Click here to listen to this week’s Issues Etc. interview with Deaconess Pam Nielsen of Concordia Publishing House.
This week, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. The disciples are off gathering food. In broad daylight, Jesus, a Jew, meets with a woman. Not just any woman, a Samaritan woman.
Samaritans were Israelites. They were children of Israel from the northern kingdom who were taken into captivity by Assyria. When the northern kingdom was overrun, the Assyrians settled in their land. They intermarried with the children of Israel. No longer were they pure in blood. They were mixed with Gentile blood.
And women. Men and women were not supposed be seen speaking together in public. In the synagogues, they are separated — men on one side, women on another. Usually behind a veil. Interaction was inappropriate, against social convention. Especially if the woman was married.
Yet here Jesus asks this woman for a drink. The woman is taken aback, for she knows that the Jews hate the Samaritans. They resent one another. So she calls Jesus on it. But as our Savior always does, He confronts her in an unexpected way — If you knew the gift of God that was speaking to you — you would have asked Him for a drink, and he would have given you Living Water. Little by little Jesus reveals Himself to the woman, giving her the faith to believe in Him. More importantly, Christ Himself goes to her at the well, meets her where she is, and raises her out of the pit of shame and humiliation that she has made of her life. By exposing her sinfulness directly, Jesus confronts her with it and with Himself, the Living Water, the Bread of Life — the Cross. Jesus beautifully shows us here both His divine and Human nature.
Jesus does not wait for us to come to Him. Nor does He beat around the bush when it comes to our sin. Instead, He comes to us and deals with our sinfulness directly. He does not put the social mores and traditions of men above the lost sinner. Nor does Jesus hide His identity from the sinner. Rather, He reveals who He is, and embraces the sinner as he is. He then tells the woman to be who He has called her to be. And isn’t that what Christ wants for us? To embrace who we are as Christians. And if of a particular denomination, say Lutheran, embrace the heritage into which you were born and out of which you were called? Jesus draws the heritage out of the woman, shows her how she is connected to the Messiah. He also shows her how the Messiah is not meant exclusively for the children of Judah, but for all people — including women. This is a point that cannot be overlooked either. Jesus elevates women in His life and ministry. They play prominent roles. This woman is the witness of the Messiah for the Samaritans. Similarly, women were the first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. All tribes, all nations, all races, male and female. Christ comes to us all, even today.