This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
How well do your friends and family know you? More importantly, how well do you want to be known?
I have a not-so-short list of things about me that I would rather keep hidden, or at the very least not have advertised to those beyond my closest circle of friends. Some involve past acts of dishonesty or impropriety. Others fall more generally into the category of “this is how foolish Jim was in his teens and 20s.”
On Sunday mornings, we are continuing our extended teaching series called “Head, Heart & Hands: The call to follow Jesus.” Having moved into the examination of what it means to follow Jesus with our hands, we are considering the practical implications of being a disciple. And this Jesus we are learning to follow, we discover that he knows us better than we know ourselves, and he loves us more than anyone else ever has (or ever will).
This week’s teaching is from John 4:5-42, where we are told of Jesus’s meeting with “the woman at the well.”
Jesus crosses all sorts of cultural and social boundaries to make a meaningful connection with the woman. Just by being in Samaria, he is going against the Jewish custom of his day.i Then, at Jacob’s Well, he speaks with this Samaritan woman, asking her to draw him some water.
A 2020 article on Christianity.com by Jessica Brodie makes the following observation about the situation:
“Representing the lowest of the low — a female in a society where women are both demeaned and disregarded, a race traditionally despised by Jews, and living in shame as a social outcast — she not only has a holy encounter with Christ but also receives eternal salvation. And her testimony convinces an entire town to believe, too,” Brodie writes.ii
“We also know, from understanding cultural and historical traditions of that time, that women typically drew water in groups in the morning, and it was often a social occasion,” Brodie adds. “The fact that she was drawing water alone, at midday, probably indicates she was a social outcast.”
Yet Jesus speaks with her, reveals to her that she is known. His statements about her past husbands and her current domestic arrangement astonish her, leading her to acknowledge him as a prophet. Jesus, however, wants her to truly understand who he is. Just as he demonstrates God’s knowledge of her, he invites her to move beyond a superficial understanding of who he really is.
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you[f] will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You[g] worship what you[h] do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he,[i] the one who is speaking to you.”
When Jesus says to her “I am he…” a translation of the Hebrew “ego eimí” makes it clear he is making a claim of divinity and eternal being in addition to his claim of being the Messiah.iii
In the Gospel of John, this woman is among the first whom Jesus reveals himself as Messiah.
Brodie points out a few key characteristics of the Samaritan woman which we might want to emulate as we seek to actively know and be known by Jesus (taking the relationship in hand, as it were):
- She is bold (“How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Verse 9).
- She is curious (“Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” Verse 11).
- She asks for good things from him (“Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Verse 15).
- She is eager to let others know him, too (Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” Verses 28-29).
- Her interest in him was infectious (Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” Verse 39).
Jesus made multiple moves towards her in order to build relationship. He does the same with us.
I come away from this text eager to pray and ask God for good things, and to listen patiently and intently as he reveals his answer. I am eager to have him astonish me, too.
This Sunday would be a great day to invite friends and family to join you in person or online as you attend our 9:30 a.m. service. Like the response to the woman at the well, your invitation may result in lives changed for eternity!
Enjoying the surprises Jesus hands out daily,
Director of Communications
i Verses 3 and 4 say Jesus was heading to Galilee but “had to go through Samaria,” but leaves us to speculate why. While some scholars dispute whether Jews actually avoided Samaria or its people (https://news.ag.org/features/did-jews-travel-through-samaria-in-the-time-of-jesus), others, including Jewish scholars, affirm it (https://www.chicagojewishnews.com/how-would-a-jewish-person-travel-to-avoid-samaria/).