Friday, March 16, 2012

John 4

     The woman at the well is often misunderstood. I have heard preachers call her a prostitute or at least a "loose woman." There are elements in the story, when translated with a modern understanding, that might give that impression. In the division labor women carried the water.  Women drew water in the morning and the evening (because it was cooler). This was a social event, chatter and gossip and getting caught up with each other. There are two wells in Sychar: one in the village proper and the one mentioned in John 4. Clearly the point of coming to the well outside of town and at noon is to avoid the other village women. We note that she has had 5 husbands and is currently living with another man. What the modern reader fails to miss is that the woman cannot get a divorce (under the law she has to be divorced by her husband). Her situation is not entirely her making. Now, we might want to explore how it is she gets divorced 5 times, but that speculation, though interesting, is not going to be productive. Is it possible she is a victim of her culture and desperately in need of a word of hope and a word of grace. She is disrespected by her community and stunned when a Jewish man strikes up a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Whatever her situation, Jesus crosses all of the boundaries that divide us, finds us where we are and invites us to take a new adventure.
     The really interesting thing to do is to compare the stories of John 3 and John 4. They are complete negative images of each other. In John 3 we have Nicodemus: male, Jewish, rich, educated, respected, leader, who comes to Jesus by night. In John 4 we have unnamed woman, female, Samaritan, poor, disrespected, outcast to whom Jesus comes at Noon. The author of John arranges these stories this way so that we can see in an instant that Jesus came for everyone -- rich or poor, male or female, righteous or unrighteous. . . etc. It is a wonderful comparison and a keen visual reminder of the unfathomable grace and mercy of God.
     I am encouraged to read, here and other places, the reminder that the harvest is ripe. The church needs to learn to communicate in the language of the time and help the message of the good news of Jesus get outside the walls of our buildings and back onto the streets, the market places, the business, the public arenas wherein the gospel has always flourished. Look up (look outside) when the spring arrives it touches every corner of the land . . . and when we look we will see that the harvest is indeed ripe!

1 comment:

CasioKid said...

I've begun Elmer Towns, Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird's book "11 Innovations in the Local Church" (2007 Regal Books) which compares emerging new techniques. It's stretching my mind and heart. At the Franklin Graham 'Rock The Lakes' seminar they're emphasizing "Search and Rescue" as a big theme. Lord, "Open My Eyes That I May See, Vision of Hope/Love/Joy/Peace/Work Thou Hast For Me"