John 4: 4a-8, 27-35 (MsgB)
He (Jesus) came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon. A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give Me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
Just then His disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe He was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it. The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.
In the meantime, the disciples pressed Him, “Rabbi, eat. Aren’t you going to eat?” He told them, “I have food to eat you know nothing about.” The disciples were puzzled. “Who could have brought Him food?” Jesus said, “The food that keeps Me going is that I do the will of the One who sent Me, finishing the work He started. As you look around right now, wouldn’t you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I’m telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what’s right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It’s harvest time!
What I truly love about the Gospel stories we find in our New Testament is that there is no holy attempt by the writers to hide the honest truth.
Let’s face it, folks.
Jesus’ disciples are goofballs. Stooges. Idiots. Spiritual peewees. So dense at times, it seems like they are walking through three years of following Jesus without a clue of what is actually going on around them!
Chapter 4 of John’s gospel is a prime example. Here we are with Jesus, as He is opening a door to Kingdom ministry with a whole village of Samaritans, and these guys (shall we loosely call them disciples?) seem more interested in chowing down with Jesus than doing any ministry in the harvest fields of Samaria. Oy Vey!
But could it be that John and the other gospel writers know very well that this painfully accurate picture of the twelve apostles will speak a much-needed message to future generations of church ‘leaders’? Men and women who will look at their roles in church leadership and assume that they need to be the smartest and brightest bulbs on the block?
I mean, you know the story. When you slip on the title, ‘leader’, the church world expects you to have all the answers, have the clearest vision, cast the brightest light, and appeal to the largest number of people.
But, alas, that type of ‘brilliant leader’ is not what the New Testament writers portray to their readers. No.
As I see it, in the first century, the only all-wise, all-knowing, highly-esteemed ‘leader’ in the church is Jesus of Nazareth. Everyone else, including the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastor-teachers are considered less-thans. Much less-thans, to be exact! In truth, the New Testament seems to view our first-century counterparts in leadership as a bunch of humble servants who know full well that the world isn’t there to see them, but to be with Jesus!
Too bad a few more of us ‘leaders’ in the 21st century aren’t willing to take that same lowly road of humility where we are seen by others, at times, as bumbling, stumbling innocents who know that only the best answers come from Jesus and not from us? Too bad more parishioners in our churches can’t recognize the real danger when our Americanized church culture makes celebrities and all-knowing ‘answer-men and women’ out of us goofball leaders?
Maybe we all could learn a thing or two from this Jesus-story in Samaria? What if, for example, we all took our eyes off ourselves, looking to our Lord as the only One who really knows what’s going on around us? Keep in mind; it’s Jesus, who sees first, the ripe harvest fields in this Samaritan village, not the disciples. As I read John’s account, if it had been left up to them, they’d still be eating lunch with each other over by Jacob’s well.
I’m just sayin’.
My prayer: Lord, I need to climb off my high-horse of church ‘leadership’ where I’m expected to know it all, see it all, sell it all, and lead others clearly into all God has for us. In truth, that’s Jesus’ job and I don’t need to be competing for that position. Empower me, Holy Spirit, to let myself off the hook of the American ‘successful leadership’ ladder. Let me be more like Your first-century friends, who more often than not, found themselves in great ministry situations because You led them there, not because they knew what they were doing! For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How have I expected myself (and others around me) to be ‘great leaders’ who always know, with certainty, what God is doing in our midst? Is the bar set so high in my church that there is no room for stumbling, bumbling disciples like what we find here in the first century Gospel writings? If so, what needs to change so that we make Jesus, once again, the all-wise, all-knowing One, while we, His servants, step back and let Him lead?
So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?
Between now and the end of 2015, we will be sharing with you a blog series we first developed in 2013. We call it Follow The Leader: Re-defining Successful Leadership from the Gospel of John. In order to keep all 46 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Follow The Leader home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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