Are there people that you try to avoid? I am not talking about the guy who talks with his mouth full of food. I am talking about the kinds of people who are shunned. People who are different. People who have nothing to offer you. People who are complicated. The Samaritan woman in this story personifies that type of person. Jesus’ interaction with her should challenge both how we interact with others and how we interact with God.
There were no airplanes in the 1st century. No airplanes means no ‘flyover country.’ Jesus walked everywhere. Still, at that time most Jews did everything they could to avoid traveling through Samaria. Samaritans were a mixed race—a mixture of Jews and Assyrians. Jesus did not avoid Samaria though. He had an important relationship to build there.
It was noontime and Jesus was tired so he stopped at a well for refreshment. The Apostles had gone into town to get lunch and as Jesus rested, a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Why now? Why was she alone? The story in John 4 tells us that this woman had been married five times and that the man she currently lived with was not her husband. Imagine that for a moment. It is remarkable really. This woman had been rejected five times. It is likely that her current beau really didn’t love her.
Not the way she needed to be loved anyway.
So, here she was- rejected, humiliated, and isolated. I am sure she came to the well alone because she was not welcome to join the ‘respectable’ women of the town. Maybe she came alone because she was avoiding people. Maybe she didn’t want to get hurt anymore. She must have longed for relationship though- one good friend, falling in love, feeling ‘safe’ with someone. But if she put herself out there, she would be vulnerable. She could get hurt. So, she shuts down and shuts the world out. Does that sound familiar?
Jesus had something amazing to offer this woman though. As she approached the well, Jesus asked her for a drink. Oh, the scandal! With this one request, Jesus broke at least half a dozen societal taboos. Don’t talk to women in public! Don’t greet a woman! Don’t be alone with a woman! Plus—she is a Samaritan! Oh, the horror! Jesus crossed many religious, cultural, and socio-economic barriers in order to offer this woman the one thing she was longing for- Living water.
Jesus didn’t see an outcast. Jesus didn’t see a joke, a failure. He saw this woman’s potential and on a fundamental level, he saw his creation and recognized that it was good. She was good. This woman had value in Jesus’ eyes, even if no other person on earth could recognize that. During the course of their conversation Jesus does something absolutely amazing. John 4:26 says that Jesus revealed himself as God for the first time to this woman. Out of all the people to whom Jesus could have revealed his true nature, why this woman? Why Samaria? This woman finally lets someone in and he, in turn, trusts her with precious news. Jesus offers this woman living water and in doing so offers her everything that she needs- belonging, intrinsic worth, value.
So, what does Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman teach us about how God views women now? I think it is powerful testimony that God sees you. God values you, regardless of how other people value you. But God wants the best for you. God wants you to stop trying to quench your thirst with things that will only leave you thirstier. Quench your thirst through a relationship with Him!
What does this encounter teach us about how we should treat others? Who do you avoid? What is keeping you from reaching out to the people who are considered unacceptable by our culture? How do you think Jesus would treat them?
Thanks for reading!