Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Jesus One on One

This is the second post in a series that examines Jesus' encounters with individuals and what they reveal. To start at the beginning, click here.

The woman who came to draw water and returned refreshed and full.

The gospel of John records more one on one encounters than do Matthew, Mark, or Luke. What makes this interesting is that the John's gospel, more than Matthew, mark, and Luke presents Jesus as the Son of God. Rather than the gospel of aloofness, John tells us that God will meet as one on one. 

Yesterday, we looked at Nicodemus in John 3. Today we will look at an unnamed woman that Jesus met at a well. This is from John 4.

Now he came to a Samaritan town called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, since he was tired from the journey, sat right down beside the well. It was about noon. 

A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” (For his disciples had gone off into the town to buy supplies.) So the Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you—a Jew—ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) 

Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 

“Sir,” the woman said to him, “you have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do you get this living water? Surely you’re not greater than our ancestor Jacob, are you? For he gave us this well and drank from it himself, along with his sons and his livestock.”

 Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.” 

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” 

He said to her, “Go call your husband and come back here.” 

The woman replied, “I have no husband.” 

Jesus said to her, “Right you are when you said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands and the man you are living with now is not your husband. This you said truthfully!” 

The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you people say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 

Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming—and now is here—when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (the one called Christ); “whenever he comes, he will tell us everything.” 

Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he.” Now at that very moment his disciples came back. They were shocked because he was speaking with a woman; however, no one said, “What do you want?” or “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar, went off into the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Surely he can’t be the Messiah, can he?” So they left the town and began coming to him. (John 4:5-30, The Net Bible)

Jesus' tone of voice and body language began bridging the cultural divide between Jews and Samaritans and men and women. First of all, He sat by the well and remained sitting when the woman came. This gave her control over an awkward situation. Secondly, He asked for water in a tone of voice that, I believe, communicated real need and was not condescending in tone. His deference gave her the boldness to attack Him, "How can you -- a Jew -- ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink?" Perhaps, one might say that her tone was meek here as in, "why are you asking for water from little ol' me?" I do not think so. The conversation that follows shows this woman to be of keen wit and senses. "How can you -- a Jew..." suggests that maybe or maybe not will Jesus get the drink he wants.

Jesus now took the physical situation and turned it into a spiritual opportunity. He said, "If you had know the gift of God..." This gal had heard pick up lines before. And although Jesus was not speaking in that way, she responded such that He was to keep His distance. She was not impressed. He was still a Jew and she was still a Samaritan.

Jesus then spoke clearly into her heart's yearnings, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.” Here the tone, and the Power of the Spirit behind them, spoke truth. She began to let down her guard, "Give me this water, not for that eternal life business, but so that I do not have to keep coming here alone to avoid the other women who avoid me and fear for their husbands." I have, of course, expanded her words to include her thoughts and misgivings, of which Jesus knew.

"Go get your husband!" Could any command to her have been more effective in getting to the core of her life? How do you spell failure? Five husbands gone, perhaps driven off, and the safety of a non-committal relationship. Note how Jesus revealed, but did not condemn. This gave her the means to press Him further about His nature and ministry. She already, I believe, suspected that He was the Messiah, because she had been told that the Messiah "will tell us everything." He affirmed her intuition and off she went to bring out the town. In town, she spoke without shame. She had met Jesus and her past life was past. If Jesus did not condemn her, who were the towns people to try. She had found the healing of soul that we all so desperately need.

Jesus' purpose in this encounter was to satisfy this woman's longing for a permanent and meaningful relationship. The means for this was a relationship with the Father and worship that was in Spirit and in truth. He informed her that truth came from the Jewish Scriptures and that the Holy Spirit fills and refreshes and enables true worship. It is significant that Jesus used the word Father with her rather than God or Adonai. God is remote, the Father is here.

Wind and Water and Food

To Nicodemus was given the metaphor for the Holy Spirit as the wind that blew where it wished. For this woman, the metaphor was living water that fills and refreshes. The wind blew around a well in the Samaritan town of Sychar and many people drank their fill. And Jesus, who began hot, dry, and hungry was, Himself, revived:

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” So the disciples began to say to one another, “No one brought him anything to eat, did they?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work. (John 4:31-34)

I have things in my past life that I do not talk about. My wife knows them, because that is her right, but she does not speak about them either. Shame affects us all. If Jesus had come to condemn, this woman would have seen her doom, and we would have seen ours. Jesus never condoned her failure, and I imagine that she had to get right following this meeting. That was OK, she had met Him and that made the difference. I have seen similar changes in many others. Being the source of our wholeness is something that Jesus finds delight in.

What are you ashamed of? What guilt weighs you down and isolates you? Know this! Jesus did not condemn the woman at the well and He will not condemn you unless you avoid Him, because you like the dark better. Knowing Him brings about change. Repentance is trading in your agenda for His agenda and plan for your life. As she found wholeness and healing, so will you.

Jesus wants to meet you. Open the door and say, "Hi."

Tomorrow: The rich young man who balked at a futures investment strategy of great return.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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