At the beginning her shame defined her.
She was surely the butt of jokes, certainly the target of much whispering. A laughingstock, she was the scarlet woman with a deficit of friends. She came to the well only because she had to, and she came alone. She was dismayed when she saw a man, a Jew, sitting at the well. But she didn’t have to speak to him or even look at him – she was a pro at making herself invisible.
Hot, tired, and thirsty, he spoke to her. Will you give me a drink?
She couldn’t believe it! He could be banned from the synagogue for speaking to her, a Samaritan. Not to mention a man speaking to a woman.
He started speaking to her spiritually about living water. All she heard was that he had a source of water she didn’t know about. She wanted to know about his water. If she never had to come to the well again it would be the best day of her life. She would never have to face the other women, never have to get out in the heat of the day, never have to cross paths with lowered eyes and burning face. She would love to have that water he knew about.
Then Jesus lovingly, compassionately, turned the conversation on a dime. With no threat of judgment, he simply said, Go call your husband and come back.
What was she going to do? Say? The first reaction of many, and me, is to hide when our sin is about to come out into the open.
Amazingly, she doesn’t lie! I have no husband.
Jesus reveals to her that he knew she had previously had five husbands, and that the man with whom she was living was not her husband.
Right there – all her sin sitting in her lap.
That’s when I believe I would have taken my water jug and left, murmuring, “This just got a little too personal,” or “You just crossed the line, mister.” But she stays. Her brain must have been going ninety miles an hour. How does he know? What else does he know? Who is he?!
I guess to buy some time she skirts the subject. She piles everything on the ‘someday’. It’s exactly what Martha did when she told Jesus, I know my brother will be raised on the last day. She knew Lazarus would be resurrected to life someday; she had no idea it would be that day. Martha did not know she was speaking to The Resurrection and the Life.
The Samaritan woman deducted that all would be figured out when Messiah came. I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything. She had no idea Messiah was standing in front of her.
Until He told her. Jesus, for the first time, to a woman, using the name above all names, I AM, tells her Who He Is.
I who speak to you am he.
The rest is history so they say. She believed Him. With one question Jesus unlocked her belief.
She had been defined by her shame. Yet, what defined her was not her story. Her shame was erased and her real story began the minute Jesus asked her for a drink and she responded. Her new story was built on compassion and forgiveness and repentance and a deep inner longing settled once and for all.
Her new story – she ran like mad to tell it! She forgot all about the water she needed so badly. She knocked on doors or shouted from the marketplace, confessing her sin and telling people about the man at the well. They believed her.
What defines us does not have to be our story. We do not have to be our shame story. Our story can change on a dime. It begins the minute we notice Jesus and hear Him say, Will you give me a drink?
and here it all is: John 4: 4-38