Scripture Reading: John 4:4-42
We have a few grandparents here, I’m sure. And I know you are very proud of your grandchildren because you love to talk about them. You talk about what they have been doing, no matter if they are 30 days old or 30 years old.
There’s something about children learning new things which excites us. And we want to show it off.
“Look, little Billy can say ‘Mama’!”
“Baby Jill just took her first steps!”
“Honey, why don’t you sing us your song, you know the one…”
We celebrate their achievements and want them to celebrate it with us and everyone who comes through the door. We do it from their first smile until their graduation and beyond!
It’s a beautiful part of life, being part and witness to someone growing up. Watching our children develop into their own personality and grow their own skills and abilities. Then we get to watch them make use of these skills in the real world. It truly is a beautiful thing.
We just hope they are prepared for what the world gives them, and they are confident in sharing what they have learned.
This is our last service of intentionally looking at the Genius of Jesus. Today we visit a story that many of us know well. I hope we’ll be able to look at it in a new way.
Jesus is travelling with the disciples, passing through a land of people who aren’t very popular within the Jewish circles. It’s called Samaria. It was a shortcut to Galilee, where they were heading from Judea. Samaria was a nation in between the two regions, thus the need to pass through.
They stopped for a break while the disciples went to get some food. Jesus waited beside the well for their return. And that’s when he meets the Samaritan woman. A woman who is not well respected or very popular in her town. We learn she’s had a rough life, likely considered sinful by the elders in her town. That’s why she’s alone, no one will come with her.
Jesus is able to know her story. He can see into her heart and knows the pain she feels being alone, but he also knows what she needs.
Through their conversation Jesus reveals information to her about herself. Things he should never know. And when Jesus reveals who he is, she is overjoyed. She is in the presence of the Messiah, the promised one!
As the disciples return she runs into the village and tells everyone what has happened. They come out and meet Jesus themselves and invite him to stay with them, and they spend two days with the people.
Now, we’ve talked about Jesus seeing the potential in people. It’s how we started the series 7 weeks ago. How Jesus took a bunch of regular young men from no particular background and made them his disciples. How Jesus saw the potential these men held as future leaders of a movement to show God’s love to the world. How they would be the one’s to build this movement we now call Christianity. They were the first members because Jesus saw what they were capable of doing and invited them to join him on the journey.
In a way we’re seeing it again in our reading today. Jesus saw the potential in this woman. A woman who has struggled to be included in the community. A woman with no particular skills that we, as mere mortals, could identify.
Yet Jesus saw something in her that made her special, and he knew he could help her, and in helping her, others could be helped.
Which leads us to our Genius of Jesus theme for today. Jesus invites people to action.
What did the woman do when she learned Jesus was the Messiah? Did she hide it, keeping it a secret? No, she immediately ran into the village to tell everyone else who she had found. There was no holding her back. In her excitement everyone wanted to come out and meet him, so they followed her back to the well.
They wanted to experience what she had experienced. They wanted her excitement. They wanted her hope. After all this was a woman who had been hopeless. They saw how she changed, and they wanted to be changed too.
There are plenty of examples in the Bible where Jesus healed someone and they ran off to tell everyone what had happened. Even if Jesus said, “Don’t tell anyone” they went and told everyone anyway.
Their excitement was far too exciting to not share!
In Matthew 9 Jesus was being followed by two blind men asking for help. Jesus healed them and told them not to tell anyone. But seriously, what are you going to say to your friends when they asked how you got your sight back? You’re going to talk about how Jesus did it! Right? The Bible says in Matthew 9:31, “But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.”
In Luke 5 Jesus came across a man suffering from leprosy. He healed the man and told him to tell no one, but to go to the priests and be declared clean. We don’t hear from the man anymore, but what do we read immediately after the man left? “But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.” (Luke 5:15)
How can someone contain the excitement of what they have received from Jesus? This woman Jesus met at the well, a social outcast, even she had to go and share what she had experienced in meeting him.
It’s contagious. There’s no stopping it, people meet Jesus and they just HAVE to go and share with others. His impact on their lives is just far too great.
I mentioned those who shared even when Jesus told them not to, yet there are many times when Jesus doesn’t tell them one way or another, and they go and share. Just like the woman at the well.
And it wasn’t only when Jesus himself met with people that caused them to get excited. The disciples also encountered plenty of people as they were sharing what they had learned from Jesus. And when they shared the story of Jesus with them, they too were changed dramatically and excitedly shared with others.
In Acts chapter 3, Peter and John were walking to the temple and a man crippled from birth was being carried in. He would lay at the temple gate begging for money as people passed by.
Peter looked at the man and said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)
The man jumped up, followed Peter and John into the temple, the whole time he was praising God for what He has done.
In Acts 8, Philip is sent by God to travel the road to Gaza. The same time an Ethiopian eunuch was traveling home and was reading scripture. Philip explained to the man what he was reading and told him about Jesus. The Ethiopian asked Philip if he could be baptized, and so they did. Philip took him into the river and baptized him right there. We’re told in verse 39, “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.”
When people encounter Jesus Christ, whether in the person or through the sharing of others, people’s lives are changed and from there they are able to help others realize the greatness of God and the love shown in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
And those were just examples from the Bible. There are many contemporary stories out there too.
This past week, a friend referred me to the book called The Caper by Joanne Jacquart. In the book she tells the story of Monty Lewis. I don’t know if any of you have heard of him or not. He grew up in New Waterford, born in the 1940s into a home with an abusive father who continually told him he would amount to nothing in his life.
Starting at the age of 6, Monty began drinking, which led to drugs, which led to fighting and eventually a life of hard crime and violence across Canada. He was in and out of jail repeatedly. Occasionally he would swear off drugs and alcohol, only to fall back into the trap just a week or two later.
As you read through his story the amount of hatred and violence in this man was nearly unbelievable. How he didn’t die many times is astonishing.
Yet the sad reality is, people still live this life today here in Cape Breton.
In his 30s Monty finally found God and God changed him right there as he stood naked in his jail cell. His life would be forever changed. He began immediately to help others in the prison with him. When he got out he continued and founded the organization Cons For Christ which became Bridges of Canada, an organization to help prisoners and introduce to them the gospel of our Lord.
God took an incredibly violent, abusive, addicted man and turned him into a leader in sharing the Gospel to those who are in incredible need. People who were living the same life he had lived. People who were in great need of hope and compassion, but also friendship.
Monty could have easily said, “God saved me, thank you. Now I think I’ll just live out a quiet life for the rest of my days.”
But he couldn’t. God did a great and wonderful thing in his life. God saved him from certain death, as he confessed he knew it was coming soon, whether by his own hand or at the hand of someone else. People close to him were starting to die because of the crime they were involved in.
Monty had to share the story. The change was far too great to keep secret. Jesus touched him through the words of someone else, and he wanted to share those words with others.
He was too excited to keep it to himself.
I’m hoping that many of us here today have had an encounter with Jesus Christ and know him well. I hope that in this encounter, God has created within us a great excitement to share with others. An excitement to share God’s love, peace, mercy and forgiveness with those around us who need it just as badly as we do.
Part of the genius of Jesus is that once we encounter him, he doesn’t leave us alone. He continues to work in us, transforming us into the image of God and at the same time inviting us to share him with others.
It doesn’t stop with us. God’s work isn’t done when we are saved. In fact, God’s work is just beginning!
I know I sometimes preach some challenging topics for a pulpit in a mainline denomination in North America. I say things we’re not always comfortable with. I know we’re not overly comfortable with evangelism in the United Church of Canada. We’re not comfortable with sharing what Jesus is doing in our lives and in our churches. We might even wonder if God is doing anything.
Be assured that He is! God is working in our lives AND in our churches. But it doesn’t stop in these walls. It doesn’t stop when we sing our benediction and walk out these doors.
I’m not trying to judge if you are a Christian or not. What I’m trying to do is have us all consider, myself included, what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ in the communities in which we live. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, that’s between you and God how it plays out in your life.
If you aren’t, then the invitation is here for you to come to know Jesus Christ more and to see how he can change your life by cleansing you of your sin and giving you the peace and joy only God can give.
God’s work continues each and every day. God works in us and through us to bring His power to the lives of many people. People who are broken. People who are hopeless or lost. People in need of help and healing. People like you and me.
May God bless us with the strength to continue this important work, and may He walk with us, showing us how we can share this work in a world in need.
For it is only with Jesus we can change the world. It is only through God’s strength people can experience the life He gives.
So may we join in the invitation to know Jesus more. May we also extend the invitation to others, acting and sharing as Jesus has empowered us with his life giving presence.
May we get excited. May we be led by the Spirit of God. May we be like the woman at the well, and many others, who just cannot wait to share about what Jesus has done for us.