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Meeting Jesus at Jacob’s Well

February 22, 2010

The blistering mid-day sun shimmered down on one of Jesus’ most significant encounters. The setting was Jacob’s well in the Samaritan province. The participants were the travel-weary Jesus and a woman of ill-repute. That she chose to draw water from the well in the hottest part of the day is evidence of her outcast status in society.

The Samaritan woman would have recognized that Jesus was a Jew by His clothing and speech and it must have shocked her when, instead of rushing away in disgust, Jesus asked her for a drink. She responded, “‘How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?’ for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). The conversation that ensued was a discussion of living water. Jesus announced to her that He could provide her with water so that she would never thirst again. We read this passage with an understanding of Jesus’ meaning—the indwelling Holy Spirit was the “living water.” She didn’t understand, though, and responded with eagerness, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (John 4:15). It was the answer Jesus was waiting for, and He responded in a way that cut through her defenses and exposed her secret, shameful life. “Go, call thy husband, and come hither” (John 4:16).

In a way, the Samaritan woman is everyman. Some of us do have glaring sins that make us the outcast of civilization; most of us have more hidden sins. But God, who looks at our hearts, sees the darkness that we hide from others—the darkness that the Samaritan woman attempted to veil from Jesus by saying, “I have no husband.” We aren’t given insight into her discomfort at the statement, but she certainly recollected her own past in an instant. Not knowing Jesus or His power, she surely felt she could keep her past hidden and out of view. But Jesus’ response laid her story out in whole: “Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly” (John 4:17-18). The ESV translates Jesus’ last sentence thusly: “What you have said is true.” Jesus knew the woman’s past and all her mistakes. What did her mistakes have to do with living water? What does truth or honesty have to do with relating to Jesus?

The Samaritan woman’s reaction was classic defense mechanism: changing the subject from her own deeply personal and painful history to a controversial popular topic. “The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:19-20). Imagine being introduced to someone who mysteriously knew of all your sinful struggles and calmly threw them in your face. The modern equivalent to the Samaritan’s woman’s response might be, “What do you think of all these government bailouts?” Meanwhile, your mind would be racing and recalling all the awful events in full.

How is it that we are easily able to reflect upon our pleasing qualities but rarely contemplate any negative aspect of our character? Indeed, the Bible indicates that, apart from Christ, we are actually blind to our sin (Eph 4:185:8). When asked to describe yourself, do you usually mention that you are an idolatrous, angry, immoral person with a deviant desire to get even with others? Or do you, like the Samaritan woman, like to keep certain parts hidden and out of the topic of conversation? Does your conscience force you to change the subject in your conversation with Jesus?

Listen to the admonition of Jesus: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). We should note that He mentions this expression twice. As a Jew, Jesus lived in the culture of the orthodox religion. Their outward form and ceremony was impeccable, but instead of following the spirit of the law, the Pharisees had imposed the letter of the law down to the minutest detail. Religious Jews were practicing only the outward form of faith. In contrast, the Samaritans had formed religious ceremonies and rituals of their own invention. In this simple statement Jesus rebuked both groups of people. God is seeking the adoration of those who will worship in spirit and truth.

Truth is of vital importance in worship of God. Unlike the pagan religions that worship a physical god, our God does not “dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48; 17:24). As a Spirit, our God is invisible (Col. 1:15; I Tim. 1:17) and no one has seen Him at any time (John 1:18). Yet, through Jesus we can know God the Father. He is the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

We are also to worship God in Spirit. As a Spirit, God requires spiritual worship. The rending of the temple veil during the crucifixion was evidence of the new covenant God had established with His people. No longer do we go to temples, perform rituals, or engage in ceremony. We have a new spiritual relationship with God.

Do we gloss over truth in our religious lives? Like the woman at the well who changed the subject on her very own past, do we dismiss theology as trifling and insignificant to God? Or are we, like the Pharisees, so concerned about the letter of the law that we have bypassed God’s requirement for a spiritual relationship? Is our relationship with God one of spirit and truth? For the Father seeketh such to worship him.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. onemansbeliefs permalink
    March 22, 2010 8:13 pm

    “When asked to describe yourself, do you usually mention that you are an idolatrous, angry, immoral person with a deviant desire to get even with others?”

    Depends… Am I describing the old man which passed away or the new creation in Christ Jesus?

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