Friday, April 9, 2010

Jacob's Well

It was hot.  It was the middle of the day.  It was the time of day that a social outcast was expected to get water from Jacob’s Well.  She was a social outcast.  Even among the mostly pagan Samaritans, she was an outcast.  Her lifestyle was questionable and avoided.  Mothers whispered about her to their children.  And old women concocted fantastic stories about why this woman had had five husbands.  Sometimes she got sympathy.  After all, maybe her former husbands were displeased with her.  But the sympathy was secretive; no one dared risk reputation.  Mostly, she got noses.  They pointed upward, supporting slits of unmoved eyes and crowning motionless strips of lip.  

She pulled her cloak over her forehead to shield her eyes from the straightforward sun.  In the morning, the ladies helped one another juggle their jars, but she would make another attempt to balance hers alone.  As she drew near the well, she spied a man sitting on the edge of the stone.  She hesitated and glanced nervously about.  It wasn’t highly unusual for a man to come and get a drink at any time of day, but she couldn’t afford any additional ammunition for the gossip chains.  Oh well, she thought, what difference does it make now!  She approached the well casually and unloaded her jar.  She did her best to appear relaxed and indifferent to his presence.  But he didn’t facilitate her indifference, “May I have a drink?” he asked.  She jumped.  The request startled her.  And then her eyes fell upon the features of his face.  “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’  (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’  The woman said to him, ‘Sir you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.  Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob?  He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’  Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever.  The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’  The woman said, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’” John 4:9-15.

Now He had her full attention.  A man, a Jew, who spoke with her freely and had water that quenched thirst forever.  No more embarrassing trips to the well at noonday. “Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband and come here.’  The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’  Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘ I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.  What you have said is true.’  The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’” John 4:16-20.   Disappointment.  He was just another Jewish prophet come to tell her why she had no hope of knowing God.  She had come to feel that the religious system was nothing more than a political debate over who should be in charge.  But this Man was taking the conversation a different direction… “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  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 sprit and truth.” John 4:21-24.

The Samaritan women looked off into the distance.  She didn’t understand the meaning of His words.  They sounded interesting, but what she longed to see someday was the Man who was supposed to save everybody. …the Messiah.  She wanted to know what this wonderful Man would do to bring freedom and miracles and quality to life.  She looked back at this foolish Jewish man spouting prophecies.  Probably she would never see the Messiah.  Probably she would never have a chance to understand all of these things.  “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,’” John 4:25-26.  Seriously?  It took a moment to sink in.  Then her jaw dropped, her knees went weak, and she felt a little sick. …overwhelmed.  The Jewish Messiah had just spent the past hour talking with her casually!  He had asked her for water and prophesied her past.  And never once did she feel belittled or her sins unnecessarily exposed.  He just said He knew about it and than offered her some forever water!  He respected her feminine Samaritan person and offered to give her something!  This was not normal or usual in any sense.

Just then his disciples came back.  They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’” John 4:27.  They weren’t going to say it, but this wasn’t normal or usual in any sense.  “ So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come see, a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Christ?’  They went out of town and were coming to him,” John 4:4-30.

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