Of all the stories surrounding Jesus that appear in the Bible, one of my favourites would have to be the account in John chapter four of the Samaritan woman who speaks with Jesus at the well. Now, I’ve heard many readings of this passage, most which focus entirely on Jesus’ words and actions – mostly lauding His marvellous condescension at lowering himself to speak to a woman, and a Samaritan at that. I realise that it is indicative of Jesus’ nature that he seemingly wasn’t bound by sexist or racist conventions. But why are we so surprised? Why would he be bound by sexist or racist conventions?
Er, Son of God, people.
I’m not that surprised Jesus was prepared to speak to the Samaritan woman. (And just as an aside, I’m trying to imagine what it would be like to be identified in your most defining moment throughout the ages not by your name, but instead by two words representing your ethnic group and your gender. “Hi everyone, you may know me as the ’Samaritan Woman’, but my name is really Pamela Jones……” )
No, I’m not surprised Jesus was prepared to speak to a Samaritan woman. Jesus never was one for conventions. What I am surprised about is the fact that the Samaritan woman was prepared to speak to Jesus right back. Because women – especially Samaritan women – just didn’t do that sort of thing.
Not only did she speak with Jesus, at length, about theology (what was she thinking?), she went back to her town and told everyone there what they talked about. And as if it wasn’t bad enough to fess up to openly conversing with a Jewish rabbi in order to tell people about Jesus, she also had to blather quite a bit of personal information about herself. Not that they probably didn’t already know of her shadowy past, but nevertheless, it was pretty brave of her to bring it up. In public. “I just met up with this man…” (I can hear them – “Oh, really?”) “…who told me everything I ever did.” she reports. Which part? “Oh, just the part about me being married five times before, and how the guy I’m living with now isn’t even my husband.” Oops. Embarrassed much? Apparently not.
“Come see a man who told me everything I ever did.” Come on! Don’t hassle me now about all that living-in-sin crap. Come and see him!
Come meet the guy who read me like a book. Come see the man who exposed my shameful actions and didn’t flinch. Come listen to the rabbi who shouldn’t have spoken to me, but who did, and to whom I spoke back.
Funny thing is, they did come.
And the Bible says that “many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’” The Samaritans went off and sought Jesus out, and had him come stay with them for a few days so they could learn more. And because of that, many more believed.
I love the Samaritan woman. She didn’t have anything else to report except “I met Jesus, and he knew all my crap.” That was all she had to say, and it was more than enough to bring the Way, the Truth and the Life to a people who would otherwise have avoided Jesus like the plague, and who would not have had a disciple come within a stones throw in a pink fit.
Good for her. I guess that’s why she’s in the Bible – someone obviously thought what even with all the things she had done wrong, something the Samaritan woman did was very, very right.