Jesus therefore, being tired from his journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
– John 4
Perhaps one of the most well-known passages in Scripture, what can we take from this that would be useful to us this week?
We could look at things from Jesus perspective and see much that is remarkable in an unremarkable everyday passage. Historically, Samaria was the worship place of the northern kingdom of Israel, before it was taken captive by the Assyrians, never to be rejoined to the southern tribes (Judea) from which Jesus came. The nation split after Solomon’s reign, and the Northern tribes moved the place of worship from Jerusalem. But the nation became ‘contaminated’ after it was captured, and they intermarried to produce a mixed race, something the orthodox Jews despised because it contradicted their law.
Further, we get an important clue about this woman because of the time she came to the well. It was midday, the heat of the day. Normal people, women in general (who drew water in those days) came in the morning and evening. This was a person who was shunned, probably ashamed.
When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, it was in the night. He couldn’t afford to be seen with the Messiah during normal business hours, it risked his reputation. The conversation he desperately wanted had to be had at night.
But for Jesus, there was no pride concerning one race, or even gender over another. Decades later, Paul would note that we were all ‘one blood under Christ’, highlighting God’s perspective on his creation. The woman was surprised that he would talk to a Samaritan, and his disciples were surprised that he would talk to a woman. Only Jesus appeared entirely comfortable.
How often our pride gets in the way of our opportunities, as we choose who is suitable for the Kingdom of God. I was reading only this week, that bad people make great disciples because their deeds make good fertiliser. Do we know any bad people; do we go looking for ‘bad people’ or do we spend our lives hanging out with good people? As we walk and talk with people about the Gospel, we almost always find that the greatest interest comes from those who don’t consider themselves good enough, and are lacking in any religious background. Dare we say it, those of ethnic background seem so much more interested in our God, than we do.
When I look closely at Jesus’ conversations, there is almost always a vulnerability about him as he talks with others. The Lord of the Universe never seems to overpower, or take the conversational high ground, rather he comes at things with openness and humility, meeting people in their current state. There is no condemnation nor judgement.
We see also that people matter to Christ. In 1 Peter, we are told that all of the heavenly realm – angels, principalities and authorities (both dark and light) accept the absolute authority of Jesus Christ as Lord of all, and yet he deems a despised, adulterous Samaritan woman worthy of a conversation. It seems he almost went looking for her. To converse with such people, a woman especially, was considered by the Jewish elite to make oneself unclean before God, yet here is God’s Son, deciding that she needed his attention.
Recently I was cooking at a bbq for the Salvation Army, and I found myself with a hanger on, who talked incessantly; the man was out of his mind, addled by a heavy drug addiction and he made no sense. In a short period of time, he assured me that he had been a well-known surgeon, an explorer and a successful businessman in a life that was still quite young. I confess that I didn’t bother to give him the time of day, but every now and then in the conversation he would suddenly ask me if I was listening, or if I just wished he would go away. He caught me off guard with his perception of my patronising attitude and I was ashamed. There is none of that here. Jesus is on a mission and this woman was important.
The array of people that Jesus spoke to is simply staggering. He appears delighted to be in anyone’s company, and was willing to draw near to all; he simply shared, and shared simply the purpose of his mission without allowing any prejudice to get in the way. Prostitutes, tax gatherers, ethnic minorities, people with deep shame, the sick the lame, even the religious elite – Jesus went looking for them all.
What does he teach us? Firstly, that you, that I, – we, are important to God. He loves us all. Then, he teaches us that we must never assume to need to measure up before we come to him. We don’t measure up, he knows that and we know that, but we must come anyway. We shall not be turned away.
Finally, for those who believe we must change our thinking. In churches, too often I hear us tell people to come to Jesus, but before that happens we must take him to people. With one so great, so magnificent, so full of God’s grace, why would you want to keep it a secret?