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Encountering Jesus: Close Encounters

John Chapter 4

We encounter Jesus so that we might become worshipers, and that we might help others do the same.

If you have ever watched farm machinery at work, you are aware of how complex the harvesting process really is. In John chapter 4, Jesus is teaching his disciples that the work they are called to at harvest time will be successful only because of the work He had already accomplished. The relationships between Jesus and the woman at Jacob’s well, the townspeople near the well, the official who begged Jesus to heal his son, and the family of the official all point us to the conclusion that we encounter Jesus so that we might become worshipers, and that we might help others to do the same.

The Samaritan woman is amazed that a Jewish man would even talk with her. When Jesus speaks of Himself as living water, she is confused by the metaphor. And when He prophetically exposes sin in her life, her attempts at changing the subject are unsuccessful. As Jesus further explains that we are to worship in Spirit and Truth, the impact on her life is immediately clear, and she quickly returns to her town and proclaims that she has been transformed by the Messiah, the Christ.

Jesus reminds her and reminds us that true worship flows from the truth of God’s Word as revealed in Jesus Himself, who IS the truth (John 14:6). This Truth requires the supernatural work of the Spirit of God to awaken the spirit of man – a principle that Jesus taught Nicodemus in Chapter 3. The conviction and repentance of the woman, as well as the people of her town, reveal that indeed the Spirit of God was at work in Samaria.

We also read about the faith of a Jewish official who encounters Jesus in Galilee; a man who clearly knew about the miracle Jesus performed at the wedding in Cana. This man had the faith to ask Jesus to heal his son. He left Jesus and returned home, already believing that Jesus had healed his son, just as He promised. Finally, we see the genuine faith of this official, and that of his whole family, when the man explains to his family that Jesus had healed his son. Much like the proclamation of the woman at the well, the proclamation of the official bears fruit in those he loves.

In the midst of these events, Jesus teaches His disciples, and us, that He is at work in the hearts of people even before they believe in Him. Jesus declares that those who harvest will reap “that for which you did not labor.” (verse 38). This is a helpful promise, made clear in the transformed lives of the Samaritan townspeople and the family of the official. What a joy it must have been for the disciples to get to be a part of these harvests! May we be encouraged by the fact that as witnesses for Christ, we do not have to do ALL of the work of the harvest.

We are reminded in these stories that our own repentance bears the fruit of worship and obedience, much more than just experiencing a happy life on earth. The eternal nature of this fruit is in contrast to the cares and concerns of the day that often characterize our initial interactions with God.

We are further encouraged to engage with God when He is calling us to repentance, in contrast to changing the subject. We are also reminded that faith is often a process, at least from our earthly perspective.

Finally, the powerful personal testimonies of the woman at the well, and the Jewish official, remind us that the Spirit of God brings the truth of God’s Word to life in the testimonies of those who have been transformed by Him.

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