AS A LAY student of the Bible, I’ve spent a bunch of time ruminating on the words of Jesus. But I also wonder sometimes about the things He said that aren’t recorded. Like in the story of the Samaritan woman He met at the well in Sychar.
This familiar encounter continues to fascinate me. It’s a seemingly chance meeting that has a profound impact on not just one person, but an entire community. But did Jesus maybe know something special was going to happen when He and the disciples arrived in town on their way to Galilee?
After all, he sent 12 of them off to buy lunch for 13, leaving Him conveniently alone when the Samaritan woman arrived to draw water from the well. He knew they’d be shocked that He would interact with someone a group the Jews despised. Remember, Jesus would later acknowledge that long-standing prejudice when He cast someone from her group as the object lesson of a most-unlikely-hero in the story of The Good Samaritan.
Anyway, you’ll recall that the two of them got into a discussion about the well and living water. Then, Jesus “read her mail,” telling her He knew all about her and her series of men.
Some people believe this woman was a bit of a floozy. They point to the fact that she went to draw water during the hottest part of the day—when she probably figured no one else would be around—as evidence of her fallenness.
But others believe that her shame was rooted more in her barrenness. They suggest that maybe her previous husbands each divorced her in turn when she proved unable to bear a child, leaving her destitute. And, with no choice but to love a man who could offer some measure of security, even if he would not marry her.
Whatever the truth behind her circumstances, what Jesus said to her broke off that heavy weight of shame. He clearly said more than briefly recorded in John 4; she later said to her neighbors that Jesus “told me all that I ever did” (verse 39).
And consider the effect of what He told her. The woman who either avoided or was shunned by everyone went and sought them out. However hurt or rejected she may have once been, whatever Jesus said to her healed and liberated her. She didn’t want them to miss out on what she had experienced. Pretty powerful stuff.
She moved toward those she had previously fled. “Come, see,” she invited them (verse 29). They must have seen something in the face of the woman who once hadn’t even dared to glance at them for shame, for they came to check things out and “many believed” (verses 39 and 41).
Clearly, in telling her “everything she ever did,” Jesus brought into the light whatever had kept the woman in the shadows. But He can’t have just left it there, for somehow His words were freeing. He presented “the truth (which) will set you free” (John 8:33).
Whatever the words, they were well said.
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