Letters to the Prison - Week 38

Greetings!
We’re continuing our study of John chapter 4.  We hope you’ve decided to join us.  
We also hope that you are considering your answer to the central question of everyone’s life:  Is Jesus who he says he is?  

It’s a “yes” or “no” question.

Last week, we saw an amazing thing that Jesus says about who he is:  He is the source of eternal life.  He proclaimed this by offering the Samaritan woman “living water” (John 4:14).  Here’s how she responds:
•The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”-John 4:15

We saw earlier in the conversation (John 4:11-12) that this woman either had a hard time understanding where Jesus was going with the conversation, or she was being a little “snarky” about how she chose to respond to him.  Many have speculated about her attitude toward Jesus in these moments.  As we’re about to see, her life and reputation was certainly far from perfect.  So, it might be easy to expect her to be defensive… even hostile toward this strange man who showed up and started this strange conversation while all she wanted to do was get her water in peace and go about her day.  So, whether she was sincerely seeking the living water Jesus offered or saying something more like “look, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t need to be.  So, why don’t you give me this water you’re offering so that I don’t have to come here and deal with things like this anymore?” is uncertain.  We don’t have a clear view of her attitude right now.  Jesus does, however.  And just like he did in his conversation with Nicodemus in chapter 3 (verse 3), Jesus is going straight to the heart of the matter.  

He had already started to do this with the Samaritan woman by turning the conversation from his physical thirst to her spiritual thirst (John 4:10).  But now, Jesus was going to be much more direct.  Look what he says:
•Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”          -John 4:16

Verse 17 is pivotal:  It shows how she responds –she says, “I have no husband.”  

Any normal person in a conversation with someone they just met might respond to such a statement in a few ways.  Maybe they might ask what happened to her husband… or they might ask why she never married… or they might take what she said as a hint that she doesn’t want to talk about it and that they should let the conversation move on to something else.  But no stranger would ever react the way Jesus reacts to her.  Look what he says in the other part of verse 17 and in the following verse:
•Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”-John 4:17-18
In that statement, Jesus is saying something shocking to this woman about himself.  He’s saying that even though this is the first time she’s seeing him, Jesus knows her… knows everything about her… even things she has probably never admitted to anyone… ever.  He knows her current status and knows her past.  Notice the lack of judgment or condemnation in what he says.  We’ll see later on that Jesus has no problem telling people exactly what he thinks about what they’re doing or what they have done.  Here, though, there is no obvious judgment or condemnation from Jesus.  He reveals no opinion about what he knows about the woman.  That’s not to say that he approves of her life.  It just shows that he hasn’t given up on her.  In fact, Jesus knew these things about her before the conversation even began.  And he still chose to speak with her.  And now, she recognizes this.  Look how she responds:
•The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.-John 4:19

So, the Samaritan woman makes no effort to hide or deny what’s happened in her life.  Nor does she deny what Jesus has said about himself here.  She can’t.  We can see here also that she doesn’t feel judged or condemned by Jesus.  If she did, she might feel the need to defend herself… her life or her choices.  Or, if she felt like Jesus was looking down on her or judging her, she might have simply abandoned the conversation in anger.  She might have turned and left if she felt like Jesus was condemning or humiliating her.  But he wasn’t.  So she didn’t.  

Jesus has gone to the heart of the Samaritan woman’s need like no one else ever has before.  And, for the first time in this woman’s life, someone has done so gently, firmly, and truthfully… without condemnation.  She’s well aware of her own failings… is well aware that Jesus too knows all of them… she also knows her true need.  Look what she says next:
• 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”-John 4:20

By saying this, the Samaritan woman is expressing that she knows her true need:  The need for a right relationship with God.  She also understands that part of a right relationship with God involves proper worship.  This is why Jesus didn’t condemn her.  He knew her past mistakes… and he knew that she wanted to be right with God.  And he knew she needed his help.  

But there is a conflict between the Jews and Samaritans about where and how to properly worship God.  For a clearer picture about when and how this conflict began, read 1 Kings 12.  So, the Samaritan woman knows her need to have a right relationship with God but doesn’t know how to properly meet that need.  Since Jesus has shown himself to be a prophet of God by demonstrating that he knows everything about her even though she’s never met him, she feels safe asking him how to restore her relationship with God.  She senses that Jesus might have a proper answer to her question.  And he does.  We’ll look at it next week.  Until then, keep reading!  We love you.  

Dean A.

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