If We Can't Be Evangelists, We Can at Least Be Witnesses

By Percy, Harold | Anglican Journal, May 2000 | Go to article overview

If We Can't Be Evangelists, We Can at Least Be Witnesses


Percy, Harold, Anglican Journal


I HAVE BEEN reflecting on a fascinating incident in the ministry of Jesus, as recorded in the fourth chapter of John's Gospel. Seated beside a well, Jesus begins a conversation with a Samaritan woman who comes to the well to draw water. By the time the story has ended, this woman has brought an entire town of people out to meet Jesus, many of whom come to believe in him. There are many things this story can teach us about evangelism.

To begin with, the situation hardly looks like a promising situation for ministry. Jesus is in the wrong place. As John points out, the Jews and Samaritans did not get along very well. Travelling through Samaria, Jesus and his disciples were in hostile territory.

It is also the wrong time. It is high noon; it is hot; and Jesus is tired and hungry from his journey. He is resting by the well, waiting for the disciples to return with food. This doesn't seem to be the time for a breakthrough in ministry.

He also, apparently, is with the wrong person. Almost every commentator who writes on this passage points out that high noon would not be the usual time for a woman to be coming to the well. It would be too hot. The custom would be to come in the cool of the evening, and to relax a bit around the well with the other women from the village, visiting one another and catching up on the news. But this woman was apparently shunned by the other women in the village, possibly because of a bad reputation. (As Jesus points out, she had been married five times, and was currently living with a man who was not her husband.)

But Jesus is able to transform even this seemingly hopeless situation into an opportunity for productive ministry. How does he do it? First, he knows what he is about. His mission was to proclaim the good news of God's Kingdom and he never lost focus. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the situation, he would find a way to do it. If there was a large crowd, he would preach to them. If there was a small group, he would talk with them; if there was just one hurting woman from a hostile race and shunned by her own people, he would begin a conversation with her. He never forgot what he was about. …

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