In a single moment Jesus turned societal, racial and gender prejudice upside down and revealed the order of the Father, that all mankind was made in the image of God and was equal as God’s creation. A few weeks ago I wrote about how Jesus restored order by His interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob. The restoration of order is something that is important to me. I believe passionately in the righting of wrongs, in the declaration of truth and in the tearing down of strongholds of sin and evil. While this is a noble battle, it is one that can, at times, become more about principles than people; it can become more about the fight than the victims, more about being right than being kind. I am learning, through Jesus’ example, that acts of justice, restoring order must always reveal God’s concern for those harmed; otherwise, all we are doing is using people to make our arguments, making them again the victims of a system that tries to administer justice without understanding and loving mercy. Jesus didn’t just use the Samaritan woman to restore order; He restored order so that He could show her His concern.
After the first few moments of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman in which she questioned how and why He, as a Jew would ask her for a drink, He then told her that if she understood who He was that she would be asking Him for water. Still not sure of what He was referring to she very innocently asked, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?” Some of the people in our lives have been bound for so long that freedom is a foreign concept. The Samaritan woman had become used to a difficult life that was filled with struggle, effort and disappointment. One of the details we often miss in this story is that she met Jesus at the well at the “sixth hour of the day”. This means that they met at the well at noon. Traditionally women went to the well to draw water either early in the morning or in the evening, at the cool times of the day. The fact that this woman was there drawing at noon, during the heat of the day shows that she was either trying to avoid the other women or the other women had made her unwelcome at the traditional hours. Not only was her work difficult, it was lonely and a daily reminder of her standing within her culture. Jesus doesn’t ask her why she is there at such an hour; rather, He lays the groundwork for her to be free when He offers her living water to drink that will quench her thirst forever.
Still not fully understanding (how could she), the woman jumps at the opportunity to drink water that will quench her thirst, not only that, but to drink water that will keep her from every having to come to that well by herself, during the heat of the day again. She wanted to be healed, but in her mind healing was simply not having to deal with her situation any longer, she never considered that healing could be a change in her that would restore her to a place she had long since believed was impossible to attain.
Once she asked for the living water Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” Those words must have quenched all of her excitement; those were the words that she dreaded because they were the cause of her shame, the reason for her isolation and the source of her rejection. She answered Jesus very shortly; I can almost sense a terse tone in the words. “I have no husband.” Up until now the interaction has been lively, it has been open and honest, but now she seems as if she is about to shut down. Jesus responds to her short reply with a revelation, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you have spoke truly.” So this is why this woman is at the well, by herself, at noon. This is why she is so eager to find a way to never have to come and draw water again. She is an outcast; she is unwanted and probably unloved. She has been rejected.
Why did Jesus ask her to bring her husband if He was so keenly aware of her marital status and the pain it had caused her? I have read a lot of commentaries and opinions on this question. Most of what I have read sees this question as Jesus’ conviction of her sin; that He was somehow revealing that He knew her sin so that she would be repentant. I’m no scholar, but I just could not disagree more. This woman is not in need of conviction; she is in desperate need of healing. At this time in history, my understanding is that a woman could not be granted a divorce from her husband, only the man could be granted a divorce. This is not a woman that has been frivolous or promiscuous, this is a woman that has been put away, rejected, unwanted and deemed unworthy by five different husbands. She did not need Jesus to show her how low her life was; she needed Jesus to lift her up. So again, why did He ask about her husband? I believe it is because rejection sometimes has to be exposed so that it can finally be healed.
This woman could not meet the Messiah without Him revealing that He was fully aware of her hurt, her past, her reputation and her shame. If she found Jesus with all those things hidden she would have then believed that she had to keep them hidden or that the Messiah would then reject her, like so many others had done in her life. She has to revisit her rejection, with Jesus, so that she can know that she is loved, chosen, accepted and approved. Rejection creates shame, it creates a perception that we need to hide, that something about us is broken, is unworthy, is ugly or is simply bad. Shame always creates fear and fear creates hiding. All the way back to Adam and Eve we see that shame creates fear of rejection (punishment) and fear causes us to hide. Jesus came to “seek and save that which was lost”. I believe that this includes those that are hidden in their shame. Jesus did an amazing thing for her, not just with her. While Jesus used his interaction with this woman to prove the foolishness of prejudice, His concern was not on using her to restore order, it was to restore order so that He could heal her.
So, what does Jesus do next? He reveals Himself to her; He tells her that He is the Messiah. The one woman in town that was not even worthy to draw water with the other women, the woman that five men found unfit to keep as a wife and that a current man found unworthy of becoming his wife is the person that God chooses to reveal the Messiah. In that moment she was unrejected. I know that is not a word, but I think it should be. Acceptance is the opposite of rejection, but Jesus does more than simply accept us, He heals us. He doesn’t just take us in because others have cast us aside, He shows us that we were always loved, always wanted and always chosen. Sometimes acceptance can almost feel vengeful, like it gets back at those that rejected us, but that is not what God does either. He reveals our worth by showing us the value of His love. What is that value? It is the price He paid to love us. God willingly paid His Son’s blood to love me. Jesus freely gave up His place in heaven and became a man, He endured suffering and rejection so that He could heal me and make me unrejected.
The woman at the well know rejection intimately, she probably lived life expecting it, preparing for it, even beating others to it so that she could avoid some of the sting. We live in a world filled with people just like her. They are cast aside, overlooked and unwanted. Restoring order only reveals the truth; it takes concern to apply it. That day at Jacob’s well Jesus was not only trying to reveal prejudice as wrong, He was on a mission to undo the rejection of one woman who would then, in her freedom be used to reveal Jesus’ identity and love to her entire city. Our mission today can’t be to merely declare truth; it has to be to reveal the concern of God so that He can undo rejection in our communities, in the lives of our friends and neighbors, in our cities and in the nations of the earth.
Finally, this message of concern is not only for us to somehow apply to others, it has to be a message we drink of deeply. We all have issues of rejection, all of us. I encourage you today along with myself, let God reveal rejection, don’t fight Him and don’t fear Him, all He wants to do is to show us that He has loved us in the midst of our darkest hours, that He has stayed close when we thought we were cast off and that His plan is not to make us pay for our past but to redeem our pain and use it for His glory and our peace. My prayer today is that we would all live as ministers of this reconciliation, that we would know God as the lover of our souls so that we can share God as the Everlasting Father longing to embrace His sons and daughters. May we all know the power of Jesus’ love so that we can live the lives of those that have been made whole, and invite the world around us to be unrejected.