by Josiah Potts
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Pic by by AlienObserver
John 4:1-42 is the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. I believe this passage reveals a lot about the character and nature of Jesus. The woman He encounters was a Samaritan. At that time the Jewish community considered the Samaritans an “inferior” race.
This woman had been divorced five times and was living with her current boyfriend. [In this time, men could divorce their wives without reason or cause. This left the woman shamed and without any means, and if she remarried she would be branded an adulteress.]
So here this woman is on her sixth man, who will most likely discard her as well. She is drawing water at noontime to avoid the scorn of her fellow Samaritan women who retrieved their water in the cool of the morning. She then has a personal and PRIVATE interaction with Jesus that changes her world: He offers her living water.
Jesus doesn’t say all of her problems will be fixed immediately; or all of her relational baggage will be healed instantly. Instead He offers her life, not perfection. Jesus is telling her that if she would look to Him as her source she would never find herself in a place of hiding again. When He speaks to her circumstance it encourages her. She is receptive and doesn't become defensive or argumentative.
I like how Jesus begins the conversation. He just simply asks her for a drink - but it was so much more than a drink of water, since the Jewish people and the Samaritans had no dealings with one another. The Jewish people would not use anything that the Samaritans had touched. Not only did He ask to use her bucket, He asked to drink from her well. (Think in terms of pre-civil rights segregation when there were ‘white’ and ‘colored’ drinking fountains.) Not only is He interacting with a person from a supposed inferior race, but also a woman who is an outcast because of the stigma of adultery. Jesus breaks through so many social barriers to speak into her life.
Does He heap on the guilt, condemnation, and shame? No, He offers her a source that would completely fill the void in her heart. The heart of what I hear Jesus saying to her is - ‘I see you.’ ‘I see you trying to find validation from others.’ ‘I see the things you have done and the relationships you have clung to in order to feel whole.’ ‘I see you in hiding from the mistakes you have made.’ ‘I see the hurt and pain.’ Jesus offers her a way of escape; not in rules, but in changing where her source comes from. We see the impact of this interaction by her response.
My favorite part about this story is that we don't know if she ends up marrying or leaving the current boyfriend yet we do know she ends up getting an entire village to believe in Jesus. She has the courage to tell everyone about the Man who validated her. Because of His validation she is given the courage to speak to the very group of people who shunned her. When we have genuine encounters with Jesus, we are changed, inspired, and convinced of righteousness; and we want others to experience the same as well.
In my journey in life Jesus has found me in this same place on multiple occasions, looking for validation outside of Him; hiding from the world, suffocated by guilt and shame. In those moments Jesus’ correction is always about getting my eyes back on Him; it always addresses the source of the issue and not the symptom. His correction is loving and gentle, never harsh or militant. Jesus’ correction comes from a private place. He does not put me on display or call me out for the world to see.
In our humanity we often fail. We have daily opportunities to feel discouraged, ashamed, and devalued. Jesus has offered us a source that will never run dry, a place we can go to remind us of who we really are; not what our circumstances or people would try to dictate. No matter how many times we miss the mark, we can go to Jesus and He will remind us of all that He has said about us and all that He has promised.