Shame and Salvation – The Woman’s Journey of Discovery
In the first blog of this series, we looked at Jesus’ encounter with the scandalous Samaritan woman in John 4: 1-42. This time we will approach this encounter from the woman’s perspective.
The Samaritan woman has come to Jacob’s Well in the middle of the day to avoid the attention of others, almost certainly because of her reputation and to avoid attention. She has learned the pecking order and is trying to respect it.
She then encounters a man, a Jewish man, who breaks all the conventions and seems to have no ulterior motives.
This is unlike many of the men of her own race of which, we later discover, she has had plenty of experience. Her stereotypes are becoming totally confused. We read:
“You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink of water when Jews and Samaritans won’t have anything to do with each other?” Jesus answered, “You don’t know what God wants to give you, and you don’t know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would ask me for the water that gives life.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where are you going to get this life-giving water? Our ancestor Jacob dug this well for us, and his family and animals got water from it. Are you greater than Jacob?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again. But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.” The woman replied, “Sir, please give me a drink of that water! Then I won’t get thirsty and have to come to this well again.”
The interchange between them is fascinating since it begins with Jesus asking her for a drink – she has the bucket and can meet his need. It quickly leads on to a conversation in which he offers her something that sounds much more refreshing than the water he asked her for and in the meantime he seems to have forgotten he’s thirsty!
The heart of the encounter is exposed when Jesus makes what seems a simple request of the woman – something that may seem to be an attempt to legitimize their social contact:
Have a look at this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7yA4EHnCvU
‘Jesus told her, “Go and bring your husband.” The woman answered, “I don’t have a husband.” “That’s right,” Jesus replied, “you’re telling the truth. You don’t have a husband. You have already been married five times, and the man you are now living with isn’t your husband.”’
Truth can Set People Free
I recall reflecting on this passage the first time I saw this monologue performed and it occurred to me that if I had experienced life as this woman had done, and in a society with such strict standards, the last person I would want to meet would have been a prophet.
Prophets see hidden things and they bring judgement on sin.
John records her response as almost matter-of-fact: “I see you are a prophet, sir”, but it becomes clear that deep inside her something profound is happening.
“You knew all this about me and yet you risked your reputation to speak with me.”
“You knew all this about me and you treated me with the utmost kindness and respect.”
“You knew all this about me and you haven’t jumped to the usual conclusions.”
“You are a prophet who sees the whole truth – but as you tell me about my life, the shame that has accompanied me for so long no longer stings.”
At no point does Jesus condone, but neither does he feel the need to condemn. In this meeting with Jesus this woman is brought face to face with truth yet in a way that leaves her no longer feeling the need to hide. In this one encounter she has moved from what she sees with her eyes to a far deeper understanding of who Jesus is:
You are an unusual man (4:7) You are a Jew (4:9) You are a Prophet (4:19)
This is the point in the account at which the disciples return from their shopping trip. Instantly we see that they are confused but not one of them asks why Jesus is talking to the woman. She is clearly of no significance to them. The woman, however, is profoundly moved and her badge of shame no longer prevents her from engaging with everyday people. The text says:
‘The woman left her water jar and ran back into town. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be the Messiah?” Everyone in town went out to see Jesus.’
And a few verses later we read:
‘A lot of Samaritans in that town put their faith in Jesus because the woman had said, “This man told me everything I have ever done.” They came and asked him to stay in their town, and he stayed on for two days. Many more Samaritans put their faith in Jesus because of what they heard him say. They told the woman, “We no longer have faith in Jesus just because of what you told us. We have heard him ourselves, and we are certain that he is the Savior of the world!”’
Surely the woman arrives at the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah not because he could see facts about her that others couldn’t but because of the manner in which he told the truth to her. John has already told us that Jesus was “full of grace and truth” and now we see how what it looks like when God combines those two features in human form.
Jesus revealed the sin of the woman without condemning her, and in the process of doing this He set her free. What have you hidden in your life because of shame that needs to be revealed and released? Will you allow Jesus to do this?
This post is from craigmillward.com & an adaptation of text from Craig’s book Disciplemaker.