John 4 Jesus and Race part 2 The men of Sychar
Updated: May 31, 2019
In our last post, we studied Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman where she comes to faith in the Messiah, goes back to town, and shares the Gospel with the men of Sychar. We pulled two principles surrounding sharing our faith with someone of a different ethnicity or culture. The first is to find commonality. Jesus did this by meeting the woman at Jacob’s well--a
historical site important to both Jews and Samaritans. The second is that Jesus did not let culture interfere or impede the Gospel. God’s truth is always supreme regardless of cultural mores. In this post, we will see Jesus instruct His disciples in evangelism and then the response of the village of Sychar to the woman’s testimony and Jesus’ teaching.
Our beginning passage, this week is John 4:27-38 where Jesus “explained the rewards, urgency, and partnership of evangelism.”[planobiblechapel] In verse 27, we read, ‘“And at this point, His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”’ Although they refrained from posing those questions to Jesus, the disciples clearly reflect the Jewish prejudice against women and Samaritans. More so, their bias is against the Samaritan side. Jesus engages other Jewish women and involves them in His ministry (Mary and Martha, for instance) without the ire of the disciples. Verses 28-30 recount the woman’s sharing of the Gospel and the men’s response. They believed and left to go meet Jesus. The remaining verses in this section are Christ’s teaching to the disciples.
The disciples urge Him to eat, but Jesus tells them that He has “food to eat of which you do not know.” Jesus is speaking of doing the will of His Father. We have a contrast here---the living water that Jesus spoke of to the woman represented salvation for the unbeliever, and it was freely offered with no requirements outside of belief. The food represents doing the will of the Father. The food is the obedience believers are called to and empowered to perform by their faith--a lesson the disciples clearly needed to learn. Jesus tells them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” and then, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” Jesus uses an agricultural metaphor comparing those coming to faith with a harvest. He might also be referring to the Samaritan men walking towards them. Traditionally, Samaritans wore white robes.
Verses 36-38 closeout Jesus' verbal teaching to His own men. “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” Jesus speaks in verse 36 of the eternal rewards available to obedient believers and in 37 and 38 He teaches the principle of sowing and reaping. When sharing the Gospel, our obedience is in the sharing not in seeing others come to faith. That may happen as we see in the next few verses--the reaping. At times, we do not see others come to trust in Christ, but because we are faithful in sharing (sowing), others may see them drink that living water (reaping) in the future.
In verses 39-42, “The response of the Samaritans to Jesus was considerably more positive than that of the Jews (1:11; 2:23-25). This would prove true as Jesus’ ministry continued. Non-Jews normally responded more positively to Jesus than did Jews, both in the Gospels and in Acts.”[planobiblechapel] The response of the Samaritan town of Sychar was profound in that many believed and they asked these Jews to stay with them which they did for two days. It would be curious to learn how often Jews had stayed with Samaritans for two days in all of their history prior to this event (my guess is never). In verse 42, “then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
For our purposes, the application is that we don’t need to change who we are to share the Gospel with those who are different. Part of Jesus attraction here is His commitment to the truth. Commitment to the truth entails authenticity. As Tony Evans observes: “God is not asking African-Americans to disregard our rich spiritual heritage and become white in our approach to theology and the full expression of life under the umbrella of a biblical worldview. Nor is God asking white people to adopt other cultural styles of worship and become black in their approach to theology. But He is insisting that, within our differences, we discover a common ground of mutual benefit as we all reflect His truth as revealed in Scripture.” Tony Evans, Oneness Embraced. pg 68.