All week last week, Jesus kept drawing me into the gospel story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. By Saturday, I was kind of frustrated about it.
What am I missing? I wondered. I prayed for wisdom and revelation and finished washing the dishes, turning the story over in my mind again.
Well, I got to church on Sunday, and guess what the sermon was on? You guessed it. The Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Although the guest preacher did a wonderful job bringing insights, I didn’t hear much of what he said. While he was speaking, God finally let me see this text for what I feel it really is. Allow me to share.
The passage says that the woman is there at the sixth hour (roughly about noon). The guest speaker had commented that you should ask yourself the question: who goes to a well in the desert heat at high noon? Nobody. This women was going to the well at noon because she knew that nobody would be there.
The Samaritan woman is a rejected woman. A woman purposely hiding from others.
That’s why when Jesus tells her that He can offer living water, and then also declared that He can give water that will never make her thirsty again, that she is so desperate in her reply. Hear her voice pleading with him,
“Sir (oh please!), give me this water so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
She wants to never have to come to this place again. She just wants to sit in her house, safely away from people who can hurt her. Dragging the water in the heat wasn’t so bad for her. The fear of running into someone from the town is what takes the toll on her spirit. She has to always be careful in guarding herself. And she’s exhausted from hiding like that.
This is a woman ruled by fear. It controls every thing she does.
When Jesus confronts her sin, He doesn’t have to tell her she’s a sinner. She’s already in self-condemnation mode. When He presses further, she becomes fearful that He will hurt her. After all, according to the law, He could stone her. She relies on a hiding technique. Instead of arguing for herself, she relies on her cultural identity. He would have the right to kill her, but if she makes it about their tribes, and He insults her tribe, they would fight, and it just might save her life. She’s a crafty one. She knows how to hide behind other things in order to survive.
But Jesus doesn’t insult her tribe. He goes to the heart and addresses worship. Worship is the thing you love. The thing you love so much you’re willing to give your life or death to. She’s worshiping fear based control. She’s believing what fear tells her. She’s wasting away her life in fear. And instead, through this conversation, Jesus systematically breaks that all down, and in essence says:
You are not your sin.
You are not your neighborhood.
You are not what you’ve learned or what you know.
But He doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t just reveal the false worship. He gives her something to actually worship. Because right then, Jesus does something amazing. He reveals His identity to her. (She is actually the first person that we see Him revealing Himself to.) While she is stuck not knowing who she is, reacting to who others say she is, Jesus says:
This is who I am. Now, who are you?
We often glance over the last part of this story. The part where she goes back to the town. But this may be the second most important part. Because when she goes to the town, she’s already been transformed. She’s no longer a person in hiding. She’s a person risking exposure. That’s why the people of the town come out to see Jesus. They know this woman wouldn’t dare speak up and face them if it wasn’t real.
She becomes someone who pushes past her sin and her fears in order to point to Jesus.
I’m breathless at this point. Are you? And I see myself in her. Do you?
Truth to be told, when I’m hiding, I don’t need to be reminded who I am or what I’m gifted in. I need to be reminded who He is. And He is “the Lord, the Lord, gracious and slow to anger. Abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6)
And as my dear friend Jill reminded me today…belief in His kindness is the only way we come before the throne of grace, confident that we’ll find mercy there. (Hebrews 4:16)
That’s something I’ll worship over.