Evangelism, Seizing Opportunities

Evangelism, Seizing Opportunities

by Rubel Shelly

Published in LoveLines (Sept. 27, 1995)

"Open Your Eyes!"

The words of the title are from Jesus. They were meant to be exactly what they sound like when they come from your mouth. A rebuke. A criticism. Perhaps even a signal of irritation.

The larger setting for them is the pericope in Johnís Gospel which tells of a conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman beside Jacobís well. Jesus was resting beside the well while his disciples had gone about half a mile away to Sychar to buy food. As he waited for their return, a woman of Samaria came to draw water from the well.

Jesus startled her by asking, "Will you give me a drink?" (John 4:7). Hostility between Jews and Samaritans went back almost a thousand years. He startled her even more by dropping a hint about "living water" which, if drunk, would take away thirst forever and by telling this woman he had never met before about her past life. With a not-so-subtle approach, he said, "You have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband" (John 4:18). He revealed himself as the long-awaited Messiah.

At that point, the disciples returned from the city. Assuming their return marked the end of her conversation with Jesus, the woman left her water jar and ran to Sychar and pleaded, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" (John 4:29).

Ready now to eat, the disciples offered Jesus some of the food they had just purchased. When he replied, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about" (John 4:32), they were as slow to grasp the meaning of his "food" as the woman had been earlier when he spoke to her about "living water."

It was then that Jesus said: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work ... I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe of harvest" (John 4:34-35).

The disciples had just been to Sychar and had apparently invited no one there to come meet Jesus. They had met the Samaritan woman going into the town as they came out and said nothing to her. Had they assumed Samaritans were no part of the harvest God wanted? Were they so wrapped up in the mundane quest for groceries that they had forgotten that men do not live by bread alone?

Soon the woman returned with a host of townspeople. "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the womanís testimony" (John 4:39).

In an early commentary on Tatianís Harmony of the Gospels, Ephraem the Syrian said: "Jesus came to the fountain as a hunter ... He threw a grain before one pigeon that he might catch the whole flock ... At the beginning of the conversation he did not make himself known to her, but first she caught sight of a thirsty man, then a Jew, then a Rabbi, afterwards a prophet, last of all the Messiah. She tried to get the better of the thirsty man, she showed dislike of the Jew, she heckled the Rabbi, she was swept off her feet by the prophet, and she adored the Christ." Yes, all that. And she was the unlikely agent of God that day for leading many others to faith.

Why was she Godís instrument that day? Because the disciples couldnít be. Refused to be. Were too blind to be. They were distracted by prejudice and preoccupied with routine.

Are things any different today? Donít the prejudices of present-day disciples keep us out of certain parts of the world ó or of the city? Doesnít the everyday routine absorb us so fully that we often forget to offer "living water" to thirsty people we meet and thus fail to nourish our own souls with the "food" which is doing Godís will in the world and finishing his work?

You are probably going to meet someone today under the most unlikely of circumstances who will need to drink from the holy fountain. You will have the opportunity to be Godís instrument for pointing someone to life.

Open your eyes!

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