A Bible study through John 1-6
“‘But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’”
The narrative of the woman at the well in John 4 is a beautiful story of redemption, compassion, and unconditional love. Many excellent teachers have given powerful messages on this passage of Scripture; therefore, I am not going to attempt to unpack the many levels of deep truth and implications from this story. However, there are a couple points that are worth pondering before we leave this passage.
As we noted last time, Jesus broke the mold and crossed cultural boundaries to make this story possible. However, Jesus also went to the least likely and embraced her for who she was and sought to give her life and hope. He wasn’t put off by hard exteriors, and He wasn’t afraid to look people straight in the eye in the midst of their pain. In fact, Jesus wasn’t hesitant to probe the wounds in order to bring healing, for he knew that before healing and restoration can be given, the pain and brokenness of the past must be dealt with.
Finally, Jesus didn’t care about his reputation. He didn’t wonder what people might think if he met a woman with a dark past at a well in the middle of the day. He wasn’t concerned about losing credibility in the eyes of His disciples nor was He worried about what the religious leaders and authorities might think of His actions. On the contrary, Jesus ignored the opinions and thoughts of men and sought to please His Father alone. And on this day, pleasing and obeying the Father required a conversation with a broken woman at a well in a rejected society during the heat of the day.
Meanwhile, the Samaritan woman was completely the opposite. She was very much aware and concerned about public opinion, so she came to the well in the middle of the day to avoid the judgment and social awkwardness of the community. She was guarded. Deflection was her go to mode of self-defense. Her heart had been torn and trampled on by too many people. She had no confidants and did not feel safe enough to talk openly with others because she had been rejected by too many people.
But Jesus broke through her barriers by having a conversation and loving her despite her past. By seeing the woman at the well and looking past her hard exterior and into her wounded heart, Jesus was able to bring hope and light. The sacrifices Jesus was willing to make in time, reputation, comfort, and public image were all leveraged to reach out to this woman and change her life. He left the 99 in pursuit of the one.
This is an important lesson for us to learn from. In our faulty human nature, we often get caught up in numbers. How many people were saved? How many lives were touched? How many attended and were blessed by the event?
However, God is interested in people one at a time. Jesus often left the crowds unexpectedly, but He never abandoned one-on-one conversations. In fact, as with the woman at the well, Jesus often went to great lengths to facilitate these life changing conversations. Truth and love can be communicated to large crowds, but the most effective way is through individual relationships. Therefore, as we seek to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and reach out to others with His love, this is an important lesson to learn.
While sin should never be condoned, it also shouldn’t completely disconnect us from others. It is one of the few things all of us universally have in common. We are all sinners saved by grace. We have all fallen short and done things we are not proud of. Therefore, as we watch others stumble through life and experience the pain and baggage of sin, we should not sit watching in self-righteous indignation at their foolishness, but should rather be like Jesus who went out of His way to meet the Samaritan woman and offer her newness of life.
So will we choose to see people as Jesus does? Will we step outside our comfort zone and meet our personal versions of the Samaritan woman? Are we willing to look past the hard exterior and broken lifestyle and see the hurting person behind the mask and the human being created in the image of God and immensely loved by Him?
While the disciples were clueless and ignorant of many things, they had been around Jesus long enough to know that He often did unpredictable and unconventional things. Therefore, when the disciples arrived at the well after grabbing some supplies, they knew better than to ask questions. They didn’t question Jesus’ conversation with the woman or the fact that He was even talking to a woman. I’m sure they wondered and had plenty of questions they could have asked, but they had been with Jesus long enough to know that Jesus didn’t always do the expected.
May we be like the disciples and be prepared for the unexpected as we follow Jesus. And who knows? We may find ourselves in an unlikely place having an unusual conversation with the least likely person at the most unexpected of times. God moves in mysterious ways. Our job is to simply follow Him and love the people He places in front of us.