Monday, June 30, 2014

The Least of the Least

Samaria, in New Testament times, was the armpit of the Jewish world.  The Jews aversion to Samaritan people was so strong that when traveling they often crossed the Jordan River to avoid stepping on Samaritan soil.*   So it is surprising to find Jesus and his disciples traveling through the Samaritan countryside (John 4).  They had already walked quite a distance when they arrived outside the town of Sychar.  Jesus sat down by a well while his disciples traveled into town.  As Jesus rested a Samaritan woman approached.  At this time, in this culture, women were often undervalued, and this woman was divorced.  Not just once either, she was divorced five times, and was now onto boyfriend number six.  So the person approaching Jesus (to get to the well) was not only a Samaritan (gasp), but a woman (gasp), that was divorced well beyond the acceptable social conventions of the day (double gasp).
She nears the well, probably head down, just wanting to get the water and get going.  But Jesus speaks to her.  This is shocking.  Furthermore he asks her for a drink of water.  I get the impression that this lady has a little vim and vigor, is cynical, tired of being judged, and wary of hypocrites.  She knows Jewish men do not talk to Samaritan women.  She also knows that a Jew would never take a drink from a “defiled” Samaritan cup, let alone from a Samaritan woman’s bucket.  Perhaps she gives Jesus a good once over, like a grandmother sizing up her granddaughter’s spiked haired, tattooed, motorcycle riding boyfriend, and then gives him the stink eye before she answers.  “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.  How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9). She’s no dummy.  But his answer surprises 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.” (v.10).  What does he mean?  He doesn’t have a bucket.  No cup either.  How does he expect to carry water, let alone reach the depths of the well?  She blasts him with her observations.  He appears unrattled.  Then he speaks to her again.  “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (v. 13).
Oh.  Now she gets it.  He must be off his rocker.  Figures.  She just wanted to go to the well, get her water, and go home.  Now this.  Great.  Probably all the other Samaritan women will get a good laugh out of her bad luck.  She was used to being the butt of their jokes.  So what.  Who cares.  She certainly didn’t anymore.  She is tired.  Weary.  She looks at him again.  Just play along with the crazy guy and then maybe he will move on.  Ok.  She says, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (v. 15).  She sighs. 
Then the conversation abruptly shifts.  Jesus’ next words grab her attention.  He knows all about her.  He knows her life story, he knows her hurts, her disappointments, her damaged heart.  Then the shocker: he tells her he is the long awaited for savior, the Messiah, the Christ, speaking to HER, a divorced, Samaritan woman, sitting in the dirt by the well in the mid-day heat.  She drops her bucket and runs to town.  She shares the news and tells them all, the ones who judged her, the ones who dropped her from their social circles; she doesn’t care about what they did anymore.  She found the savior!  She tells them, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.  Could this be the Christ?” (29). 
They listen to the woman and then go find Jesus.  They talk with him.  He stays with them for a few days, many hear him speak, and many believe.  They say to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (42).  And who did Jesus speak to first and entrust with his amazing message?  A divorced, Samaritan woman, the "least of the least." 
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  (John 7:37b-38).

*(NIV study notes John 4:4, 9).

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