John 4:1-26 and 39-42
I Love the pictures the bible gives us. Pictures of Jesus and pictures of God’s people wrestling with how to live out their faith in the real world. Regular people just like us. The story of the woman at the well is one of those kind of stories.
Sometimes stories become so familiar that I think I know them and because of what I think I know, sometimes I miss details.
God orchestrates ordinary circumstances to accomplish extraordinary things.
In this scripture there is a little passage, kind of a side note that caught my attention. Jesus HAD to go through Samaria. Some translations say Jesus needed to go. Jews at that time had as little to do with Samaritans as possible. They would take the long way around to avoid going through Samaria. So that makes me wonder…why did Jesus, a Jew, HAVE to go through Samaria? So, if we walk this out – Jesus did His Father’s will. So if Jesus had to go through Samaria, then logically, it was His Father’s will that He go that way. If he had not obeyed His Father’s will, He would not have met the Samaritan woman. (sometimes when we listen to the prodding of the Holy Spirit we may go through unfamiliar and even uncomfortable territory.
If you have an encounter with Jesus, you might do something out of the ordinary (like leaving your water jug behind)
So here we are. Jesus, wholly divine and fully human is sitting at this well, tired and hot. A woman shows up at the well to get water. She must not have been rich or she might have had servants to fetch water for her. But Jesus listens to her. He SEES her, right to the heart of her life. Maybe his words caused her to see herself through His eyes, and made her realize how badly she needed grace. I’m not sure what His words meant to the woman but we know from the text, they were personal and He revealed Himself to her as the messiah! The words must have had a profound effect on her because she was so excited that she went off and left her water jar. In the desert. Left. it. THAT is what an encounter with Jesus can do to you. I imagine if I went to Walmart for milk and was gone several hours and came back empty handed, Dale and I would be having a conversation. Now notice what happened. She went back and told the others that this man told her everything she had ever done and they BEGAN to believe. Something about what she said or maybe just how she was, made them want to meet him.
Sharing our faith doesn’t convert anyone. We just have to point them to Jesus. Jesus does the heavy lifting. It is their own encounter with the Christ that changes them.
Whatever effect Jesus had on this woman, something about her caused the people she spoke to, to have a desire to meet this Jesus for themselves and once they met Him, they wanted to hang out with him and because of their time with Jesus, Christianity spread throughout that part of the world. Pretty extraordinary!
So what are we to do with this? How does this story speak to each of us? For me, it reminds me we are all walking through a desert. It can be beautiful but also it’s dry and dusty and just harsh sometimes. On Sunday morning we come here – to our well where we can rest and be refreshed.
We are tired and thirsty. Maybe we have spent the week wrestling with our faith, trying to work out how to live as one of God’s kids. Maybe we have had one of those weeks where we resembled the Samaritan. We have worshipped on a different mountain and hung out at different wells, and our own beliefs have gotten muddied. Maybe it was wonderful and we just need to say our thanks and praise the one who sustains us. Whatever the week was like, we are here now with with our empty cups held out. We need an encounter with Jesus. We need that thirst to be quenched. We need to be filled with living water.
But just showing up at the well isn’t enough. Like the woman at the well, we have to seek Jesus for Him to reveal Himself to us and ASK Him for that water. If we walk into the sanctuary with our empty cup held out, asking Jesus to fill it, to fill US with living water then it isn’t going to matter who is behind the pulpit. It isn’t going to matter that our favorite hymn wasn’t sung. It may not even matter what team’s playing or where we are eating after church because we will have in some way met Jesus and we will be changed. And maybe, just maybe, if we are paying attention, there will be someone we encounter in the next week that needs to meet this Jesus and we will have a conversation, or perform a kindness, or just seem different and it will point them in a new path in the desert, not just to fill a pew at our church, though that would be wonderful; but because every single person needs to know that they are not alone in the desert, needs their own encounter with the risen Christ, and needs to know that at the end of that long walk through the desert, Jesus is waiting for them.