Nickie Waehner – Global Outreach Trip Coordinator and Educator
A well. A woman. And Jesus. The story of the woman at the well has always intrigued me. I’m often drawn to stories where Jesus interacts with women and what their responses are, but this story by far is one of my favorites in the entire Bible. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this story, or maybe you forgot, I recommend stopping right now and finding Bible (or Google) and read the story (John 4)!
Okay, now that you’ve read it, do you see how deeply Jesus loves?? When I read this story, His altruistic and grace-filled love is beautifully evident. And I’m sure all you church-going people have heard this story a million times and know about how many layers there are in this story that make it even more intricate and beautiful. But even if you already know them (or maybe you don’t and that’s okay) let’s take a moment and focus on a few of the important pieces; the layers that make me want to lean in and be more like Jesus and more like the Samaritan woman, at least!
Layer 1: Jewish vs. Samaritan. These two groups did not like one another at all! In fact, most of them hated one another and went out of their way to avoid one another. I don’t know about you, but there are a TON of groups of people in the world that Americans stereotypically dislike at the moment. Could be republicans or democrats depending on your political affiliation. Or maybe it’s a certain group of immigrants. Maybe it’s the younger or older generations. Take a second and think about who your “other” is. We all have them! Jesus went through Samaria, an area that Jewish people would go out of their way to avoid and began talking to a Samaritan woman! Two negatives to a Jewish man at the time, and yet Jesus begins a conversation with her in love and respect. Loving Jesus means you cannot have an “other.” You don’t have the option to hate or disrespect anyone for any reason if you truly love Jesus.
Layer 2: The Timing. Did you guys catch when the Samaritan woman came to the well? In the afternoon! Many believe that because she came to draw water for her household in the afternoon, it meant that she was even lower in her own society. She decided to isolate herself and go in the middle of day, sun beating and hot, rather than go to the well in the morning when the all of the other women went. She was a woman in idolatry who was an outcast in her society. And yet, Jesus loves her, talks to her, and reveals His identity to her!!! There are not many times in the gospels that Jesus actually says that He is the Messiah, yet He reveals his true identity to her. He reveals that He is the Messiah to a person from the lowest part of society in the “other” group. Do you see how radical and challenging this is?!
Layer 3: Verse 41 & 42. After Jesus reveals His identity and grace to this woman, she drops what she’s doing and races back to the town. She shares with them about Jesus! This woman, a woman who is an outcast and isolated, could not contain herself and shared with everyone who disliked her about Jesus. I don’t know about you, but when I feel disliked by someone, I don’t often race back to share good news with them. But Jesus’ love is way more powerful than anything else and because of this woman, MANY came to love and follow Jesus. MANY! How beautiful is that?!? The woman that was once in disgrace is now clothed in grace and love and many came to know and follow because of her. I hope you’re on the edge of your seat like I am!!
There are so many parallels to our lives in this story. Maybe it’s challenging for you to imagine your “other” and think about how to treat them in the way Jesus would. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed with how Jesus loved this woman and gave her grace because you need to be shown grace for something you’re ashamed of. Or maybe you’re intrigued by how she became an evangelist and helped lead a lot of her friends and family to Jesus. All of these have impacted me at different times in my life and when I read this story. I can’t help but be in awe of Jesus’ character and love and it makes me want to lean in even further and help others know Jesus in the way that the Samaritan woman did! In November, I visited the very well that Jesus met this woman and it took all of me to not be overcome with tears of joy. I can’t adequately describe what it’s like to be literally where Jesus was; overwhelming is a drastic understatement . I can imagine Jesus leaning on this well and asking the Samaritan woman for a drink; ignoring her status, culture, and ethnicity because none of that matters in light of Jesus’ love. I’ve been that woman needing grace and love, and Jesus is always there, sitting at the well to offer that to me! And you! We just have to meet him there!