Saturday Spotlight: Samaritan Woman-Outcast Reconciled By Truth

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallWhen Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water, he initiated contact with a triple threat to propriety: a Samaritan, an unescorted woman, and apparently the town tramp. She came to the well to get water at noon to avoid the other townspeople, who would have come in the cool of the morning. The woman was probably surprised that anybody–especially a Jew–would talk to her.


When Jesus asked her to get her husband she said she had no husband. I wonder if she was flirting with Jesus. As Jesus then responded, she had had five husbands. She probably wasn’t shy about talking to men. Maybe the only way she had ever been able to get attention was by using her feminine wiles. After Jesus saw through her deceptive response, the woman realized Jesus was relating to her on a much deeper level. He touched something deep inside her, something her heart craved. Nevertheless, it must have threatened her to have someone probe so close to her heart. She turned the conversation to theological debate about sects and places of worship. Jesus did not take sides but spoke about true worship for all people through God’s Spirit.


Unlike many self-righteous religious and community leaders, this outcast did not miss the Messiah when he revealed himself to her. She trusted the evidence of her own experience. Jesus had approached her without looking down on her. He ws not thrown off track by her manipulations. He spoke with insight and genuine concern for who she really was, apart from her affectations and the community’s assessment of her. He cut to the heart of her being and her heart responded.


This woman knew the truth when she heard it and the news was too good to keep to herself. She hurried to share it with the townspeople she previously avoided. Jesus met her in her isolation and shame. What she had been wasn’t as important as what she had the opportunity to become–Christ’s ambassador. She acted on that and the people responded.


It’s easy to think we have to cover up our shortcomings in order to be effective or set a good example. Maybe the best example we can set is to be honest about our weaknesses and struggles. As we come to know Christ and experience unconditional love, we will enjoy the freedom of being authentic without fear of rejection. Like the Samaritan woman, we will lose the need to protect ourselves from shame  by isolating or clinging to false fronts. We don’t have to broadcast our secrets, but when guided by the Holy Spirit, we can prudently risk sharing our faults to ask for help or when it might help others. Trusting God to meet us exactly where we are and bring us forward is truly good news worth sharing.


Reflection:  When Jesus brought the interaction closer to her heart, the woman retreated to theological debate. How can dwelling on religious dogmas obscure authentic spiritual development?


Adapted from “Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes”

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But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)


All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.


It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.


I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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