May 31, 2012

The Most Rejected Are Used the Most Mightily

Let's set up the scene here a bit found in John 4 (one of my favorite passages in the new testament). Jesus, along with his disciples, is traveling to Galilee. Now in order to get from Judea (point A) to Galilee (point B), you'd have to go through or around the city of Samaria... usually around it. See, Samaritans were not liked by the Jews at all. In fact I think hate would be a better word for this context. To the Jews, Samaritans were an unclean, racially mixed people, with skewed religious beliefs. They were never to be associated with. The fact that Jesus is compelled to go through the city of Samaria rather than around it, is sort of a big deal. But none-the-less, Jesus and his disciples are traveling through Samaria. They reach the town of Sychar and Jesus sends off everyone to find some lunch (I can't help but think Jesus was thinking if he sent all 12 men they'd have more luck finding food as opposed to one... women are needed folks)...
...so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water... -John 4:6&7
There's a ton going on in these two verses here. Here's Jesus, weary from his journey, sitting and resting at this well. Then try to imagine this scene: a woman, slowly making her way to the well, tired, carrying an empty water jar and in the middle of the day. This was not "normal". Women would normally gather together to draw water early in the morning when the it was cool out, because it is hotter than Hades during the day in this region. I don't know about you, but during the summer, when we hit the 100's or high 90's, the thought of going outside in the middle of the day makes me want to hurl. So to think of walking to get water doesn't seem like fun, but misery to me. But every day this women from Sychar (we never learn her name) travels to the well to draw water in the sweltering heat. It's because of this I think we can learn several things about her.

One, she is an outcast among the Samaritans. (It's a bad situation when you're rejected by the rejects.) Think of the well as your local Starbucks or coffee shop. It's THE place for the women of the community to socialize, converse, and hang out. The Samaritan woman, however, is coming to gather water in the middle of the day, which means she's not an "active" member in this community. In fact it seems like she goes to great lengths to avoid it. If you've read the story before you know that this woman has been married five times, and is currently shacking with her boyfriend, and during this time of history that was frowned upon (which is putting it lightly). You don't get married five times, then sleep and live with maybe husband number six before you're married, and not have a stigma or label attached to you. And I can imagine the stigma the community had attached to this woman: slut... harlot... loose. Who could blame her for going to the well when no one else would be there? Who wants to here the gossip, criticisms, jeers, and slanders, when they're in reference to you. Here's the thing, when a person has been told that they're something a lot and over a long period of time, they start to believe that it's true. So imagine the jolt of shame that pierces her everyday when she gets up and makes that trek to the well... for a man who doesn't really care about her either. Nope. He's just cares about the sexual favors he can get from her. If anything were to happen to her while she was out getting water, no one would give a rip. She's hated and lonely, not just in reality, but internally too.
 
Anyone who encounters Jesus gets their world turned around, and it's no different for this woman. What she thought was just another ordinary day; another day to wallow in her shame, is (I'd say) the best day of her life.
...Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink" (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 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.) -John 4:7-9
Two monumental things just happened. First, Jesus is actually talking to this woman. In this culture, if a man were to speak to a woman, it was his wife, and rarely would he even talk to her in a public setting. As I've mentioned, Jews would avoid Samaritans. And rabbis never talked to immoral people. So the fact that here's Jesus, a man, a Jew, and a rabbi, (and he's certainly not interested in what he can "get" from her) initiating a conversation with her, is a big deal and had to have been surprising and confusing for her at the same time. Just goes to show that Jesus didn't put much stock in His reputation; he's not concerned about what everybody else is going to think or say, and how many of us could say the same? We all tend to care too much about what other people think of us. It's just something to think about, but who in your life are you avoiding because you're worried about what other people would think and say about you? "Fellowship with sinners is the gospel of Christ. There is no other gospel." The second big thing that's just occurred here is Jesus asking her for a drink. If you did have to travel through Samaria, you brought your own dishes because Samaritans were seen as unclean. So Jesus is breaking through all the social barriers here, he doesn't care about them, he cares about people.
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 again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling 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" -John 4:10-15
Back up a little here... Jesus has just turned the conversation towards theology. This again, is just another example of Him breaking the social barriers and traditions, because women weren't taught the Torah back in this day, but Jesus has just initiated a conversation with her about her spiritual life. (Another first for her... she's having a lot of those moments on this day.) But, it's almost like she doesn't quite catch on to this at first. Jesus is talking about living water here in relation to her relationship with God, but in her mind she's probably thinking about how she can get this "special" water, that will quench her thirst, while never having to make the trip to this well ever again. Jesus is trying to get to her heart, but she's doesn't quite understand this, so He then goes to her "wound."
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" 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 spirit and truth"  -John 4:16-24
"The quickest way to our heart is a wound." That's 100% true. And Christ has just put his finger on hers. This woman loves and craves male attention, but she consistently picks the men who in the end don't genuinely love her, but rather manipulate and use her. Notice the way Jesus brings this up though. Scholars say that Jesus is calling her out on her sin, and while I think true, I don't think He's not in her face about it or heartless though. I'd argue he's being gentle and tender with her here. At the same time though, Jesus isn't going to hand her a spiritual band-aid and send her on her merry way either. He's going to in a sense, cut out the infection first. That thing she has elevated above God and loves more than Him, her idol, which is her relationships with men.

If there's one thing you and I will be doing now and throughout eternity, it's worship. Everybody worships something, no one is the exception to it. At a first glance it's easy for us to think that she's trying to change the subject with Jesus, when all of the sudden she starts talking about worship and which temple to go to, but I don't think that's true. Remember Jesus has just told her that He knows about her marriages and the jerk she's currently shacking up with, and she had to have been a bit taken back by this. After all, she's never met this man before... how would he know all of this? (Probably felt a bit like finding out someone has been reading your diary you lock up.) So she calls Him a prophet (our girl is starting to catch on here...) and proceeds to ask him about temple. The fact that she's now asking him about where she needs to go worship shouldn't be a surprise. He's told her her sin, and now she wants to know what she must do to be clean. Her idol is found in how she relates to men. She's gone from man to man to man in order to feel one of her deepest needs: intimacy. See, there's nothing wrong with our needs really. Everybody has needs that are legitimate, one of which is intimacy, meaning to be fully known and loved without fear. The problem lies in how we as humans go about trying to fulfill our needs. This woman has chased after men to fill the void in her life, she's taken a legitimate need and fulfilled it in an illegitimate way. It's caused her to elevate men to a status that only God was meant to have. Can we in our relationships with our spouses have intimacy? Yes, but it cannot be ultimate. Ultimate intimacy can only be found in relationship with the Creator, because He knows every single thing about us, past, present, and future. And it's through this conversation that Jesus is trying to get her to take her eyes off of the past and her current circumstance, and focus on him. He's showing her need for true intimacy can only be found in relationship with him. And this will in turn produce the right kind of worship. He's showing her that she doesn't have to go to the temple in order to get forgiveness, now that He's here, and he flat-out tells her that He's the long-awaited Messiah, which it pretty big...
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
This next part I love, because she leaves behind that stupid water jar (which sorta feels like she's leaving the old behind) and runs to tell everybody in town. There's also one last social barrier broken here because we see that the town believes her testimony of all that has just occurred, in a time where a woman's testimony wasn't ever regarded. And it's through her that a whole town came to know the Messiah. Jesus used the most rejected person in their community to bring them THE best news ever.
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?" 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 the town and were coming to him... Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did" So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world" -John 4:27-30, 39-42

3 comments :

  1. natalie, this is so good! youre such a great teacher of the Word :)

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  2. Excellent thoughts, Natalie! Thanks for sharing. I learned some new things about this passage. :)

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  3. Wow, that was incredible. There's always something new to find in John - rejection is something we all deal with, likely not the extent the woman at the well did. But to see Jesus using it, crazy reminder that no area in our life is off limits.

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