A Samaritan Woman — A Lifetime of Rejection

A lLifetime of Rejection

What makes Jesus’ visit with a Samaritan woman so significant? What personal lessons may we glean from her encounter with Jesus? Why is she given so much space in John’s writings?

As you can see, many questions fill my mind. This nameless woman intrigues me. Why Jesus intentionally met her alone intrigues me even more. Let’s begin at the beginning of the story.

“So (Jesus) left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.”
John 4:3-6

John sets the stage for us. Ancient, well-trodden paths made broad circles around Samaria. The road though Samaria was perhaps the least travelled route between Judea and Galilee. Yet Jesus deliberately went through Samaria. Tired from the journey, Jesus found momentary relief and solace, waiting alone beside Jacob’s well.

Well

History tells us that Jacob’s well was situated on a plot of ground he purchased and “pitched his tent” on. He made an altar there, calling it El Elohe Israel, The Mighty God of Israel (Genesis 33:20). The names Israel and Jacob were synonymous with each other. Jacob experienced a deeply personal encounter with God on this patch of ground generations earlier.

Rejected People

When Jacob came full circle, tired of running, deceiving, tricking, and stealing, he also came to the end of himself. After years of fighting God and those around him, at the end of all self-effort, He encountered the beginning of God. Here he dug a well. Here he found refreshing. And it was here near a place called Sychar, meaning “end,” that two weary souls met. One weary from His day’s travel; another weary from a lifetime of rejection.

Jews hated Samaritans; Samaritans reciprocated the feeling. Samaritans, a mixed breed of people, worshiped a blend of gods and God. Though they considered themselves genetically connected with Jews, generational rejection ran deep currents of pain and angst through the people. Samaritans, like other mixed races assigned equally derogatory names, lived isolated among themselves. Accepted by none. Rejected by all.

Samaritans believed in the God of the Pentateuch — the first five books of the Bible. It gave them a correct but limited view of God. Considered “unclean,” the Jews denied Samaritans access to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Consequently, they worshiped on Mount Gerizim.

Water Well

“The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.”
John 4:9

Rejected Woman

Usually, women congregated at the well during the cool evening. Together they walked, and worked, and enjoyed each other’s company.

The Samaritan woman came alone — a rejected woman within a rejected people. She, like Jacob, knew pain, struggle, and defeat. Married five times and now living in an adulterous relationship, she carried the deep marks of a lifetime of rejection — past failure, present shame, and a hopeless future. For this woman, Jesus “had to go through Samaria!” For this woman, Jesus came “tired as he was from the journey.”

Here at Sychar, the end, she met El Elohe, The Mighty God, in His Son, Jesus Christ. In the privacy of their one-on-one meeting, He refused to skirt around her pain or ignore her reality.

Stone well

” . . . Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
John 4:17-18

Rather than the familiar stabbing of accusation, she sees and feels and knows there is something different about this Man. But what is it? She probes further, responding with pointed, hard-hitting, and even confrontational questions.

Hope Again

Jesus ignores her sharp-edged response. He offers her the living water of fresh truth — truth that frees, truth that heals, and truth that sustains.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
John 4:23-24

John tells us in the very next chapter,

” . . . ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
John 5:19

Because the Father seeks true worshipers, the Son “had to go through Samaria.” Even in her limited understanding, the Samaritan woman believed. She believed the Messiah, called Christ, would come. He would answer the questions of her heart and her people. And here He stood saying, “Worship happens within us not in a building or on a mountain.”

Fountain

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you — I am he.’ “
John 4:26

Jews considered any man talking with any woman (not in his family) in a public setting highly unconventional. Even Jesus’ disciples wanted to question His reasoning for talking with someone they despised. I, too, wonder why Jesus revealed His identity to this rejected woman before anyone else. Astounding!

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’ “
John 4:27

One Encounter

That one encounter caused the woman to run back to town, shouting

” ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ ”
John 4:29

The town’s people listened to the least and lowest among them. They listened and responded, coming in droves to see Jesus for themselves. That one encounter with Jesus changed the Samaritan woman’s life forever. Her outlook changed. Her countenance changed. How she viewed the critics and criticism changed. And then change came to her whole community.

We have all faced rejection and criticism. Rejection leaves its jagged effects deep within us, waiting for the next time, the next slight, the next jab, the next dismissal, the next exclusion . . .

Studies reveal people relive social pain more vividly than physical pain. Our brains register a broken spirit as intensely as a broken limb.

Water Fountain

I’ve given birth to five sons. As much as I try, it is impossible for me to remember the pain of childbirth. How I responded to physical pain remains in my memory bank, but the actual pain does not. Yet, if I allow myself to think of deep moments of rejection, emotional pain immediately breaks to the surface, forcing fresh tears to spill forth. The need for inclusion, to be welcomed and valued, ranks high in our God-given priorities.

Jesus saw in the Samaritan woman a true worshiper — a woman worth reclaiming, redeeming, and restoring. One encounter with Jesus changed everything!

“Come, See a Man”

How are you doing today? I’m serious. Can you relate to the Samaritan woman more deeply than perhaps you thought? Has the pain of rejection cut deep swathes in your soul? Are you sitting in a personal “Sychar” — the end of hope, the end of trying to fit into someone else’s mold, the end of struggling to be valued for who you are?

Maybe, like this woman, you believe in the Messiah called the Christ, but you long for a similar life-changing encounter. Perhaps, you grew up in the church and know more Bible stories than most scholars, but you’ve never met Jesus in a personal life-transforming way. I welcome you to come to the well today. Allow Him give you a drink of “living water.”

Water Fountain

Many times, I’ve come to “Jacob’s well” — bringing unhealed wounds, unreconcilable disappointments, unanswered questions, and unresolved issues. Often, I “pitch my tent” staying in His Presence, until my soul is renewed and peace restored.

“Come, see a man!” Come, see Jesus. He will prove Himself to be for you what He showed Himself to be for the Samaritan woman, for Jacob, for me, and innumerable others, El Elohe, The Mighty God. Though others reject, He never will.

Come! Come, see a man!

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Hopelessness! Facing the Impossible!

Facing the Impossible

Hopelessness is living beyond optimism, usually when facing something impossible to accomplish, solve or resolve. It fills you with an incapacity to respond positively.

Hopelessness bombards the core of ones faith and undermines purpose.

In these last few weeks a tsunami of seemingly hopeless situations have been slamming the physical bodies, homes, marriages and ministries of people whom I love deeply.

Hopeless, that is, apart from the I AM!

No Ordinary Day

The day started out ordinary enough. Or was it? After an exhausting night of unsuccessful fishing, Simon and his partners were cleaning their nets before grabbing a few hours rest and going out again. No fish! No pay! He knew the financial pressures of operating a business.

As Jesus walked by, he was being pressed by an overly enthusiastic crowd. They were wanting to hear the word of God.

I have never experienced such  hunger for the word of God!

Lake of Gennesaret

Sounds like the makings of true revival to me!

Jesus looked around.

“He saw at the water’s edge two boats,
left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.”
Luke 5: 2

Historians say there would have been 4,000 fishing boats along the shore on that particular day. Jesus took note of two of them!

Jesus has a purpose for everything. He approaches Simon and asks him to push from shore. Here Jesus would have a safe place to teach from in nature’s amphitheater to project his voice. The weary fisherman became a captive audience of one within arm’s reach of “the Master” who made fish and water.

Hopelessness Revealed

“When he had finished speaking,
he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water,
and let down the nets for a catch.”
Luke 5:4

I can imagine the look on Simon’s face as Jesus pulled back the obstructing veil between possible and impossible.

In the Wilderness - the heat of the day

The hopeless know all too well the detailed facts weighing them down! Deep water? Simon had been out in deep water for hour after long fruitless hour. The failure to catch even one single fish had been rehearsed in his mind all morning. His discouragement was amplified through his frayed emotions and a fatigued body. He admits defeat,

“Master, we’ve worked hard all night
and haven’t caught anything..”
Luke 5:5

We’ve worked hard! We’ve worked long!

Moments seem like hours, slowly ticking by as we

fight for marriages, health or a prodigal’s return
believing against hope
unmoved by the well-aimed arrows of the enemy…
and yet, it produced nothing
Here we stand with empty nets and hands…

How long has it been since hope was a consistent reality? What the darkness of night didn’t rob, the heat of the day has drained away.

Nevertheless

The King James Version says, “Nevertheless“. I love it! Nevertheless! My NIV says, “But!”

But because you say so,”
Luke 5:5

This one little word means “by way of opposition and distinction. It is added to statements opposed to a preceding statement.” The previous statement held the facts, “but” the Truth looked beyond Simon’s eyes to his weary soul.

Jesus’ request made no sense at all! If you can’t catch fish after working ALL night, how can one possibly hope to succeed in broad daylight!

Fishing night and day

“But because you say so, I will” 

One definition of insanity is doing what you have always done expecting different results.

Simon surrendered to Jesus in the depth of his hopelessness. A man’s inability to provide for himself and his family leaves him with a sense of inadequacy and failure.

As I examine my life, I have to ask,

Where am I feeling the deepest sense of inadequacy and failure?
A relationship, a challenging position, a difficult task,
a terminal prognosis….
Where is God inviting me to enter into “the deep” and try again?

What Jesus is asking of me at times seems impossible, unreasonable, and beyond my capacity to fulfill!

Will I like Simon say,

Master
But because you say so, I will” 

Obedience? Yes, obedience. The outcome is God’s part; obeying is mine.

“When they had done so,
they caught such a large number of fish
that their nets began to break.
So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them,
and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.”
Luke 5:6-7

Insane maybe! Nevertheless, Simon’s act of obedience in the face of the impossible set him up for a miracle of maximum capacity. The nets could hold no more! Not one more fish!

Fear

Our greatest ally can be fear, as it draws us into a reverent submission and worship. Having his hopelessness uncovered was one thing! The grace of God exposed every sinful point.

“He fell at Jesus’ knees and said,
“Go away from me,
Lord’ I am a sinful man!”
Luke 5:8

I can relate!

Just recently there was far more month than paycheck. I had no tangible way of meeting a mortgage payment. Many times I had prayed for provision. Each day looked bleaker than the day before. In the morning I tearfully vented my frustration and honestly processed the hopeless and helpless position I was in.

The evening of that same day, God’s grace broke through in miraculous fashion. Now I found myself on my face repenting for my lack of faith and trust.  In the awareness of undeserved favour, tears of gratitude flowed unhindered.

[bctt tweet=”Godly fear draws us close to Jesus; paralyzing fear keeps us from Him and all He has for us.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

Godly fear draws us close to Jesus; paralyzing fear keeps us from Him and all He has for us. Crippling and isolating fears of

failure, bankruptcy or death,
commitment or intimacy,
abandonment or rejection,
wasted life and purpose,
not finishing well or pleasing God.

A dry and lonely place

“Then Jesus said to Simon,
Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.
So they pulled their boats up on shore,
left everything and followed him.”
Luke 5:10-11

Simon left the sea and the life he knew well. It was a life that prepared him for what was to come.

Never Again!

Jesus helped Simon to confront his fears, failures and hopelessness. Simon’s obedience became a life transforming moment.

Never again would Simon fish for a living. From now on he would serve God. Jesus gave Simon what he thought he wanted, so he would discover what he really needed. The Saviour came calling; Simon responded,

“But because you say so, I will” 

“But!” The little word that sits between two opposing realities!

“With man this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26

The impossible of man becomes the I Am possible of God!

[bctt tweet=”The impossible of man becomes the I AM possible of God!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

The path upward

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Further Reading: Meeting God in the Ordinary – From Common to Holy

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