Let’s begin a series of reflections on Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. I will try to keep these posts brief — just offering a few thoughts to ponder. The strange title “Backroads, Buckets and Buffets” will make sense later.
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee (John 4:1-3).
First, we should ask what led Jesus to leave Judea and go to Galilee? His popularity was on the rise, as more and more people were coming to him, being baptized and joining his entourage. The clue is in the text.
The Pharisees were concerned that Jesus’ movement was now surpassing John the Baptist’s in numbers. They were intent on creating trouble for Jesus. Here’s 2 reasons I believe Jesus left Judea and a few lessons for the church today.
1. Jesus refused to let unnecessary controversies derail him from his mission. Instead of letting his movement grow too large too soon, Jesus retreated north to spread the good news of the kingdom there as well. It was too soon to create a stir, draw the attention of the religious leaders and get arrested. He had much to do.
How often does the church get wrapped up in in-house debates and controversies that take our focus off the mission to reach a lost and hurting world? Let us follow Jesus’ example and instead of engaging every theological debate or public issue, let us be about the mission.
2. Jesus refused to be seen as in competition with the Baptist’s ministry. Jesus and the Baptist’s ministries were both at work during this time before John was put in prison. Jesus respected John’s ministry and therefore retreated so as to not be in competition with him. He went north to give John some room to work without Jesus’ shadow hanging over him. And John returned this favor as only a chapter earlier he was clear to tell his own disciples that his ministry was only preparing the way for Jesus’ more important ministry. “He must increase, I must decrease.”
How often does one church view itself in competition with other churches today? How often do we find ourselves fighting over the same bunch of “sheep”? May we follow Jesus’ example by looking beyond our immediate mission field and be about reaching all the lost sheep out there.