Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Woman at the Well

She was used to the attention of men; married five times and living with a different man now, she was familiar with their ways.  She was also very aware of how easily their attention could be turned elsewhere.  At one time, she might have considered herself attractive to the opposite sex, but not anymore.  If you have been discarded like trash, even once, it is hard to have a positive view of your worth.  It's not hard to imagine how she pinned her hopes on each new relationship, thinking "maybe this time I will be loved".  It's also not hard to imagine how those hopes dimmed with each rejection. 

It only took a couple of failed relationships for the women of the town to begin to turn their back on her.  None of them wanted her close to them or their families.  What if she decided to go after their husband, or their brother?  No--that was too big a risk to take.  At first the women were subtle.  Every time she sought out their company, they were conveniently busy.  The trips to draw water were very quiet for her, and she found herself at the back of the group, listening to the bits of conversation and laughter that drifted her direction.  Once or twice, she thought she heard her name--and then she realized they weren't calling to her, they were talking about her.  She got the hint, after a while, and began making the trip on her own, and everyone was relieved.

And, that's where we find her.  Approaching the well and finding a man waiting there.  A man she has never seen before; a stranger--perhaps a traveler.  He is clearly Jewish.  It would be unseemly for her to talk to him, even with her reputation, and so she prepares to quietly draw the needed water from the well.

"Will you give me a drink?"  Jesus asks.

She is startled at being spoken to by a Jewish man, and by the tender tone of His voice.  She feels compelled to answer Him, and thus begins one of most powerful stories of redemption in the Bible.  By the time this tale ends, she has found acceptance--and along with it, peace and hope.  She is transformed, in the space of a single conversation, into a powerful witness for Jesus and His ability to turn ashes into beauty.  She is unafraid to return to her village and share her experience with everyone she meets.  And the villagers, stunned by the clear change in her, follow her example and seek out the company of Jesus.  Many of them also accept Him as their Savior.

Why did they listen to her?  Why did they find her testimony compelling?  The Bible tells us it is because of something incredible that she said.

"He told me everything I ever did."

Everything?  No secrets?  Nothing held back?  That's what impressed her most.  Jesus knew every sordid detail of her life, and His voice was still tender; His expression was still accepting.  Her life was an open book to Jesus, yet He did not turn His back on her.  Her neighbors hadn't known half of the mistakes she had made, and they couldn't bear her company.  Jesus knew everything and still loved her.

That is what I love best about her story.  Jesus uses this woman to teach everyone about mercy and grace.  What if your life was transparent to everyone you encountered?  How would you be treated?  I have to ask myself how I would feel if everyone I knew could know my every thought and see each hidden sin.  The answer is devastating--I would be rejected and alone.

Jesus knows.  Everything. 

That knowledge doesn't stop Him from pursuing me and loving me and forgiving me. 

That knowledge is why He offered Himself in my place. 

That knowledge is my only hope!  For if Jesus can know EVERYTHING I have ever thought or done, and still value me--I must be loved greatly by Him.  To be loved like that enables me to see myself as He sees me.  To be loved like that is to be drawn to love in return. 

And, when that happened, nothing in my life was the same again.