In John’s Gospel you find a story about Jesus discussing theology near a well with a Samaritan woman. This is shocking on a number of levels: 1. The Jews of Jesus’ day despised Samaritans and did everything they could to avoid them. 2. Jewish men in that culture did not address women in public. 3. Women in that culture were not deemed fit to learn theology. Despite all this, Jesus, a Jewish male, has a deep theological conversation with a Samaritan woman – in fact, it’s the longest section of dialogue in John’s Gospel.
Things get even more scandalous: It turns out that the woman’s marital history is unusual at best: She has been married five times and seems to currently be living common-law with a sixth man. Traditionally scholars assumed she has been living in adultery, thoughtlessly jumping from one marriage to another. But other research suggests that she may have been the victim of a combination of husbands passing away and/or husbands issuing her a certificate of divorce if they were dissatisfied with her (perhaps she is unable to bear children). We don’t know for sure, but, whatever her past, she seems to currently be in a sad, less-than-ideal situation.
We’re told Jesus knows all this ahead of time. Maybe a local had been chatting with Jesus when they both saw the woman approach and he warned Jesus not to become the woman’s sixth husband! I personally think Jesus in His divinity simply recognizes this woman as she approaches the well.
Regardless, Jesus knows this woman’s sad story of multiple marriages and non-ideal circumstances. I see grace in how Jesus still offers her the gift of living water despite her background and dubious past. As Prof. Darrell W. Johnson pointed out in the course I took last spring at Regent College on the Gospel of John, this story proves how my problems are neither a surprise nor an obstacle for Jesus. He invites me to own up to them and find healing in Him.
Jesus speaks of people worshiping in the Spirit and truth. I can be truthful with myself and with Jesus about what’s wrong and what’s hurting in my life. There’s no point in hiding it – He already knows. The amazing thing is that He also cares and is powerful enough to address my problems. His living water – the gift of His Holy Spirit – is still for me.
It makes me want to worship Him.