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A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her , ‘Give me a drink.'(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food). (Jn 4:7-8).
She slips out the door into blinding light.
It’s noon in a high desert town. Buildings and streets flicker and blur in radiated light. Nothing else moves. Dogs are too engrossed in their panting to bark.
Hot rocks and sand beneath her sandals bring the soles of her feet to a slow broil. The relentless sunshine glints off the glaze of the water jar under her arm and magnifies its heat on her face.
There is no shade at mid-day. One either stays inside or moves quickly out to a task and back inside.
She prefers this time to get the water. The other women do this chore before the day is an hour old. She wakes late to their banter and lies still to wait for the sound to drop to murmurs as they pass her house. It’s a grim game she plays with herself each morning, knowing they are talking about her, imagining the insults.
The cool of daybreak is comfortable for neither them nor her when she joins them on their errand. She learned that in one attempt carried out in awkward silence. It was the first and last time. Sychar is too small a town to offer social alternatives. The well is pretty much it as far as entertainment goes.
That she isn’t alone occurs to her before she even sees the man sitting on the stone lip of the well. A woman living on the edge senses these things because survival depends on seeing before you are seen.
He’s a Jew, a rabbi. She can see that in his clothing. The well is an unlikely place for him to be at noon.
She knows they will not speak. Jewish rabbis and Samaritan women do not acknowledge each other on the road or anyplace else. Even if one could get by the differences in religion, gender, and ethnicity, the ancient fears and resentments have hardened into mutual contempt. But she has crossed a lot of lines in her life, and shame has long since done its worst to her, so she looks right at him.
Is he asleep or praying? She slows her approach in the shade of the sycamore trees. He raises his head and looks straight into her eyes.
She meets his gaze without deference. She knows how to appraise men–their looks, their attitudes, what they think about her–all in a second. But this one is a book she hasn’t read.
He speaks as if he was waiting for her to come.
“Give me a drink,” he says. She can’t tell whether it is a question or an order. His voice is just soft enough to make her listen.
For his part, he is tired. The only power he feels is his thirst and he has no means of quenching it. He’s been waiting, alone, for the Father’s provision, enjoying a blessed respite from the patter and complaints of his traveling companions.
He sees the woman and quickly considers the time of day, the fact that she is alone, the large jar that she is carrying, and the fact that she catches his gaze. He smiles at the Father’s wry humor in sending him a fallen Samaritan woman as an answer to his immediate need, and his first thought is a silent “Thank you.”
Her eyes flicker for a split second with surprise and he takes that in. He is thirsty and she’s come to draw water. The opportunity of a common need presents itself. There’s no need for pretense or games, or even the elaborate formalities of traditions.
Jesus, by the power of his word, separated the sea from the dry land at the Creation of the Earth (Gen 1:9-10; Heb 1:2). He speaks now to the Samaritan woman in the humility of human need.
“Give me a drink.” Four words:”Give,” a verb that confesses need and pleads for grace; “me,” a pronoun that is the indirect object that identifies the human with the need; “a,” an article that connects the verb to its direct object in the way that all human communication must connect or fail to be communication; and “drink,” the noun that is the direct object of the verb and identifies the need. With the vagaries of translation, and the uncertainty that always shadows our communication, the pronoun “you” is the unspoken, but understood subject of his statement. They are alone. He is speaking to no one else but her.
We could carp with 21st-Century, post-modern sensibilities that Jesus spoke to the woman with an imperious demand that she serve him or that his lack of a “please,” was an assertion of male dominance or a reflection of John’s gender-bias in recording the encounter.
We may be tempted to rush ahead into the dialogue to get to the marvelous theology about salvation, prophecy, worship and evangelism that will follow.
If we succumb to either of these temptations, we will miss observing the beauty of a moment of creation as powerful as the moment that the world began with God’s declaration, “Let there be light” (Gen 1:1). God’s love begins to do its wonderful creative work of salvation and transformation in the moment when one recognizes as a matter of heart-reality that Christ has acknowledged his or her existence as one of worth and purpose. “For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
Her Creator is speaking to her as a human. He does not discount her worth because she is a woman. He does not write off her humanity because she is a Samaritan. Jesus talks to her in the ordinary course of her life and gives her the choice to respond or not.
What are you doing at noon on any weekday? Running errands? Meeting someone for lunch? Making a phone call that you’ve been putting off? Taking advantage of the break to do some paperwork that has been stacking up? Going to the gym? Enjoying a simple meal while you read and reflect? Do you ever give any consideration to where Jesus Christ is waiting for you as you go about your business?
Where is the well from which you need to draw water? Our lives are lived in offices, conference rooms, kitchens and stores. We make our way down corridors, on streets and through malls. How are we going to get to know Jesus if we don’t meet him in such ordinary places because we spend scant time in cathedrals and retreat centers? How is he going to get to know us if we aren’t open to him joining us in such places?
Jesus waits for us where we live out the gritty details of our lives. He could be anyone in the crowd, you know? (Jn 5:13). Do not let your fears, resentments,shame or expectations blind you to his life-giving presence.
He makes a promise to us: “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord” (Jer 29:13-14a). Taking his word on this will change everything for you.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.
Kent and his beloved Patricia are enjoying their 31st year of marriage. They are the proud parents of Andrew, a college student.