Today’s Passage: John 4:1-26
Zsolt and Geza Peladi had a difficult life. These brothers found themselves living in a cave outside Budapest. They were poor, surviving by selling junk that they scavenged off the streets. I’m not sure exactly how their lives ended up this way; I don’t know the whole backstory. But I can only imagine that there is a story that led them there. I do know that their mother came from a wealthy family… but she had severed ties with the family many years before. And her sons have told how she abandoned them too.
They were living in their cave when some charity workers approached them with news. Their maternal grandmother had died, and had left them, in today’s Australian money, something like $12billion. There was an incredible gift waiting for them.
This weekend, we’re looking at one of the gospel stories that John alone tells us about: the story of the woman at the well. This is a woman who, like the brothers above, had a difficult life. We meet her coming to fetch water in the heat of the middle of the day. As the conversation between her and Jesus progresses, we find out that she has been married, and divorced, five times. At the time she met Jesus, she was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. Possibly he was single; possibly he was someone else’s husband.
Why was it that she had had so many husbands? Was she a difficult woman? Or had she been hurt to the point where staying in a healthy marriage was incredibly difficult for her? Was she living with this latest man just to survive – being known as “that woman” must have made her life a social misery back in those days. Even to have had that many husbands would have got the tongues wagging. Everyone in town probably knew of her. Maybe she was physically very attractive. Maybe the women of the town would talk about her behind her back; warning each other to keep their husbands away from her.
We don’t know any of that. But you get the impression that she wasn’t living the life of Riley. She strikes me as someone who has had a difficult life – and who would love to set it all behind her, but knows that that is just impossible.
And then she meets Jesus. Actually, maybe we’re meant to see that Jesus went to meet her! There was another, less Samaritan!, route between Judea and Galilee. But Jesus had to go through Samaria.
And the very first thing Jesus did was to ask her for a drink of water. Even that was an act of kindness – treating her as a human, and not just the sum of her past. Jesus knew, even then, all about her. But He also knew that if only she asked, He would give her what she needed most in the world. He would give her living water, bubbling up to eternal life. She was a woman isolated and enslaved by her circumstances and past; if only she knew the gift of God, and who it was that was speaking with her!
The conversation continued. Gentle truth from Jesus, blocking defensiveness from the woman. But just try parrying with Jesus! Eventually this woman all but scores an own-goal: “One day the Messiah will explain it all to us.”
If only she knew…
“I AM the Messiah.”
I love the way Jesus interacts with this woman. It’s the way He interacts with us. Gentle. Leaving no doubt about His power. Walking us into the place where we have to face the fact that He is God. Offering us what we really need; an escape from our guilt and our shame and our hiding. Offering us living water; offering us life.
If only we knew. If only our loved ones knew.
But when we are confronted with that knowledge – what will we do then? When we encounter the living God in Jesus will we run away from Him, or towards Him?