When I was 21, I wanted to apply for my first church job. I was super nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I send the youth minister an email from the other room and then left immediately. He told me later that he saw the email and yelled out, “No way we’re hiring this girl,” as a joke. I’ve always been glad that I missed that, because my nervous/shy self would have panicked and possibly cried. Later he came to me and asked if we could have a meeting. He kindly explained the job, what he thought I would be good at, and the areas I would need to grow in to do the job well. He made me feel comfortable and welcome and capable. Even while he was acknowledging my weakness, I felt safe. He met me right where I was and, to this day, is one of the best bosses I have ever worked for. (With the exception of Randy Wade of course!)
On Sunday, we heard the co-pastors talk about John 4 and Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well. We heard how controversial it would have been for Jesus to meet with a woman or talk to a Samaritan, and she was both. Then you add in her past and, had the Pharisees been around, they certainly would have been outraged. Thank goodness Jesus is Jesus, and he met the woman right where she was so he could change her life.
There are two things here we can take away from this. The first is the manner in which Jesus met with the woman. He did not message her on Facebook to voice his opinion of her choices. He did not gather with the disciples to discuss her under the pretext of “praying for her”. In fact, he did not go in with any sort of corrective message or to-do list. As believers, we forget that Jesus was tender to the people he encountered. He sought out the broken, went to them, and loved them. When I think of Jesus, I find myself ashamed that I am quicker to judge, outcast or scorn than I am to love, serve or hold. Believers have been left, quite literally, a perfect example of how to treat others and, instead, we cast stones in our houses of glass. We can learn from this passage that we are far from being like Jesus, and yet able to become more like him because of his example and the Holy Spirit.
The second thing we cannot miss is that Jesus does not offer the woman advice, he offers her “living water” so that she will never thirst again.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
— John 4:13–14
If she chooses Jesus, she will never have to search for meaning or satisfaction from others because she will have the giver of meaning by her side. Never again will she have to be ashamed and walk to the well in the heat of the day because she will have been called by name by the Redeemer himself. She was met, right where she was, and offered an eternal solution to all her problems.
We know from the end of the story that she chose this water. She said yes to Jesus and no to disgrace. She said yes to life and left death behind her at that well. The second thing we need to know is we can be the woman. Jesus is willing and able to meet you where you are and, when you see him, he will offer you everything he offered her. He will wipe away your sin and your tears if you will only choose him. He will help you move from past to future, from death to life if you’re willing to “drink” what he has to offer. And if this is you now, and you’re ready to be seen and known and met right where you are, Jesus is already there waiting for you.
And for the rest of us, he tells us to go and love him and love others because, if we could get this right, we would change the world just like he has changed ours.