Image by Rebecca K Photography
By Pastor Tracey Leslie, Trinity United Methodist Church
John is my favorite gospel! One of the things I most enjoy about John is the writer’s approach to evangelism. Early in the gospel, after Jesus has invited the first disciples to follow him, we read of Philip approaching his friend Nathanael with great excitement and announcing, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael is incredulous and a bit sarcastic when he replies, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip does not attempt to argue with Nathanael. He merely issues an invitation, “Come and see.”
That invitation – “come and see” – will be issued again by the Samaritan woman. After her remarkable encounter with Jesus at the well, she heads back to her village, clearly thrilled as Philip had been. The woman’s invitation goes a bit further: “Come and see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done!” And she concludes with a teaser: “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” Her invitation was irresistible to her fellow villagers as our narrator affirms (in verse 39): “Many Samaritans from that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’” Finally, in John, chapter 9, we read the story of a blind man and his powerful witness based in only one thing: his personal encounter with Jesus. Do you see the theme?
Often, we think of evangelism as Pastor Suzanne described on Sunday: passing out tracts and disseminating “holy information.” But what if we thought about evangelism differently?
I’ll never forget working with a group of seminary students in a spiritual formation group at United Seminary. The first student to share his spiritual autobiography with the group had such a remarkable and heart-wrenching story. The Spirit spontaneously stirred me: “Can we lay hands on you and pray,” I asked. We all gathered round. Each one in the group prayed. There were tears and hugs all around.
There’s a good reason why Jesus told so many stories. Stories touch us deeply.
What is the story of your journey with Jesus? Don’t worry if it is polished or theologically sophisticated. Neither the Samaritan woman nor the man born blind were sophisticated or polished. They were sincere and truthful. Their encounter with Jesus changed them and they simply shared their story. It’s as simple as “come and see.”