By Pastor Glenn Pease
The unexpected is the source of so much of the joy of life. Our three year old granddaughter, Jennifer, was praying at the table a couple of weeks ago. I noticed she was going faster than usual, and she came to the end saying, "In Jesus name, amen." Then she shouted, "I win." It was so unexpected that we were all shocked into laughter, and we realized at that point, she and Jason had a thing going as to who could finish first. It was a whole new concept to me, the concept of competitive prayer.
We expected the commonplace, and we were surprised by the unexpected. God does this a lot, as you study His handiwork. God has so designed natural life that it can only exist by means of the exceptional and the unexpected. It is a law of nature that as a liquid cools its density increases, and it gets heavier. But is water followed this law, the ice that formed on the top of lakes would sink to the bottom, and eventually the whole lake would be solid ice. But fortunately, water is an exception to this law. It is expands when it freezes, and ice becomes lighter than water, and it floats. If God had not made water an exception, life would be greatly limited on this planet, and may have been impossible.
It is surprising how many exceptions are necessary for life on earth. If the law of gravity had no exceptions, the heavy gas would be at the bottom, and the lighter gas at the top. This would mean the whole earth would be under a layer of carbon dioxide, and this would make life as we know it impossible. But the law of gravity is defied by the law of diffusion of gases, and so oxygen can be available for all of life on the surface of the earth.
God is not a legalist, even in His laws for governing the universe. He has variety and flexibility, and unique unexpected exceptions. Beware of locking God in and saying, He always does this, or never does that. God is the God of surprises, and the God of the unexpected. Those who study any aspect of His creation soon learn this, and it is true in the study of His Word as well. No where is this more evident than in John chapter 4, where we see the encounter of Jesus with the woman at the well. It is literally loaded with exceptions and surprises. Let's look at some of them to get the flavor of the whole passage.
1. Ordinarily you run to success, but this text tells us Jesus had to flee from it. His disciples were baptizing more people than John the Baptist. His movement was growing like wildfire, and so he packed up and left. A very unexpected reaction to success, but he had to escape the conflict this was going to produce with the Pharisees. His time was not yet, and so he fled success.
2. Also unusual is the verse which tells us Jesus did not baptize people. John did, but Jesus let His disciples do the baptizing. As far as we know, Jesus never baptized anyone, and that is surprising.
3. Jesus took the route to Galilee that was the unusual route. Most Jews went around Samaria because of the hostility of these two peoples. Jesus is the exception, and He takes the unexpected way, right through this alien territory.
4. His disciples go into town to buy food, which is a surprise, because, as the woman at the well says in verse 9, the Jews do not associate with the Samaritans. Here is another exception.
5. The woman of Samaria is one surprise after another. She is the only woman in the Bible, that we know of, who had five husbands, and the only one we know of who was living with a man out of wedlock. This may not be uncommon in our day, but it was the unusual and unexpected than. Jesus only took one trip through Samaria, and He runs into the only woman with her particular record.
6. It was a surprise that anybody would be at the well at high noon. This is the hottest part of the day. Most would come in the cool of the morning or evening, but she was there at the unexpected time.
7. It was unexpected that a rabbi would talk to any woman in public. But here we are surprised, for Jesus not only talks with her, He shares with her the deepest insights into the nature of God. He gives her the clearest revelation of who He is, as the Messiah.
You would expect a teacher of the caliber of Jesus to reveal His most profound truths to the highest leaders of the land, or at least some leaders in some formal setting. But Jesus is full of surprises, and He gives this lowly nobody insights of the greatest depth. There is no rule to cover this. This is just another great exception.
8. Finally, you do not expect a woman to be one of the first successful witnesses, but her testimony led crowds of Samaritans to believe in Jesus, and become His disciples. Jesus did not chose any woman to be one of the twelve, but long before any of the twelve were effective evangelists, this woman led a multitude to Jesus.
This whole account is an exception to the rule. When Jesus sent out His twelve, we read that He gave them these instructions in Matt. 10:5-6, "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel." Here He is doing the very thing He forbids them to do, and by so doing, He has the biggest harvest of fruit He ever had in His ministry. The bottom line of all this is, expect the unexpected when you follow Jesus. The disciples of Jesus never expected to see Him talking with a woman. Verse 27 implies they were embarrassed by the whole scene. It was a surprise, and so unexpected, and they could not handle this exceptional situation. The text tells us, "No one asked what do you want, or why are you talking with her?" Their minds were full of questions, but they were shocked into silence, and did not know how to deal with this unique situations.
They were not expecting the unexpected, nor were they open to the unusual and exceptional. This is one of the basic principles of evangelism, and they had to learn it, and we have to learn it, to be effective tools for Christ. After all, if Jesus sent His church into all the world to make disciples, then He expects His church to be ready for an infinite variety of possibilities. My father use to say, "It doesn't take all kinds to make a world, but we've got them anyway." We have to face reality and recognize, the world we are trying to reach is full of diversity, variety, and the unusual. If you do not expect the unexpected, you will be closed to both God and the world He wants you to reach. Part of what it means to walk in the spirit is to expect the unexpected.
Jesus expected prostitutes, tax collectors, and people that nobody else ever dreamed of reaching, to respond to the Gospel, and become a part of the kingdom of God. Jesus expected that this Samaritan woman would respond to His acceptance, and that the kingdom of God would be extended into territory that no Jew would ever even try to reach. In Acts 1:8 we read that Jesus said to His Apostles, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Do you think the Apostles would have taken that serious, that they were to witness in Samaria, unless they had seen with their own eyes the results of this encounter with the woman of Samaria? They had to be eye witnesses of this exceptional, and totally unexpected event, or they never would have been able to go to Samaria with any expectation at all. The result is, in Acts 8 we read that Philip had a marvelous ministry in Samaria. And Peter and John preached the Gospel in many Samaritan villages.
My point is, this never would have happened, and all the evangelism that took place, and all the lives of the Samaritans changed forever, never would have happened had Jesus not prepared the way by helping His disciples learn to expect the unexpected. They were slow learners, for He taught them to expect the cross and resurrection too, but they were not open to it, and had to learn the hard way. One of the main reasons why many people are not evangelized is because of Christians who have never learned to expect the unexpected. Almost every pastor who has been in the ministry any length of time could tell a story similar to that of Dr. Dino Pedrone, who pastored in Pennsylvania.
A woman came to him for counseling, and in the course of their conversation he asked her about her husband. She said he was a good man, but he was not a Christian. When the pastor asked if he could come and talk to him about the Lord, she said it wouldn't do any good, for he will never become a Christian. The next Saturday he went to see the husband. He discovered that though he was hard and indifferent to spiritual things in relation to his wife, he was hungry to know God. The wife was shocked when her husband opened his heart to Christ. Soon he was baptized and a part of the church.
The next time this wife came for counseling, he asked about her children. She told him she had a son who was a rebel, and was always in trouble. He asked if anybody had ever talked to him about the Lord. She said that she knew her son would never trust in Christ. The next Tuesday some people from the church called on the son, and her son received Christ. After that she came to the pastor with a list of her relatives. Not all of them responded to the Gospel, but some did, because she had finally learned to expect the unexpected.
Until we learn this basic principle, we determine what God will, or will not do, and we never even try that which seems unusual, for we do not give the exceptional a chance to happen. This is what quenching the spirit is all about. We refuse to be available to the Holy Spirit to do what is unusual and unexpected. We are just like the Jews who rejected Jesus. They expected a Messiah like David the warrior, who would lead them to victory over Rome. They did not expect the unexpected, and that is exactly what Jesus was. Jesus did the unexpected, because He expected God to use the unexpected to change lives, and God honored that expectation. When we talk about being like Jesus, let us not forget this aspect of His character.
God moves in mysterious ways, was not just a saying or a song for Jesus, it was a philosophy of life. He did not live in conformity to what was expected, but in His passion for people, He reached out to touch them any way He could, and to let them know they were loved, and were invited to be a part of the family of God. The world seeks to force us into its mold. It says conform and avoid being an exception. But the call of Christ is to be a non-conformer. Be different, be unusual, and be the exception. Be open to the unexpected, for these are the people God uses to open up new worlds, as Jesus opened up the world of Samaria to the kingdom of God.
One of the most Christian nations of the world today is Korea. The largest church in the world is there, along with many other great churches. It all began with an exception. Robert J. Thomas was a Welshman working in China for the Scottish Bible Society. He learned that the Korean language was based on the Chinese, and so the Korean intellectuals could read the Chinese Bible. Nobody had any interest in Korea, but he was determined these people would have the Bible. He got on an American ship, the General Sherman, and sailed to Korea. When the ship got near the port a fight broke out with a Korean ship, and the American vessel was set on fire, and all the passengers were killed. Thomas was so determined to finish his mission that he took some of his Bibles, and leaped into the sea. He struggled to the shore, and staggered out of the water. He thrust the Bibles into the hand of the Koreans, who clubbed him to death. That is how the Gospel first came to Korea in 1866. It was not a very promising beginning, nobody would expect anything to come of such a tragic event. But God used this exceptional event to produce
one of the greatest harvests of history.
William Carrey said, "Attempt great things for God and expect great things from God." If you never attempt to do anything but the usual and the expected, you will never know if God will use you to do the unexpected. We have to stop thinking that our friends and neighbors are too unusual and different, and use that to justify our refusal to witness to them. We must expect the unexpected and share the good news with them. If the disciples would have watched this encounter of Jesus and the woman at the well, you can count on it,
they would have been betting that Jesus would have had and easier time getting Satan to make stones into bread, than of getting this woman to supply Him with water. She was there at noon in the hot Sun because she was not welcome by the other women who came at cooler times. She was not a very sociable person, and to serve a Jew was not likely her cup of tea. She just was not a likely prospect for getting a cup of cold water, let alone a prospect for evangelism. She would not have gotten a single vote if Jesus would have operated on the majority rule, and taken a vote on it.
Jesus had passion, and he had a procedure, and now we want to look at-
HIS PROSPECTS FOR EVANGELISM.
For Jesus, every person who crossed His path was a prospect for evangelism. Jesus, like the Good Samaritan, considered every man he met with a need as His neighbor. Now Jesus confronts a bad Samaritan, and He has the same spirit. This woman at the well was robbed by Satan, and beaten out of a life of love. She was as helpless to help herself as was the man who was beaten who was found by the Good Samaritan. Jesus is now stopping to help this bad Samaritan because she is His neighbor.
One of the most amazing things about this great rescue is that it was all done by words. There is no miracle in this passage anywhere. Jesus could have had her jar float down into the well, and return without the use of a robe. He could have added the Cana touch, and made the water turn to wine. He could have done all sorts of miracles to convince her He was the Messiah, but He needed none of that. The Jews saw wonder after wonder, and still would not believe. But here is one of the so-called heretic Samaritans, and she only hears the words of Jesus, and does not see a single wonder of His miracle working power, and she believes. The masses came and believed as well, with no record of a single miracle in the two days He stayed there. Note verse 41, "And because of His words many more became believers." They went on to give Jesus the title, the Savior of the World in verse 42.
This, from Samaritan people who were enemies of the Jews, and on whom James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy. No wonder Jesus rebuked them, for He did not see the Samaritans as His enemies. He saw them as prospects for evangelism. He did not write them off, for He expected the unexpected. He expected these despised people to become a part of His family. The day you label any person of any class or race as being no prospect for evangelism, is the day you cease to have the mind of Christ. This whole account, which is so unusual and full of the unexpected, is designed to make it clear to Christians all through history that our Lord expects us to expect the unexpected, and never write anyone off as a prospect for evangelism.
This is the Jesus version of Ripley's Believe It Or Not. It is mission impossible. This passage of scripture is surely designed to demonstrate but the Gospel is for everybody. There is no such thing as a hopeless case. The lease likely people in this world can become children of God, and can become leaders in the kingdom, as did this Samaritan sinner.
Alfred Noble was a Swedish chemist who made a fortune by inventing powerful explosives, which he sold to governments around the world, so they could make weapons and blow people and things to pieces. He was not the kind of man you would expect to have compassion for suffering humanity. But one day his brother died, and the newspaper by accident published his obituary instead of his brothers. It is not often a man gets to read his own obituary. It had a shocking impact on Alfred, for he was identified in the obituary as the man who made a fortune by enabling armies to achieve new levels of mass destruction. He was going to be remembered as a merchant of death, and he hated it.
So he took his fortune and established awards to be given in various fields to people whose work was a benefit to humanity. Today he is remembered, not as the destroyer, but as a benefactor to man. The man least likely to be so remembered is so remembered. The point is, people can change, and time can change, and circumstances can change, and, therefore, anything is possible. So let's stop assuming that Samaritans are not good prospects for evangelism.
Whom do you never expect to be a child of God? Whom do you never expect to be used of God to touch others for Christ? What is the most unexpected change Christ could make in another's life by your influence? Faith is simply expecting that these unexpected events can become a reality. Thoreau wrote, "I learned this, at least, by my experiment: That if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
Do you have any dreams about what might be if the world was more hopeful, if life was more simple, if you had more control of what happens? Don't wait for life to level off and even out, but go for your dream now, expecting the unexpected. Have you ever wondered why it is why collectors have so many rare coins, or stamps, or bottles? If they are so rare and unusual, how can anybody have a collection of them? It is because they are people who go through life looking for the unusual. They expect the unexpected. The non-collector walks pass treasures all the time and does not see them. Collectors see them, because they expect to see them, and they are always looking for the unlikely.
Our environment is loaded with people who are lost. They are hidden treasures, like this sinful Samaritan woman, but we pass them by, because we don't expect Christ to ever find these lost sheep, at least not through us. As long as we think this way, we will be right,
and we get what we expect-nothing. The only way we will ever be used to win the lost is to live with the mind of Christ, a mind that expected the unexpected.
We are not trying to deny the reality of Murphy's Law, for it to is a part of life. Who of us has not decided to watch a TV series, which we haven't watched for 6 months, only to discover it is a rerun of the one other time we decided to watch it? Or who of us has not been on vacation watching a program, only to suddenly see it end with the words, to be continued? No setting is so solemn that it scares away Murphy's Law. Stewart Briscoe told of one of his associate pastors at the funeral of a war veteran. The pastor was to lead his military friends out through a side door, but he chose the wrong door. With military precision they marched into a storage closet in full view of mourners. The effect was somewhat marred when they had to beat a hasty retreat in confusion. The unexpected is not always good, and what we would hope for, but to have the mind of Christ we need to expect good unexpected things to happen, when we care about every person we meet, enough to share the love of Christ.
You will never meet a person who does not need Christ. You will never meet a person for whom Christ did not die. You will never meet a person who cannot come to Christ. Therefore, no matter how unlikely it is, expect people to be won into the kingdom of God, and expect God to use you to be a key factor in making that happen. So let us go into our Samaria with the mind of Christ, and expect the unexpected.