Recently in chapel services here at Compass Rose, we have been looking at the outcast people of the Bible and God’s interactions with them. Again and again, we come to see that God is intentional with the people society has counted less than, and He continually invites them into relationship. He is saying “I see you, I know you, and I love you.” So far we have specifically looked at how He speaks to Hagar in Genesis 21, the crippled woman in Luke 8, and famously, the woman at the well in John 4.
The problem with John 4 and the story of the woman at the well is that so many of us have heard this story since childhood. We read the first couple of lines and then we skip over it or mentally check out when we hear it preached. We’ve figured that we have heard it a million times before, and the sermons, stories, and blog posts all seem to be the same, reflecting the same couple of messages, so this one won’t be any different. This is the very reason as a teacher you want to choose a different Scripture, one that might be more engaging or might hold your audience’s attention a little longer. Nonetheless, I think that this very reality is something that Jesus addresses with this woman at the heat of noon at a well in the Ancient Near East.
As the story continues, we see that the woman continually meets Jesus from a logical standpoint. First, she does not understand why Jesus is talking to her at all (4:9), as logically and historically, it does not make sense. Next, she thinks this man needs to learn the basic fundamentals on how to get water from a well (4:11-12). Logically, He is still not making sense. Then, after things start to get a little too personal, she tries to confront Him on the fundamentals of worship laws (4:19-20). Religiously, she’s trying to get the attention off herself and prove what she knows. Again and again, Jesus challenges her perspective, and yet she only ever engages Him on a logical or religious front. It doesn’t make any sense. Living water? How? Worship in spirit and truth? How?
The problem seems to be that the woman was stuck in her tradition. She was hung up on what she believed should be true and could not begin to understand a reality that was different than that. Jesus was content to engage her knowledge, as He sat with her and had a conversation, but it becomes very clear that they are talking on two different levels. She is caught up in how it ought to look and wrapped up in what she thought the Scriptures said and the people believed, but all the while, He was trying to get to her heart.
We often do this with Jesus. We go to church and we recite all the answers, and we gain all the knowledge, but Christ is never able to make the journey to our hearts. Sometimes that is very intentional because we think we have all the right answers, and despite all that, Jesus is not doing anything for me. Other times, we are not conscious of the great divide, and we are left confused on why Jesus seems so distant in the middle of our deepest struggles. It has often been expressed that the biggest gap in all humanity is between the head and the heart, and Jesus stands at the door and desires to make that journey with each one of us. This often means we have to lay down what we think we already know about Jesus. This often means we have to admit to the utter chaos that reigns within us. For Christ to deal with our hearts, we have to be honest with the condition our hearts are in.
The women at the well had to admit to Jesus that she was indeed living in sin and had been for a while now. She had to pause long enough and lay aside what she thought should be and allow Christ to work on her heart and not just her brain. She was not only a Samaritan, who were outcasts, but her inner and life struggles had also outcasted her. She was the lowest of low, not even societies unwanted wanted to associate with her. Yet, Jesus showed up and sought to engage her in real conversation about the condition of her brokenness. She was left with the task of listening to this man and had to come to accept that what He was saying might have to do with something that was far deeper than what she had ever understood before.
We are confronted with the same task. Will we deal with Jesus honestly? He is desiring to commune with us — are we letting Him into more than just our heads? Knowing all the right answers and consuming all the right information about Jesus will only get us so far on the journey of faith. Eventually, we will be lost within and more consumed by chaos than we are by His peace, because we’ve kept Christ out of the center of our lives and far from the redemptive work He is desiring to do in our hearts. Before Jesus even began to engage her in conversation, He knew all the ugliness that dwelt within her heart and still desired to be close to her. We often disqualify ourselves from intimate relationship with Christ because of our track record. And to that Jesus says, “I see you, I know you, and I desire you all the same.” The problem often isn’t that Christ does not want us, but that we deal far too much in our shame and do not want ourselves. We become convinced that we need to present a certain reality of ourselves to be loved because that is the only reality of ourselves that we think is lovable, so how could anyone else love what we don’t love? To this, Jesus invites us all to know He sees us, He knows us, and He loves us.
~By CRA Student Chaplain LilyAnn Matchett