THE SAMARITAN WOMAN AT THE WELL:
A DISCIPLE OF AND AN EVANGELIST FOR CHRIST
COME AS YOU ARE | LENTEN DEVOTIONAL 3.5.21
Read and pray through John 4:1 – 42.
Introduction | We are walking together through the Church season of Lent. Lent, which means “springtime or renewal,” began to be observed by the Body of Christ sometime during the 4th century. Lent spans forty days (not counting Sundays) modeled after Jesus’ time fasting in the wilderness before beginning his earthly ministry. Lent is a sacred time of remembrance, renewal, and spiritual preparation in our journey of faith with Jesus.
Over these next few weeks of Lent, we invite you to take up the practice of reading and reflecting on the women who first followed Jesus. We all know that the four gospels emphasize the twelve disciples whom Jesus called to “Come and see.” But several women also follow Jesus as he teaches, heals, offers miraculous signs, and purposefully makes his way towards first, offering himself on a Cross, but ultimately rising to a life beyond death.
Each week, we will look more closely at one of these women so we can better appreciate what they each saw in Jesus and how they learned to follow his lead with their lives. Each Tuesday, I’ll provide an overview and some brief reflection on the life of each of these women. On Thursday, a female member of our staff will offer their thoughts. Each Saturday, I will provide a Lectio Divina prayer exercise so that we can reflect more deeply on the Spirit in terms of each week’s devotional theme and focus.
Reflection | Throughout the Gospels we see multiple examples of people seeking out Jesus and being transformed by their encounters with him. Men and women alike hear about the words and deeds of this man from Nazareth and, spurred on by faith and hope (and perhaps, desperation), they set out to meet this teacher. I greatly admire these biblical figures; the hemorrhaging woman whose faith is so strong that she determinedly pushes through a crowd just for the chance to touch Jesus’ robe, or disciples like Peter and Mary Magdalene who leave everything behind to follow Jesus in his ministry. But, if I’m honest, I relate far more to the woman at the well.
Her encounter with Christ occurs in the middle of her day as she goes about her business. She is not looking for him. It is Jesus who starts the conversation and, faced with this chance encounter, the woman does what I often do in my relationship with Jesus; she asks a lot of questions. Coming to collect water from the well, this woman is not anticipating a spiritual experience. And initially, the practicalities of the world around her prevent her from understanding the gift Jesus is offering her. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” As I imagine myself in this woman’s shoes, I empathize with her response to this profound statement, which seems to be, “That’s nice, sir, but you don’t even have a bucket.”
Jesus is patient and persistent in his encounter with this woman. He does not scold her for her questions; he is not annoyed by her misunderstanding. He meets her where she is at, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. This story reminds us that Jesus is in the driver’s seat of our lives. It reorients us to place the action of the Lord over and above any action we may take. While the decision to live our lives for Christ is of course significant, any choice we make for Jesus is possible only because Jesus first chose us.
As Pastor Chris explained, Jesus’ engagement with a Samaritan woman at all was completely outside of the norm. In fact, the first question the woman asks Jesus is one of incredulity that a Jewish man is asking her for a drink of water. This question demonstrates an awareness that from the perspective of any devout Jewish person, she is not someone to be addressed. Pastor Chris’ devotional earlier this week explained the context for this posture; there were historically and theologically based concerns behind the Jewish people’s separation from Samaritan communities. At its core, it sprang from a desire to be as faithful as possible in their worship of God. This is something that we can also see at play in the Church today. For many Christians, anything (and anyone) outside of the Church is to be avoided. In our attempts to faithfully follow Jesus, many of us isolate ourselves from those who we believe to be living wrongly. Notice though that this is not Jesus’ posture. He engages this woman rather than avoiding her; he treats her not with derision, or suspicion, or condemnation, but as one worthy of the living water available through him. He offers her these waters at this moment, as she is, not after receiving some commitment from her that she will “turn her life around”. Again, it is because Jesus reaches out to her that the woman is inspired to go and share the good news she has received with her community.
We are told that, through this woman’s testament, many Samaritans came to believe in Jesus. A moment of profound transformation for an entire group of people was made possible because Jesus crossed lines society set down–because he sought out a woman who was just going about her day. The story of the woman at the well reminds us that Jesus is pursuing us right now, in the midst of our brokenness, even if we are not actively pursuing him. This Samaritan woman joins a long line of people whom we would write off, but whom God uses for his good.
Consider & Discuss | In the midst of life’s busyness, how might Jesus be reaching out to you? What seemingly mundane daily moments could be opportunities to grow closer to Christ?
Jesus breaks through some significant cultural barriers and prejudices to engage with this Samaritan woman. Are there people in your life that on the other side of such barriers whom God might be calling you to engage?
Prayer Focus | Gracious God, we thank you for being relentless in your pursuit of us. In a world so frequently characterized by division and disagreement, we thank you for this story that reminds us that the good news is for all. You invite us to come to you as we are; through your power and grace may we be empowered to share your goodness with all the world. Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!