Yesterday, we listed the second principle, which is that Jesus began his conversation with a question. We pointed out that one consequence of this was that the woman’s interest in talking with Jesus was aroused.
The second consequence was that the woman found her curiosity aroused. Jesus had asked her a question; she found it natural to begin to ask Him a series of questions. Now here we should notice something quite interesting. In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, the first word Nicodemus is reported to have uttered was, “How?” Again, it was a question. No doubt there were many differences between the two questions. Perhaps there were even different motives in asking them. But the interesting point is that the two questions occurred. In these two instances where Jesus was witnessing to someone, He not only got the person talking, He got him asking questions. And He then answered them. We should do the same thing if we are to be effective in telling others about Christ.
Let me state this again in a slightly different way. People are always full of questions. Many of them are religious questions. If you can get them to express their questions, by the grace of God you’ve already accomplished a great deal in your witness, and God will use the aroused interest to point the one asking the questions to Jesus. Paul Little has written correctly about provoking such questions, “Once the non-Christian takes the first step in initiative, all pressure goes out of any conversation about Jesus Christ.” And he adds that thereafter, “it can be picked up at the point where it is left without embarrassment.”1
Third, offer something relevant. Jesus offered the woman something related quite directly to her need. In one sense, the offer was always of Himself, of course. Yet to aging Nicodemus, Jesus spoke of Himself as one who offers new life, a new beginning (John 3:3). To the man who had been born blind, He spoke of Himself as light (John 9:5). To the woman, the same offer was couched in the metaphor of water. He said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (vv. 13-14).
I’m convinced that most Christians need to learn from this principle. It will not do for us to witness about the transmission and reliability of the Bible if we are talking to a girl who is not interested in that, but is afraid she will end up an “old maid” if she becomes a Christian. We must share Christ’s offer to guide our lives and enrich them in whatever way He leads us. It will not be much use for us to speak about the power of Jesus Christ being able to deliver a person from the grip of drugs or alcohol if we’re speaking to a disciplined scientist whose greatest hang-up is his suspicion that other scientists have disproved Christianity. We need to offer him the challenge of searching the Scriptures himself to see whether these things are so, and to encourage him to test Christ’s claims.
Above all, we must not present our message in the language of the last century or in clichés that have no meaning to most of the non-Christian world. Most people are thinking of their own needs, and so we must offer Jesus to them in ways that relate to those needs.
1Paul E. Little, How to Give Away Your Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1966), 36.