I feel that I grow and learn more every single time I have read through the 4th chapter of the Gospel of John. Well, I suppose that is probably true for every chapter of every book of the Bible, but some (like the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and places in places in John’s writing consistently teach me).
In John 4 we find Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman (not something a Jew would do) with a sinful and troubled past (double down on reasons for Jesus to avoid this conversation!). A beautiful and very pivotal conversation happens between Jesus and the woman which ultimately leads this woman to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, but what happens next is so captivating. After the woman comes to faith in Jesus, her response is to run (with disregard for the water that she went to get in the first place) back to her community and invite everyone she finds to come meet Jesus!!!
Try to imagine with me that you are at a busy store or packed restaurant and suddenly a person, with a very openly sin-filled past, runs in and begins talking excitedly telling everyone about Jesus!
What would the reaction be? What would your reaction be? What if the sinful person was so visibly changed that you couldn’t deny that something extraordinary was going on?
But why was this the reaction the Samaritan woman had? Why was the first thing on her mind and heart to take this good news to anyone and everyone back in her hometown? Remember, this town had likely rejected and avoided this very woman because she was an outcast due to her public sin record, yet she runs and shares with all who will listen anyway.
What she is doing, in a way, is intercession. To intercede means “to mediate or intervene between two parties”. After meeting Jesus and believing in Him as the Messiah, the woman’s greatest next step is to “mediate or intervene” in the lives of those who have not yet met Him. She wants to bring the two groups (Jesus with His disciples and her hometown) together. As the story unfolds the community believes a little because of what they see and hear from the woman, but after two days the Bible says “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
John 4:39-42 NIV
Amazing right?!?!? What would you give to be able to have other people come to know Jesus as Savior because you introduced them to Him?
Understanding intercession is pretty essential to following Jesus. Intercession, in many ways, is what the good news of Jesus is all about.
As Jesus went from town to town, place to place, He was bringing the good news of the open invitation into the Kingdom of God with Him. He was intervening in a broken world. As Jesus died on the cross He did so by taking the sin/guilt of humanity upon Himself, intervening on our behalf. As Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to fill believers He was granting a new ally who helps/intervenes in our lives to connect us to the Father (Romans 8). Even now we learn in Scripture that Jesus is the permanent high priest who intercedes on our behalf (Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25 NIV).
Did you know that since we have been saved by grace and adopted into the family of God that we too get to intercede?
Yes we can and should run to our towns and workplaces and tell people about Jesus and what He has done for us (the Samaritan woman testified in a similar way), but we can also pray in a way that “intervenes” for others.
Because we are His, we can now stand before the Father on behalf of others. When someone asks you to pray for them, whether they know it or not, they are actually asking you to intervene/intercede for them. They are asking you to use the privilege and position you have as a follower of Jesus to connect them to the God of all creation!
How can and should this change the way we pray? How can and should this change the way we talk with others about our faith?
What a privilege we have and what a responsibility we carry! May we intercede well on behalf of our world, our community, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and those in our own home so that they might say, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”