It’s pretty tough to argue with that!

By the way, the woman also shows us that an effective way to witness is to ask questions, rather than try to win arguments. She asks, somewhat tentatively (4:29), “This is not the Christ, is it?” If she had boldly asserted that Jesus was the Christ, the men of the village probably would have laughed at her. But her question aroused their curiosity to go and find out for themselves.

17. Put spiritual opportunities ahead of your physical needs (4:31-34).

The disciples had gone into town to buy lunch and came back with the food, but Jesus wasn’t interested in eating. He said to them (4:32), “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” As usual, the disciples were focused on the physical, not the spiritual. So they wondered if someone had brought Jesus something to eat (4:33). Jesus replied (4:34), “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”

This point relates to the one that we saw in Colossians 4:5 and also last week, about buying up the opportunities for witness. If our minds are consumed with how hungry or tired we are, we will not be focused on buying up opportunities to tell others about Jesus. So we’ll miss them when they come. It’s worth it to postpone or even miss a meal, if need be, to buy up an opportunity to talk with someone about the Lord. In fact, Jesus said, it was His real food to do the Father’s will and accomplish His work. It will feed your soul far more than food feeds your stomach if God uses you to lead one lost soul to the Savior!

18. Keep your eyes open for an unexpected spiritual harvest (4:35).

Jesus cites a common saying, “There are yet four months and then comes the harvest.” In other words, you don’t plant seed and expect to reap a harvest the next day or week. It takes time. But He tells them to lift up their eyes and see that the fields are already white for harvest. He probably swept His hand towards the Samaritans who were streaming out of the village to come to Him.

G. Campbell Morgan observed (The Gospel According to John [Fleming H. Revell], p. 78), “If those disciples had been appointed a commission of enquiry as to the possibilities of a Christian enterprise in Samaria I know exactly the resolution they would have passed…. Samaria unquestionably needs our Master’s message, but it is not ready for it. There must first be plowing, then sowing, and then waiting. It is needy, but it is not ready.” But Jesus said, “You’re wrong. This unlikely city is ready now.”

Have you ever looked at someone and concluded, “This person is an unlikely candidate for the gospel”? “He doesn’t look like the church-going type! He isn’t going to want to hear what I have to share.” But, how do you know? You can’t see what God has been doing to prepare his heart. It’s God who draws sinners and gives the harvest. We need to be faithful to share the good news, even when people seem to us to be unlikely to respond.

19. Sowing is necessary for reaping (4:36-38).

This is another one of those “duh” principles that seem too obvious to state. But we often forget. We expect to reap without sowing. We wonder why we don’t see people coming to Christ. But often the answer is simple: Because I haven’t been sowing any seed! At the very least, begin praying for opportunities to share the gospel with others. Jot down a list of those you regularly have contact with that don’t know Christ and begin praying for their salvation and for God to give you an opportunity to talk with them about the Savior. To reap a harvest, we have to sow the seed.

20. When you reap a harvest, probably others have sown before you (4:38).

Jesus says (4:38), “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” The disciples were entering into the harvest from the seed that Jesus had sown with the woman while they were off buying lunch. If God gives you the joy of leading another person to faith in Christ, it’s almost certain that you are not the first to share with him. Studies have shown that it takes an average of 7.6 times for an unbeliever to hear the gospel before he responds favorably to it (William Fay, Share Jesus Without Fear [B & H Publishing], p. 11).

J. C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:250) points out that this story shows the sovereign grace of God in salvation. The Jews had repeated exposure to Jesus’ teaching and miracles, but for the most part, they did not respond. The Samaritans had only two days of Jesus’ teaching and no miracles, and yet they responded. Our job is to sow the seed in faith and prayer; God’s job is to use the gospel to bring souls from death to life.

You can probably glean even more principles for witnessing from this story. But before we close, I want to draw from it seven lessons on the person of Christ:

Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well teaches us much about the Savior:

Jesus Christ is the focal point of both the Old and New Testaments. He is the only Savior of the world (4:42), and so our witness must center on Him. If your conversation about the gospel gets off on a tangent, bring it back to Jesus Christ. Here are seven truths about Him from this story:

1. Jesus Christ is fully human (4:6, 7).

Jesus was tired, hungry, and thirsty, which points to His full humanity. In our day, the cults are more likely to deny Jesus’ deity than His humanity. But in the early church, a heresy called “Docetism” (from the Greek, “dokeo,” meaning, “to seem”) taught that Jesus was not truly human; He only seemed to be human. The Gnostics also taught that the body is evil. Therefore, Jesus could not have had a real human body.

But to deny Jesus’ humanity is to deny that He is the Savior. To bear our sin on the cross, Jesus had to be fully human, yet without any personal sin. Also, Jesus’ full humanity assures us that He is a sympathetic high priest, who can understand our needs. Therefore we can draw near to Him and know that He will welcome us and help us in our needs (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-16).

2. Jesus is fully God (4:17-18).

Jesus knew all about this woman without anyone telling Him. There are times when God reveals secret information about people to one of His prophets (1 Kings 14:1-16; 2 Kings 5:25-26; 6:8-12), and the woman recognizes Jesus as a prophet (4:19). But John probably wants us here to see a glimpse of Jesus’ supernatural power: He is omniscient. John 1:1-3 shows that Jesus is far more than a prophet. He is God, the Creator of all things. If Jesus is not fully God, then He cannot save us from our sins. As Bishop Moule once stated (source unknown), “A Savior not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end.”

The cultists will tell you that Jesus never claimed to be God. Take them to John 5:17-47, where the Jews accuse Him of making Himself equal with God, and Jesus shows them why His claim is valid. In John 8:58, Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” In John 14:9, Jesus tells Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” In John 20:28, Thomas sees the risen Jesus and declares, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus accepts and affirms Thomas’ worship, which would be blasphemy if He were not God.

Two other quick thoughts here: First, you may think that Jesus’ divine knowledge of this woman’s past gave Him an advantage in witnessing that we lack. We usually don’t know what the person to whom we are witnessing may have done in the past. True, but we know that every person, no matter how respected or educated, is a sinner who needs the Savior. Every person has violated his own conscience and will someday stand before God to answer for every sin of thought, word, and deed. He needs God’s forgiveness.

Second, Jesus not only knew this woman’s past. Also, He knows your past and the past of the one to whom you are witnessing. Hebrews 4:13 declares, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” You can either try to hide your sins from Jesus now, only to have them exposed and be found guilty on judgment day; or, you can willingly confess your sins to Him now, and receive forgiveness and mercy now and on judgment day. But you can’t escape His all-knowing gaze!

3. Jesus was concerned for people whom His culture despised (4:9).

The Jews despised the Samaritans and they thought it was a waste of time to teach spiritual truths to women. But Jesus set aside these cultural prejudices and showed compassion and concern for this immoral Samaritan woman. If we are growing to be like the Savior, we will be growing in compassion and love for lost people.

4. Jesus can give living water and eternal life (4:14).

Only God could make the claim that Jesus makes in 4:14, to give this woman living water that would spring up in her to eternal life. Encourage those to whom you witness to read the Gospel of John and take note of Jesus’ amazing claims. What mere man could claim that he could give living water that will forever slake the thirst of someone, water that will spring up to eternal life? As C. S. Lewis pointed out (Mere Christianity [Macmillan], pp. 55-56), Jesus must be either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord of all, as He claimed to be. Invite spiritually thirsty souls to drink of Him.

5. Jesus is the Messiah (4:26).

Jesus’ statement to this Samaritan woman that He was the promised Messiah was the most direct revelation of Himself to anyone, outside of the twelve. It is a heartwarming, inviting example of Jesus’ willingness to reveal Himself to those who do not deserve it. As the promised Messiah (“Anointed One”), Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies made about Him in the Old Testament. John wrote his gospel (20:31), “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ [“Messiah”], the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

6. Jesus was sent by God and did His will (4:34).

This is a frequent theme in John, that Jesus did not come to this earth on His own, but He was sent by the Father to die on the cross for our sins (see John 3:13, 17; 7:16, 28-29; 12:27, 44-50; 17:4). No mere man could claim that He came down out of heaven to do the will of His Father! People need to come to grips with the unique, divine claims of Jesus.

7. Jesus is the Savior of the world (4:42).

John may intend some irony, that while Jesus’ own people rejected Him (1:11), the despised Samaritans proclaimed Him to be “the Savior of the world”! John wants all of his readers to know that Jesus is not just the Savior of the Jews; He is also the Savior of anyone from any race who will believe in Him for eternal life. Maybe you are from a mixed up religious background, as the Samaritans were. Maybe you have a sinful past and present, as the Samaritan woman did. Maybe you have messed up multiple marriages, as she did. Jesus came to be your Savior. Will you trust Him?


The salvation from sin and judgment that Jesus offers is not automatic. The Samaritans believed in Him because they heard and came to know that Jesus “is indeed the Savior of the world” (4:42). If you have not yet done so, Jesus wants you to believe in Him as your Savior. If you have already believed in Jesus, He wants you to be like this woman: to tell those you know about this unique man, who is God in human flesh, who lays bare the very thoughts and intentions of your heart. But He does it not to shame you, but to save you from your sins.

Application Questions

  1. Which questions or objections (if any) need to be answered before the person can come to saving faith? Why?
  2. Why is witness most effective when it is an overflow of worship? Is guilt a good motivation to witness?
  3. What are some practical ways that you could be sowing the seed of the gospel? Pray about this!
  4. Must a person believe that Jesus is God to be saved? How much should we emphasize this in witnessing?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2010, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christology, Evangelism, Soteriology (Salvation)

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