In John 4, we read about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. This is one of my favorite stories about Jesus because it demonstrates Jesus’ determination to step across culturally accepted gender and racial boundaries to invite this daughter of God into relationship with Himself.
Here is a woman, a Samaritan woman, a Samaritan woman living with a man she is not married to after 5 failed marriages. Think about the messages she has heard from her culture and community – your testimony does not count; any time spent on your education is wasted time; you are part of a traitorous people because you are Samaritan; you are a seductive villainness dragging men into sin. Shame on you, shame on you! Surely these messages, whether said to her directly or insinuated in sidelong glances or comments, made their way into her heart, condemning her and devaluing her. No wonder she came to the well in the heat of the day, hoping that she will be alone and free from the condemning stares.
What a surprise for her to find Jesus, a man from Galilee, sitting by the well, and needing a a drink, and even more, willing to ask her, an outcast, for a drink. The irony of this situation is not lost on her.
But even more than her dependence on her for a simple drink of water, she need Him, the Living Water – the water that quenches thirst so that she would never be thirsty again. As they engage in conversation, this woman goes from skepticism to wanting this water, for the convenience of never having to come to this place of shame and loneliness again.
But Jesus’ invitation isn’t to a convenient life, but to a life of transformation and restoration. He asks a question that probes into the darkness that must come to the light in order for her to drink deep of this living water. And of course this unnerves her. She is, of course, adept at changing the topic of conversation to something safer, and Jesus willingly engages her deflective questions, graciously giving her the space she needs to confront her sin. He encourages and prophesies a worship that transcends location and is characterized by spirit and truth. And then, to this outcast Samaritan woman, He reveals to her the good news that He is the Messiah, the one that they have been waiting for.
In her joy of encountering Christ, she forgets everything – her bucket and her shame – and runs back to tell the townsfolk, not about living water or about the theological discussion about worship, but the transformative moment when, in her words, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can He?” Her transforming moment, when she encounter Jesus in her most vulnerable spot, gave her voice and boldness beyond the social norms under which she had lived. She forgot her false self in the light of truth found in her encounter with Christ at her most vulnerable, hidden place.
What is that tender spot that Jesus is probing because He wants to transform you?
Is this probing encounter more than you bargained for in your journey of faith?
Are there ways that you are avoiding transformation? What are the smokescreens you use to deflect Jesus’ words to you?
What do you need to say to Jesus at this point of transformation?
What do you need to hear Jesus say to you?
Read John 4:27-30
Even as Jesus is breaking down walls of prejudice, his disciples are not following. They are shocked to see Jesus speaking to a woman, and rather than being curious about it, they look at the situation through their culturally-fogged lenses and think they see it clearly. Fortunately the woman is so taken with Jesus, she is unaffected by the prejudice of his disciples.
- It is hard to see our own blind spots. Have you had a conversation with someone who was pointing out a blind spot and you became defensive or just didn’t see it?
- Where do you need to replace your sense of understanding a situation with curiosity and a learning posture?
- When have you experienced your culturally-fogged lenses cleaned up a bit?
- Ask Jesus where prejudice may be clouding your vision in your community, your school, your workplace, your family. Ask a friend what they see in you.
- If you relate to the Samaritan woman in these verses, how might you be letting the judgments of those around you keep you from following Jesus whole-heartedly and without fear?
- What is Jesus saying to you that is so much weightier than the words of those around you?
Read John 4:31-38
The disciples are focused on Jesus’ physical needs, but He draws their focus out to the work of the harvest. His desire to do His Father’s will commands His attention and means more to Him than His physical needs. What would it be like to be so wrapped up in the work of God in this world that our physical needs and comfort are secondary?
- When was the last time you were so engaged in something that you forgot to eat?
- What can distract you from the will of God?
- How can you bring the distraction under the will of God? For instance, caring for our physical needs is not unimportant, but are there ways you can infuse it with the presence of Christ?
- What is your field ready to be harvested?
Read John 4:31-38 again.
Jesus lays out the roles of workers in the harvest – those who sow, those who labor, those who reap. All of these tasks are done by those under the will of God. The harvest is not always seen by those who sow or by those who labor, and it is easy to put greater value on the one who reaps. But in God’s economy, we are called to obedience, to collaboration, and to leaving the harvest up to Him.
- When you think of sowing, tending, and reaping, where do you most often find yourself?
- Who are your co-laborers in the work that God has given you? How do you recognize and honor the collaboration?
- Who can you thank this week with a card, an email, or a phone call?
Read 1 John 3:23-24
We do back to John’s exhortation to his community, as he reminds them and us what it means to live under the will of God. Like the woman at the well, we believe in the saving work of Jesus Christ, so much so that we proclaim it with our lives and speech. And as co-laborers, we love, honor, and encourage one another in the work before us as we seek to woo the world to Him.
- How transformative is your belief in Christ? How can you demonstrative in word and action the transformation that your faith in Christ has made in your life? Who needs to see what God has done in your life?
- How do you need to change your perspective toward those who are co-laboring with you for God’s kingdom, so that you demonstrate love, honor, and encouragement to them?
- As you look over this past week of devotional time, what are your take-aways? What is Jesus saying to you?