Wednesday, April 6, 2016
The woman of Samaria
When we left our story (found in the fourth chapter of the gospel of John) we saw that Jesus had broken some rules in speaking to the woman who came to the well at noonday. His disciples had gone to search for food for everyone, and He was resting by the well -- Jacobs's well outside of the town of Sychar.
Jesus asked her, "Will you give me a drink?"
I'm a little wishy-washy on her reply: she could have been kind of snapping at Him, tired from her walk and carrying the jug, and dreading the process of lowering the vessel into the well and pulling it up, heavy with water. Or should could have been just calmly stating the obvious: "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?"
She was zeroing in on the law. The norm. The legalistic way things were "supposed to be."
Jesus was going to focus on grace.
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that
asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have
given you living water." (John 4:10)
Directing her attention to grace, He was offering her the greatest Gift ever. Water from the ground? Everyday stuff. Living water? She was probably paying more attention now!
But she still is engaging Him in an intellectual sparring match; this, the longest recorded one-on-one conversation with Jesus, is full of witty repartee and will reveal secrets from both speakers!
"You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get
this living water?" (John 4:11)
Today she might have arched her eyebrows and said, "Seriously? That well is deep."
Wells are usually important places in our Bible. Meetings that are not just random, revelations that are important; this list goes on. Isaac's servant met Rebekah, as we studied; Moses met Zipporah; and we just studied where Jacob met Rachel at the well. Those are some great love stories, no?
Perhaps this woman's story is a love story, too.
When we studied John 4 before, we noted that some people are "looking for love in all the wrong places." But perhaps this woman had five husbands for different reasons . . . in this era, a man could cast off his wife and leave her bereft. And if her husbands had died, she would have remarried in order to survive.
Of course, the fact that she wasn't married to man number six . . . well, that's a different matter. That's a sin, and it's a secret that she didn't know He would reveal.
Well, she had probably been enjoying the banter with a nameless prophet up until this point. Maybe it is the first time in a long while that anyone has actually wanted to talk to her. Perhaps everytime she comes around the women of the village, conversation stops and sidelong glances are exchanged. Way to make her feel like an outsider, ladies. So this conversation might have filled a thirst for encounter, for companionship. But that last remark kind of hurt. She has two choices, here. She can confess, or she can ignore it.
So, she changes the subject. No more talk about living water. No more requests to Him to give it to her, so that she doesn't have to come to the well anymore.
Instead, she talks about worship, about Jerusalem, and about the differences between Jews and Samaritans. Evasive maneuvers. Lots of us can identify with this; some of us did this before we were saved, when people would talk to us about spiritual things. Evasive maneuvers can keep the conversation from becoming too personal, too close to needing to make a decision about Christ.
Finally she gives Him the brush-off:
The woman said, "I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming.
When He comes, He will explain everything to us. (John 4:25)
Wow! Can you imagine how stunned she was at His next words?
I, who speak to you, am He. (verse 26)
Stop for a moment and put yourself in her sandals. Moments after He spoke those words, His disciples arrived, and this would have confirmed it to her. What a moment! Joy must have filled her heart, given her feet wings, and filled her with courage! She left her water jar, ran to the village and told all the people who had previously shunned her, to come and see a man "who told me everything I ever did." And the people came and urged Him to stay for two days -- many believed.
It didn't seem like a particularly promising conversation at the beginning. But a woman's spiritual thirst was going to be satisfied, and a new love story begun.
Join us tomorrow for our conclusion, won't you?