I realize what my title might imply, so I'm posting a picture of a well right here at the beginning. Not the best picture, and it's from Italy not Jerusalem. Here is another view.
During Lent, I'm following Jesus' life, and today I read His first words to the Samaritan woman at the well which are "Will you give me a drink?" Not "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son," but, basically, "I'm thirsty. I have nothing with which to draw up the water. Will you give me a drink?"
To keep this blog real, I'm going to confess to any dear soul reading that my first thought of what to write next is rather snarky. Snarky -- "critical, cutting, snide, cranky, irritable." I know writing is all about not putting our first thoughts down, but you will have a picture of me that is not true if I edit to make myself look good. So, my unedited words read: "Gosh. Imagine that. Jesus, THE JESUS, God who created the universe, God who can change water into wine, takes the time and effort to ask the woman for a drink of water before accosting her with 'Hey, woman, you'd better believe in Me or else you're going to hell.'"
Jesus did indeed say in conversation with someone else, "For God so loved the world..." It was with Nicodemus, a man of the Pharisees, a member of the Jewish ruling counsel. Isn't it interesting that Jesus said it to a person who is the equivalent of our religious leaders? But, even with Nicodemus, Jesus did not start off with those words. Nicodemus initiated the whole conversation acknowledging Jesus as a teacher from God who did miraculous signs, and Jesus willingly stepped into the conversation with Nicodemus just as He did with the Samaritan woman.
This same woman has trudged to the well by herself, and she's taken aback that He's talking with her. He's obviously Jewish; she's obviously Samaritan, and the Jewish people do not associate with "those" Samaritans. Some translations even read: "Jews do not use dishes Samaritans have used."There are no paper cups by the well. Jesus is going to drink from the same container the woman would use.
I don't even drink out of a family member's cup so it takes much trust in God for me to drink out of a common communion cup! Years ago, in a small group of people, I heard Dr. Anthony Campolo tell how a homeless friend offered him a sip of coffee out of the same cup from which the homeless man had been drinking. Campolo drank from the cup. Who is a "Samaritan" to you and me, and would we drink from that person's cup?
Jesus' answer, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water" is not chiding her. He's leading her thinking away from the lies she has been told about the inferiority of Samaritans, away from any thought of her unworthiness. He is introducing her to God who loves her so much, He is willing to give her living water just for the asking!
When our minds are baffled and boggled, our brains go back to a place of connection, something practical such as "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?" And, then basically, "Who in the world are you?!"
Jesus takes her to a deeper level. She's worth the conversation just as much as the religious leader Nicodemus was. And, she, the Samaritan woman does ask. Granted, she asks for practical reasons, but she does ask. Jesus then enters into her life, "Go, call your husband and come back."
To which she responds that she has no husband. With no condemnation, Jesus reveals how true she has spoken for she has had five husbands and the man she is now with is not her husband. Just as Jesus did with Nathanael ("I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you" which means He also heard what Nathanael had to say about people from Nazareth), Jesus gently reveals that He knows her life.
The Samaritan woman takes a different tack, perhaps to turn the conversation off of her life (understandable) or maybe she really is still confused and stuck: My people say this; your people say that.
Many pastors treat Jesus' response as if she tried to divert His attention and He brought her up short. BUT, Jesus not only answers her question, He also entrusts her with precious knowledge of what is coming: "Neither this mountain nor Jerusalem" and through His conversation with her, He reveals that true worshippers worship in spirit and truth, not on a certain mountain, nor in a certain city. Might there be wisdom here for us: true worshippers do not worship in our country alone (insert the name of your country), but they worship in spirit and truth.
I can't leave this story without saying to anyone who is feeling worthless today, Jesus loved the true Israelite Nathanael and the Pharisee Nicodemus, but He also loved the Samaritan woman, and it was she whose testimony led people to listen to Jesus -- "And because of his [Jesus'] words many more became believers [beyond the ones that believed due to the Samaritan woman's testimony]."
You are not worthless. You are loved.