Lesson 10

Women of Mission

(John 4, Acts 16)
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Introduction: Our culture does not allow us to understand the difficulty of being a "woman of mission" during Jesus' day. We do not even clearly understand the problem Jesus and His disciples faced ministering to women. The Jewish rabbis of Jesus' time said "It is better that the words of the Law be burned than be delivered to a woman!" (The Bible Exposition Commentary on Acts 16:13.) Jesus and His disciples, if they followed cultural norms, should have ignored women when it came to sharing the gospel. They did not. Instead, our study shows Jesus used them as missionaries. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Samaritan Woman


    1. Read John 4:1-2. Why do you think the Pharisees were keeping a count of Jesus and John's converts?


      1. Read Matthew 3:7-8 to see what John said about the Pharisees. What does this suggest about the relationship?


      2. Read John 1:24-27 to get an idea of what the Pharisees were thinking about John and Jesus. What does this suggest?


    2. Read John 4:2-3. What do you think is the important point for Jesus: that the Pharisees wrongly thought He was baptizing or that Jesus was gaining more disciples? (The Pharisees were the religious leaders. Some rival (John) has arisen outside of Jerusalem. John preaches that they are morally unfit to lead, and says that someone greater is following in his footsteps. This places a lot of unwanted attention on Jesus very early in His ministry, so He decides to withdraw.)


    3. Read John 4:4-6. Did Jesus want to go through Samaria? (Jews and Samaritans did not like each other. Samaria lay between Jerusalem and Galilee. The short route was to go straight through Samaria. However, some Jews would go around Samaria just to avoid the Samaritans.)


      1. The time is probably noon. What do we learn about the human body for our God? (Jesus got tired!)


    4. Read John 4:7-8. Is Jesus flirting with this woman? (You will say, "Don't be ridiculous." But, I expect this woman might have thought this. The IVP Bible Background Commentary suggests this is how Jesus' request might have been taken, especially with this woman's background and the fact she was alone. Women would normally come to a well in groups. The fact this woman was alone gives us a hint that she was unpopular. It was also odd that a Jewish man would even speak to a Samaritan women.)


    5. Read John 4:9. Is this woman flirting back? Is she being unpleasant? What do you think she is really saying? (Jewish men, especially a rabbi, did not speak to Samaritan women. She does not believe that Jesus is just asking for a drink. She wants to know why Jesus is talking to her. This strengthens the conclusion that she is asking (among other things) if Jesus is flirting. This is just odd conduct for Jew.)


    6. Read John 4:10. Does Jesus clarify the matter?


      1. Why does Jesus answer as He does? (He wants to get her attention. This is certainly something out of the ordinary.)


        1. Are there any lessons in this for our missionary efforts?


        2. Would evangelistic seminars advertised with pictures of the beasts of Revelation fit into this pattern?


    7. Read John 4:11-12. What tone of voice do you think this woman is using? (We all know people who are just plain arrogant. However, we also know people who are arrogant "underdogs." They know they have not done well in life, and they are carrying around a general grudge against those who have done well. In this text I hear an underdog speaking in a challenging way.)


      1. What is the answer to the woman's question? (Yes, Jesus is greater than Jacob!)


    8. Read John 4:13-15. Is Jesus offering indoor plumbing? (The women responds as if He were.)


    9. Read John 4:16. What would have gone through your mind if you were this woman? (Some part of me would have thought Jesus was crazy, and this would give me the opportunity to just leave. Some part of me would have thought I should answer, but I would not want to admit I had no husband - unless I thought this fellow was flirting.)


    10. Read John 4:17-19. How important is it that she answered, and answered honestly? (This dialog seems to have two purposes. One is to test her honesty. The second is to impress her with the fact that she is not speaking with a lunatic, she is speaking with someone who is supernaturally able to know about her life.)


      1. If Jesus knew that she was immoral, why would He care about testing her honesty?


    11. Read John 4:20-26. Give me all the reasons why Jesus should not reveal to this woman that He was the Messiah. (She was not exactly pleasant to Him when they started speaking. More fundamentally, she was not just a woman, she was a Samaritan! Add to that she was an unpopular, sexually permissive woman.)


      1. So, why did Jesus do this? I don't believe in chance - especially here - why would Jesus choose this woman to be a disciple? (One small reason is that if she was honest with Him, she would likely have a reputation in town about honesty.)


      2. Why would Jesus choose tradesmen to be His disciples?


      3. Why would Jesus have a special ministry to those who made (probably) more than one serious mistake in life? (I'm reading Dinesh D'Souza's "What's So Great About Christianity." He points out that the Greek and Roman culture had the "great man" point of view. Slaves, workers, the masses existed to allow the "great men" of society to think, plan and lead. Ordinary people were like worker bees - they did not matter except to support the leaders. Jesus directly attacked that thinking. Jesus spoke of servant leaders ( Matthew 23:11) and He focused on the importance of the "lowest" people in society. He thought it worth His time to share the gospel with women. The anti-slavery movement, democracy for all citizens, "public servants," all these concepts flow not from Greek or Roman culture, but from the revolutionary teachings of Jesus.)


    12. Read John 4:28-29 and John 4:39. What did Jesus do for this women? What did He do for women in general? (He chose this woman to be His gospel representative to her town. He showed that woman are worthy not just to hear His message, but to spread His message.)


  2. Lydia


    1. Read Acts 16:12-13. Paul and his companions are on a missionary journey which leads them to Philippi. What is their strategy for sharing the gospel? (They are looking for spiritually-minded people. On the Sabbath they look for a "place of prayer.")


      1. Do you think they were disappointed when they found only women praying? (Probably. But, notice that this did not deter them from sharing the gospel with them.)


        1. What does that teach us? (It teaches us that an interest in spiritual matters is more important than gender when it comes to sharing the gospel.)


    2. Read Acts 16:14. What kind of a woman is Lydia? (She was aware of the Jewish religion and worshiped God.)


      1. What is her trade?(She seems to be an important businesswoman. She is a trader in purple cloth from another city, Thyatira. That city was famous for its purple cloth (a royal color - thus sold to the wealthy). The Bible Exposition Commentary posits that she "probably was in charge of a branch office of her guild in Philippi.")


      2. What is the secret to the success of Paul's message to Lydia? (He was willing to share with women and the Holy Spirit "opened her heart.")


    3. Read Acts 16:15. How is Lydia a blessing to Paul's missionary efforts? (First, she has servants (her household) which she has interested in spiritual matters. They are baptized. Second, she has a house that is large enough to board Paul and his companions. She is not simply baptized, but she now becomes a financial sponsor for Paul's missionary efforts.)


      1. How would this story have been different if Paul had refused to teach women?


      2. Will you speculate a moment with me about Lydia's future missionary efforts? To whom would she witness? (Probably only (or mostly) wealthy people would buy purple for their clothes. Lydia would naturally share the gospel with them. By Paul sharing with a woman (a lower rank of society) he ended up having a mission to the highest ranks of society.)


    4. Friend, do you let cultural barriers stand in the way of your missionary efforts? If so, will you determine today to simply let God lead you in spreading His word?


  3. Next week: Mission in a Pagan Land: Daniel and Company.

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Lessons on Missionaries in the Bible

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