Key Texts: John 4:4-30; Matt. 8:5-13; Mark 5:1-20; Matt. 15:21-28; Luke 17:11-19; John 12:20-32.
This week we are invited to contemplate mission work to cultures unlike our own. ’s lesson invites us to consider the interactions Jesus had with those outside of his own people group. As we go down the progression of texts, you will notice that there is a progression from those who are most like him to those who come from very different cultures and societies. The methodologies Jesus uses in approaching people unlike him are useful and informative to missions.
The first instance to look at is in John 4:4-30, the story of Jesus interaction with the Samaritan woman. This story is very well known including the way Jesus broke social taboos when talking with the woman. But of more interest than the social taboos are the things we learn from the way Jesus conducted himself in a socially different situation. Notice:
- Jesus let the woman lead the conversation steering the conversation only a very few times when suggestion proved advantageous to steering the conversation to the missional purposes Jesus had.
- Jesus asked the woman for a real favor. Given the fact of the necessity of water in that area, his request disarmed any immediate defensiveness and opened the way for dialog.
- Jesus was able to distinguish between human social protocols and the precepts of God in that he looked at the woman as a person not a socially-different person of lesser standing.
A second instance in this week’s lesson is that of the Roman army officer, certainly someone way outside the comfort zone of most people normally (Matt 8:5-13). This is a very interesting story in which the army office shows up very well first as a caring individual for he came asking Jesus to heal his servant, and then as a socially sensitive person for he seemed to understand the difficulties attached to a Jewish man entering the home of a gentile so he asked only for Jesus to speak a word. Lastly, he manifested himself as a man of faith for he believed without waiting for confirmation.
- What conclusions can we draw about the work of the Spirit in the lives of people outside our own faith community? This man, a gentile, had great faith. How did that come to be so?
- What lessons might we learn about by-passing cultural divides from this story?
The texts in Mark and Matthew also relate stories of Jesus interaction with people who had demons. First there was the case of the man in Gadara who was freed of demons that they entered the herd of pigs that famously rushed to their demise in the lake. The other is the story of a Sidonian child who was freed from a demon. In this latter case Jesus pressed the child’s mother from the start giving her a sort of threshold to cross before he acted.
- What lessons do you think the disciples learned from these two interactions both of which were outside Jewish territories? Notice that Jesus was not at all reluctant to engage with the people in need.
In Luke 17 there is the story of Jesus interactions with the 10 Lepers, another well-known story in which only one came back to thank him and, the text notes, he was a Samaritan! It does not seem that Jesus went out of his way to meet these lepers for they came to him. But what is interesting is that the text alludes to the fact that the other 9 were Jews. This means that, in their adversity, the two people-groups had found a way to bridge their differences to find a commonality.
- Does it not seem that, by engaging with these lepers who were social outcasts because it was thought they were great sinners, Jesus declared a missional truth to his disciples that no people are outside of God’s interest.
The final interchange in this lesson is the one where a group of Greeks asked Philip if they could see Jesus. This is a very interesting little tidbit because it appears that they came to Philip because he had a Greek name. Perhaps we learn that it is easier to approach people within your own group than to go outside of it at least initially.
- What missional methodologies might be drawn from this interchange?
- In John 12 Jesus uttered one of his famous and hard sayings about losing your life to save it or saving it only to lose it. How do you understand this saying? And how do you apply it missionally?
- This is a good time to reflect on the universality of Jesus. He appeals to all people in all nations reflected by the interest from non-Jews even during his time of ministry.