Click here for a print-friendly version
Called to Testify
Winter Quarter: Call in the New Testament
Unit 3: The Call of Women
Sunday school lesson for the week of Feb. 7, 2021
By Dr. D. Craig Rikard
Background Scripture: John 1: 37-51; 4:25-42
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’” (John 4:39)
Jesus teaches us in this text to highly value testimony and learn the power of personal testimony. We will learn the importance of God using a Samaritan woman for his high, noble purpose. We will also understand what Jesus meant by “spiritual food.” Also, what he meant by the fields being ready for harvest.
Terms and phrases that enliven and illuminate the text, and enrich the lesson
- “I am the one speaking to you.”
In the early ministry of Jesus, he did not directly share being Messiah. We actually have text in which Jesus asks those receiving a healing to keep it to themselves. In Mark 1:24-25; 33-34; 44, he commands even the demons to be quiet regarding Jesus being Messiah. This is called the Messianic Secret.
We have addressed the subject of progressive revelation in former lessons. Progressive revelation means that God reveals the divine nature and will as we are able to comprehend it and understand it correctly. Jesus knew the one receiving the miracle would tell everyone of the miracle, and thus the crowd would come for the show.
They still believed in a militant Messiah with miraculous powers. Jesus would reveal who he was at the appropriate time, when people were ready to hear. Of course, not everyone was ready. This was the secret of secrets in the beginning, and the most potent and beautiful revelation ever as he drew near the cross.
To whom will Jesus share his divine nature? In our text he chooses a Samaritan woman!
Can you remember the moment or situation when you heard Jesus speak to your heart, “I am he?” Do you remember the vehicle God used to awaken you to the Messiah?
- The disciples were stunned to find Jesus speaking to a Samaritan.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in 722 BC. Not all Jews were exiled. Many remained in the kingdom, now occupied by Assyria. Intermarriage occurred over the years. Thus, there were individuals of Jewish and other ethnic descent. One of the major contentions between the Samaritans and the Jews was their chosen place of worship. The Jews worshiped in the temple, built on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem. The Samaritans worshipped in Mt. Gerizim. The Jews highly valued the purity of their bloodline and looked in condescension upon those who were not of pure
Jewish blood. To demonstrate this condescension, in some cases even hatred, the Jews would walk around Samaria while traveling rather than set one foot upon Samaritan soil.
The disciples stared in disbelief at Jesus talking to a Samaritan. How could a holy man speak to one who was unclean? Yet, it is implied that they knew Jesus would react negatively in regard to their questions. This is why they kept their thoughts and words to themselves. Still, there arose another issue; it was socially and religiously an affront to the culture of Judaism. Jesus is revealing that he is Messiah to a Samaritan woman! As addressed in earlier lessons, women were suppressed and expected to be quiet unless at home. She is at the well with her water jar when she encounters Jesus. The one performing the subservient task is addressed by the Son of God! Jesus said, “I am the one speaking to you – I am he.
” All are created in God’s image; all have a soul of worth. Jesus did not see labels and he especially disliked any behavior that hurt that soul. The woman was as precious to Christ as the twelve disciples.
Are there people we shun because of what others think? Are there people we shun, and why? How can we, as the church, help people feel their sacred worth? How does our culture see people of different ethnicities and of mixed ethnicities?
- Could this be Messiah?
Jesus’ conversation with her included his knowledge of her. We hide nothing from God. He knew her so well; he knew all she had done. This astounded her and she left the water jar to tell the town about Jesus. However, we hear a whisper of doubt. “Could this be Messiah
” she asked. Doubt is a pest. It has the power to weaken faith in a given moment; yet, it doesn’t have the power to eradicate our faith. A living faith in Jesus will drive doubt away. Still, it is important to realize that doubt isn’t altogether negative. It is doubt that makes us seek the truth. It is doubt that drives us to our knees in prayer. Do we give up because of our doubt? No! We fight it! In fighting we seek. Jesus did not abandon her or the people of the town due to their questioning. He conquered it! When he leaves them two days later, they believe. So, when we are bothered by doubt, seek!
Do you struggle with doubt? Does doubt make you uncomfortable when asked by the Church to serve Jesus? Can you remember past experiences with doubt that were conquered? How did you conquer your doubt?
- Jesus speaks of spiritual food.
While the woman is sharing her good news with the town, the disciples encourage Jesus to eat something. It had probably been hours since last eating. However, Jesus ignores his hunger and fashions their concern into a spiritual lesson. The disciples did not speak in terms of spiritual food. Jesus took time to instruct them, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give you.” (Jn. 6:2)
Jesus more specifically defines this food by saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
The soul must be nurtured. We nurture the soul through worship, prayer, and meditation on God’s Word. Psalm 23 is one of the most read psalms, and its power to comfort will never diminish. This is a psalm that touches, comforts and feeds the soul. But unlike earthly food, it isn’t just what we take in that feeds the soul, it is also what we do. Jesus claimed when he fulfilled God’s will for his life he was nourished. We are never more content in life than when we are aware we are walking in God’s will. Our gifts and graces are being used by the Lord to accomplish his redemption of the world.
It is important to remember, Jesus stated that he must not just walk in God’s will; he must walk until God’s will is fulfilled. This means that he never took his hand off the plow, but walked forward to the cross, resurrection, and ascension. As Christians, we are a people who know from where we’ve come, and where we are going (John 13).
Is there contentment in your life? What are the signs we may not be walking in the will of God? How do we discern the difference between living in the will of God and the will of the self?
- They are ripe for harvest.
Once again Jesus addresses the disciple’s reluctance to recognize the importance of real, substantive, spiritual food. The disciple spoke of the fields of corn and wheat. The disciples were aware that in four months, crops would be harvested. Yet, even more so they must see the harvest of God as He draws the world unto himself through Christ. Jesus calls them to open their spiritual eyes
and see the fields of souls. It isn’t that we don’t have spiritual eyesight; we just fail to use it. The disciples have eyes to see but do not see. Governments, economics, and cultures do not alter the fact that in every generation there are so many in search of real, unending life. Today, there is field all about us. Men, women, and the young are hungry for substance. The temporal always leaves us wanting.
Jesus informs his followers that they reap what they did not sow.
Each face in the hungry crowd has been drawn, through their experiences, to the moment when they desire Christ. Years earlier, when giving my testimony I always said, “I gave my life to Jesus.” In reality, I didn’t give it, I surrendered it. People had taught me in Vacation Bible Schools, Sunday School teachers had taught me, and many prayed for me. There are so many faces in my journey toward Jesus. God bless every one of them. The disciples are learning that the crowd before them has little do with just them. They too have numerous experiences, and numerous faces that led them to the disciples.
The crowd informed the woman that they no longer believed in Jesus because she believed; they now believed for themselves. She was an instrument of God’s redemption.
Does your church help you identify the fields? Do you see those about you who are hungry for Christ? What helps you to see? Do you think the church today recognizes evangelism is an unending, joyful task? What does this mean: Evangelism isn’t just learned from reading the pages of a manual; it even more so involves our allowing them to see our hearts? Can you make a list of the significant people who made a difference in your spiritual life? Can you think of those, in what the world calls insignificant roles, that left their mark on your soul?
O great and sovereign Lord, we give thanks for all you have used to draw us to Christ. We thank you for every word, every song, every act that nurtured our souls. May we also become your instrument of grace and love for others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Dr. D. Craig Rikard is a South Georgia pastor. Email him at email@example.com.