Gospel Conversations

Three Case Studies

1. Kent and Monica Walters at the Grocery Store Checkout

Kent and Monica Walters spent an hour shopping for groceries on a Friday night. It was the end of a busy work week, and they were eager to get home for some supper and rest. They stood in the checkout line for about 15 minutes. At last, it was their turn to check out. Their cashier, Eric Brewer, was very polite. “Hello, how are you doing tonight? Did you find everything you were looking for?”

How did Kent and Monica Walters answer him? How would you?

2. Gregg Jenkins Breaks Down Outside Central Park

Gregg Jenkins, also at the end of a busy work week, jumped into his car for a 45-min. drive home. He had no plans for shopping. It was his goal to get home as quickly as possible. To do this, he would have to battle Manhattan traffic, with his route bringing him by Central Park. As he turned right at a light, his car lunged momentarily, then the engine clicked and stopped running entirely. He cruised to the curb outside Central Park, parked his car and turned on his flashers. As he looked under the hood, he realized he would need to call roadside assistance to help him out. Then a man walked by. “Hello! My name’s Derek Brooks. Can I help you? I used to be a mechanic once, before I switched to accounting. I used to work on cars like yours all the time.”

How did Gregg Jenkins respond? How would you?

3: Jesus Asks a Samaritan Woman for Water (John 4:1-42)

While the previous two scenarios are hypothetical, this one actually happened. Jesus and his 12 disciples traveled through Samaria. They arrived at a well, call Jacob’s well. The disciples went away into a nearby town to buy food. Normally, the Jews would have avoided buying food from Samaritan markets, since it would not be kosher. Being exhausted from a long journey, Jesus waited behind at the well. Then a lady visited the well, a woman from the nearby Samaritan town. Per custom, the disciples should have drawn water for Jesus, who was their teacher. But they were gone, so Jesus asked the woman to draw him some water instead. As she considered his request, she asked, “Why are you asking me to get you water? Jews don’t normally accept water from a Samaritan.”

How did Jesus respond? How would you?

Key Thought

We all encounter people at moments in our lives when we are doing something normal, meeting a need or accomplishing a task in our earthly life, and we meet a person in the world for whom Christ died. Do we respond to these opportunities like Jesus, like the disciples or like the Samaritan woman? The truth about Jesus should reshape your day-to-day interaction with people in the world. Let’s consider what this means.

The truth about Jesus should reshape your day-to-day interaction with people in the world.

The disciples focused on their immediate physical need. (John 4:8, 31, 33)

Here you have Jesus and his 12 disciples very tired and physically worn down. They had been walking from the area around Jerusalem into the region of Samaria. Based upon my research, they walked 25-35 miles, which would be about 10-12 hours on foot.

So they arrived outside of a town called Sychar. But instead of walking into the town, Jesus sat down at a well to get some rest. His disciples split off and walked into the city to purchase some bread. This was not a bad thing to do. In fact it was very appropriate. They were very hungry, and when you are very hungry, you need to find some food.

“For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.” (John 4:8)

We all do this, don’t we? We buy groceries, shop for home supplies, visit the doctor and pick up medication from the pharmacy. We take our automobile in for repairs. Should we stop doing these things? No.

But here is what we need to understand. Though the truth about Jesus does not require us to stop doing these things, it still should affect our day-to-day lives. How? It should reshape my view of life and people when I am doing these things. We fail to see the world in a John 3:16 way when we do these things oblivious to spiritual need of the people we meet.

We fail to see the world in a John 3:16 way when we do these things oblivious to spiritual need of the people we meet.

What is the John 3:16 way? It is wearing glasses that sees people as needing to be born again, to be drawn from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God through belief in Jesus Christ. In John 4:31-33 we discover that the disciples were not wearing these glasses. Are you?

In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? (John 4:31-33)

Here they are. The disciples returned from their visit to the market and encouraged Jesus to eat. And when he directs the conversation to spiritual things, they don’t get it. What do they think he’s talking about? It appears they are wondering if someone else brought him food already, and he’s full. Or perhaps they are wondering if someone brought him kosher food, so he could avoid eating the non-kosher food they had purchased. Either way, the point is clear. The disciples aren’t considering spiritual things at the moment.

Are you wearing John 3:16 glasses? Do you see the people you encounter in life as people needing a Savior? Or do you merely see your own physical needs, relegating gospel outreach to special evangelism events hosted by your church?

Jesus focused on the spiritual need of the woman. (John 4:10, 13-14, 21-24, 26).

Here is Jesus. He has walked and talked with his disciples for 10-12 hours. He is tired, so he sits down at a well, waiting for someone to draw water for him. When a Samaritan woman appears, he kindly asks her to draw some water and she asks him a question. Questions like this are an opportunity to present people in the world with the truth about Jesus.

Questions are an opportunity to present people in the world with the truth about Jesus.

It’s difficult to know what a person is thinking. And you have probably discovered that the people who look imposing are often the most receptive, while the people who look receptive are often the least interested.

It is possible and appropriate at times to initiate conversations with people. But when a person in the world asks you a question, as you interact in day-to-day business, use that question as an opportunity to talk about Jesus.

Jesus shifted attention to the gospel.

The lady asked a question about culture and behavior. “Why are you asking me to give you water? Jews don’t usually do that.” Jesus didn’t answer directly, but he didn’t ignore her either.

He said, “That’s a good question. In fact, here’s a better question. Why aren’t you asking me to provide you with spiritual water?”

What did Jesus have to lose? He wasn’t going to see this lady anytime later in life, most likely. He didn’t have an opportunity to build a friendship with her to get to the gospel at a later point in time. So why not try now? Why not ask a question about spiritual things, but related to her question about cultural things, to see if she was interested?

In this case, the conversation didn’t end. Sometimes it does. And if it does, you haven’t failed. You have done an admirable thing. You have done a John 3:16 thing. Do you think someday you’ll look back at a moment in life and say, “Wow, I wish I hadn’t tried to talk to that person about the gospel.” No, I think it’s the other way around.

He stayed focused.

Sometimes when you cross paths with someone in day-to-day business, you take the good and noble step of shifting attention in a conversation to the gospel. But sometimes, this step takes an unusual turn. Sometimes the person you are speaking to will ask a question unrelated to the gospel, but one that has a spiritual nature to it in a different way.

In this example, the lady asked a religious question. “Samaritans worship on Mount Gerizim, but Jews worship in Jerusalem. So what is the best place to worship God?’ How does Jesus answer?

In his own way, he says it doesn’t matter where a person worships. There’s something more important than that. If you want to worship God, then let me tell you how to do it for real.

You’re afraid they’ll ask you some outlandish or complex question that you won’t be able to answer.

Sometimes you’re afraid to bring up any thoughts about Jesus when you’re talking to someone in day-to-day life. Why? Because you’re afraid they’ll ask you some outlandish or complex question that you won’t be able to answer. There is a time to answer a question, and there is a time not to answer a question.

But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. (2 Timothy 2:23)

There are all kinds of ridiculous questions. Did Adam have a belly button? How can I know that I’m a real person, not a butterfly who merely thinks he’s a person? If God is all-powerful, can he create a rock so big that he can’t lift it If God is so good, why are there so many hypocrites in churches?

When questions like this arise, turn the attention back to Jesus. You don’t have to be a philosopher. And if a person does not want to talk about Jesus, the gospel and so forth, then kindly sign out and move on with your day-to-day business. Perhaps invite that person to church, give him a tract or exchange phone numbers. If he reaches out later, then that’s an indication he is asking genuine questions. But for the immediate conversation, stay focused on the gospel.

When Jesus did this, what was the result?

The woman focused on the spiritual need of her community. (John 4:28-29)

This lady responded to the truth about Jesus. In fact, she responded so enthusiastically that she left her water pot at the well and went back into the city, telling the people of the city to come out to the well and meet this man who was talking with her. She told them “there’s a very good chance that this is the one we need to believe on for salvation from our sins.” She may not have been born again on the spot, but she showed serious interest. She wanted to learn more and she wanted to tell others.

The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? (John 4:28-29)

Ironically, it appears that Jesus never got his water. First, the disciples left him at the well to get food. Then the lady left him at the well to tell people to join her. But where was the concern? Was Jesus concerned about this? If he was, the Bible doesn’t tell us. In fact, when his disciples returned with some food (while the woman was away in the town), they urged him to eat but he continued to focus on the spiritual opportunity in front of him.

In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. (John 4:31-35)

What does it mean that the fields were white unto harvest?

  1. Perhaps this is a reference to the wheat fields around them, which would have been ripe in about four months.
  2. Perhaps this is a reference to the wheat fields around them, which were already ripe. (There is uncertainty about the time of year this was.)
  3. Or perhaps this is a reference to the crowd of Samaritans leaving the village with the woman to meet Jesus at the foot of Mount Gerizim – and the men wearing white robes.

Whatever the case, the interest of this woman spread to others, and many Samaritans eventually believed on Jesus. Many people from the village of Sychar were indeed coming out from the city, while the disciples were urging Jesus to eat bread. And while they focused on the bread, Jesus was looking behind them to the crowd of people coming his way. Here’s what was happening as Jesus spoke to his disciples.

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. (John 4:39)

And then during the next two days, here’s what happened.

And many more believed because of his own word. (John 4:41)

This is remarkable. Here you have a weary band of disciples arriving after a 10-12 hour walk, sitting down at a well. Jesus sat down, exhausted, while the disciples went into the city to buy bread. A lady came out to get some water and Jesus asked for her to get him some. She asked him a question, and he was alert to the opportunity. Would you have been?

She asked him a question, and he was alert to the opportunity. Would you have been?

Then she returned to the city, having not provided any water that I can tell, and brought a crowd of people with her. Many believed on him, and then guess what happened? In the end, having focused on spiritual needs, the physical needs of Jesus and the disciples were met!

So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. (John 4:40)

This reminds me of a different verse, of a different time in the ministry of Jesus when he was teaching them an important lesson about the kingdom of God. Are you thinking of the same verse? Maybe you are.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek): for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:31-34)

What does it mean, to take no thought? It means don’t worry, or don’t be anxious, or don’t stress out, or don’t let this alter your focus. Here in John 4, Jesus showed his disciples – and all we who are disciples today – how to take a day-to-day opportunity of physical, material, worldly need and turn it into an opportunity to introduce someone in the world the truth about Jesus. And to do this, we need to stop worrying about our physical needs, looking for opportunities to meet spiritual needs as we take care of physical needs.

How did Jesus do this?

  • He answered a question.
  • He shifted attention to the gospel.
  • He remained focused.

This is an excellent pattern to follow.

Dear Friend

Have you been introduced to the true Jesus of the Bible? Have you believed on Him the Bible way and been born again?

Dear Fellow Believer
  • Do you miss opportunities to point people towards Jesus?
  • Do you talk to people you meet, pointing them towards Jesus?

Now, take a moment to consider the first two case studies I mentioned earlier.

1. Kent and Monica Walters at the Grocery Store Checkout

We met Kent and Monica Walters. Together, they spent an hour shopping for groceries on a Friday night. It was the end of a busy work week, and they were eager to get home for supper and some rest. They stood in the checkout line for about 15 minutes. It was a busy night at the store. At last, it was their turn to check out. Their cashier, Eric Brewer, was very polite. “Hello, how are you doing tonight? Did you find everything you were looking for?”

If you were Kent or Monica, thinking about the example of Jesus in John 4, how would you respond to Eric?

How would you take a question of how you are doing? and did you find what you were looking for? and answer it in a way that discovers if Eric is interested in learning more about Jesus?

2. Gregg Jenkins Breaks Down Outside Central Park

Then we met Gregg Jenkins. Also at the end of a busy work week, he jumped into his car for a 45-min. ride home. As he turned right, his car lunged momentarily, then his engine clicked and stopped running entirely. He cruised to the curb just outside Central Park, parked his car, and turned on his flashers. As he looked under the hood, a man walked by. “Hello! My name’s Derek Brooks. Can I help you? I used to be a mechanic once, before I switched to accounting. I used to work on cars like yours all the time.”

If you were Gregg, thinking about the example of Jesus in John 4, how would you respond to Derek?

How would you take a question of can I help you? I used to be a mechanic and answer it in a way that discovers if Derek is interested in learning more about Jesus?

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