Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Encounters - the woman at the well

I came to You
and You were waiting
My hands empty
save for a cup
dirty on the inside
dry cracked pottery
discarded vessel
of another’s use

and You took my cup
You, who knew
no sin or falsity
Your white shining purity
unstained by this world
but You took my cup
and held it
as if in a caress

And I, like a cup
cracked and broken
and tossed away
was washed clean
and tears flowed again
until my heart was filled
with the joy of Your gift-
amazing love,
Water of life.


You couldn’t get a more strong contrast between people than that of Nicodemus in John chapter 3, and the unnamed woman at the well in John chapter 4. Nicodemus was a man of good repute and influence, an educated, respectable public official. In his capacity he was expected to have a wife, so was probably married. He approached Jesus secretly, at night, mindful of his position and reputation.
And so we come to an outcast woman, who perhaps personifies so many women. Life had worn her down to the bone, until she felt hopeless and helpless and completely alone. She approached Jesus in the glare of the sun, for she had no reputation to protect. Shunned by the people of her village, a social outcast, she was living with a man not her husband, having been through a number of relationships. She had no power to speak of, no influence on anyone.
But just maybe Nicodemus and the woman had one thing in common- they both knew of the promised Messiah and were anticipating his arrival, just as Simeon and Anna in the temple had been (Luke 2).
Nicodemus approached Jesus to gain truth and understanding. The woman at the well came to Jesus only in order to fill her water jar. As a Samaritan, she expected to be ignored by Him. Jesus, true to form, rejected the social confines of the day and not only spoke to her but elected to drink from her cup.
Jesus, as he always did, met her in the area of her greatest need. Whether it was healing, or physical provision, or forgiveness or instruction, Jesus looked straight into the life of each person he connected with and saw where the empty spaces were. He challenged everyone to not only think about themselves, but to connect with Him, and through Him, His heavenly Father. Few ever met Jesus and went away unchanged.

Jesus was like nobody this woman had encountered before. He treated her respectfully, as a person, as a woman. In a world where so many women are abused and mistreated, Jesus stands as the most perfect example of manhood, the faithful protector, comforter and provider who will never let you down.

I believe that there was always something so compelling about Jesus, that those who encountered Him, if they chose to believe that He was who He claimed to be, would have known great joy. The woman at the end of this chapter, racing away to tell her village about the Messiah, seems unrecognisable from the lonely outcast at the beginning. She is transformed.

And this is the gospel message, again and again. Lives turned around. New hope. Loving relationship. Release. Joy. Living water.

May God bless you, particularly if, like me, some of that unknown lady’s story is your story too.

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