Many of us are familiar with the story of the woman at the well. Today we will focus on how the story progresses, rather than the part where Jesus smashes the taboos and analysing the dialogue (we covered these earlier this year). Today we are concerned with then what happens - how the woman goes off to tell people.
In verse 26 of John chapter 4 it is a key moment. They had got to the subject of 'the Messiah', the one that God would send who would reveal God and His plans and take them forward. Jesus says the stunning words 'I am He'! It is hard for us to know how mind-blowing that must have been, but it is not unreasonable for the woman to hear. Remember that Jesus had just shown knowledge of her inner life, and she recognised him as some kind of prophet.
At this point the disciples turn up, but its what the woman does next that is interesting for us. See that she leaves her water jar, goes into town, and starts telling everyone: "Come and see!". She says that this man has told everything about her, and is surely the Messiah, so come and see for themselves. She invites people to meet Jesus - remember that for us too our priority is to take people towards Jesus. So a key question for us:
Key Qn: [OUT] Who might you invite to come and see?
Challenge: Pray and invite!
Remember that once you have sensitively invited, you have done your job - it is between God and them whether they actually come!
Notice again that the woman leaves her water jar. She went to the well to get water, and even having met Jesus she will still need physical water ... yet she abandons that task to go and tell people! In other words her priorities have now shifted. Meeting Jesus has had a profound effect on her.
See also that in town she very publicly invites everyone - the very people she was presumably avoiding by going to the well in the heat of the day. It is as if her shame has kind of dissipated - the thrill of meeting Jesus now enables her to tell others with the vulnerability that goes with it.
Finally register the face that she leaves what had become a good one to one conversation with Jesus. They had broken through the awkwardness and got past the skeletons in her cupboard. The disciples turned up, but seemed to keep their distance, so she could have stayed to talk more - for now it was comfortable. Yet she didn't, she broken away to go invite others to come and see.
Isn't it time for us to re-think our priorities, to go even in our vulnerability, and even re-think the cosyness of our groups to ask whether we can be open to faith-exploring newcomers?
It is easy for us to get comfortable in our groups with those we know. This is only natural. Our groups form to give us safety and security. So this creates a challenge: if we are meeting with Jesus, then can we be open to reaching out to others? Is it possible to invite someone else in, so they too can come and see Jesus? That is why at Countess Free Church I ask all groups "can you be open" and rise to the challenge?
The woman went to the village and told everyone. For our groups I'm not suggesting having a hoard of random strangers turn up. It makes sense to invite intelligently, i.e. invite those you already have a faith conversation with. For the groups that have done that, they have seen blessing and people move forward in faith.
Moving on to verse 39,many of the Samaritans believed the woman and her story, so they came to see Jesus and asked him to stay a while. Note in verse 42 they said: "We no longer believe just because of what you said, we now believe for ourselves". With the woman having said "Come and see", some came, and saw, and had their own encounter with Jesus. They moved on from 'believe because you do' to 'believe for themselves', their own connection with God through Jesus, with the Spirit at work in their lives. This is wonderful - the crown jewels of invitational evangelism!
People may come to our groups initially with little or no faith, effectively riding on the back of our faith. That is okay! Your prayer is that in time they will have their own encounter, leading to their own faith. We have seen that happen in recent years.
The current research statistics show an increased openness, or at least an inquisitiveness - a great climate into which we can say "Come and see"!