Jesus and this woman have just been engaged in this deep and truthful conversation about the mysteries of salvation and the depth and breadth of God’s grace for all people…and then the disciples walk in. As I read it it feels like one of those awkward moments when my wife and I might be chatting privately about something important only to get interrupted by the children. The conversation, no matter how deep or significant, stops right there. The moment has been intruded upon.
The disciples are returning from their food run to find Jesus alone and chatting with a woman, which, as I explained yesterday, is socially inappropriate on many levels. Their curiosity is peaked but not one of them says anything to Jesus. Then the woman disappears, leaving her water jar right there at the well. She doesn’t care about her jar anymore, not after the conversation that she has just had with this man – nothing material matters anymore in this moment. The only thing that matters to her now is that she goes and tells someone the story of what has just happened to her. That’s what happens when big things like this happen to humans – we all have a need to share our best experiences (Isn’t that what Facebook/Instagram/Twitter thrive on?) She returns to her home town – a town in which she is a woman of poor reputation and in which she has been socially excluded – and she simply begins to tell people what just happened.
“I met this man at the well…”
The eyes of the people she is speaking to roll as they imagine what this woman is about to tell them about the man she met at the well.
“No! No! It is not like that. Listen to me. I met this man at the well and he told me EVERYTHING I have ever done. EVERYTHING! Do you think he could be the Messiah?”
Whatever it was exactly that she said, and however exactly she said it, the people of the town came out to meet Jesus and see what all the fuss was about.
They came to meet Jesus. They listened to him. They weighed up what he was saying with the testimony the woman had initially shared with them, and they believed.
They believed and asked Jesus to stay with them a while longer. He stayed two days and spoke with the people there and as he spoke, John tells us, more and more people came to believe. The people of this Samaritan village heard for themselves Christ’s word of grace and mercy and became convinced that Jesus is indeed the true light; the Chosen one of God; the Savior of the world.
The thing I notice most in this section is the same thing that I noticed in the encounters of chapter two. When Jesus meets a person and they become convinced of who he is (God’s Chosen One), the urge to share this news cannot be contained. John the Baptist believed and testified (1:34). Andrew believed and testified to his brother (1:41). Philip believed and testified to Nathanael (1:45). This Samaritan woman believes and testifies to her neighbors. For each of these people, the news of God’s grace and mercy; God’s living water for all people is so good that they cannot contain it.
Has some of that been lost on us in the 21st century western world?
Have we lost a sense of the goodness of the good news?
Have we lost it to the extent that we no longer really testify to it?
I think that perhaps we have.
I think that we live in a world in which headlines (based on actual events, of course) have served to discredit the Christian church, and by extension the Christian faith in general. We live in a world where the Christian faith (and faith/belief in general) appear to have been rejected by many in favor of Enlightenment based reason and rationalism. I think that we live in a world in which many Christians have become afraid to share the good news of their experience with Christ because the good news of Christ appears to have been rejected already by the world around them.
Of course some of you will read this and be thinking that you definitely have not lost it. You will possibly be thinking right now about just how good the good news is for you. You might even be thinking about the fact that you are not ashamed of the gospel and will happily testify to its power and goodness in your life – when someone asks you about it.
But folks don’t really ask about it anymore.
What I am trying to say here is that what I see in these opening chapters of John’s gospel are individuals whose encounter with Christ is so pure, so deep, so powerful that it cannot be conservatively contained within them. The living water really has been given to them and it really has become a spring of water welling up within them and overflowing into the world around them.
What I am saying here is that the experience of these individuals is not an experience that I see in the lives of many Christian people around me – and I do know a lot of Christian people! In fact, more often than not, what I see in many Christians around me (and I can be guilty of this myself) is a contentment with conservatively containing the good news within ourselves or within the comfortable confines our churches and fellowship groups.
I am challenged by this passage of the gospel.
I am challenged personally and find myself asking: Am I willing to talk about Jesus with my friends? Am I willing to find the way to talk about this amazingly, exceedingly good news with the folks that are all around me in my network of relationships?
Have I tasted the living water of Christ? Is it a spring which is welling up within me? Or is it a stagnant pool?
Does this passage challenge you in a similar way? I would genuinely be interested to know and to hear your thoughts?
Perhaps you will offer a comment to this blog post and we can start a conversation which might lead to transformation in our lives – a transformation which might turn stagnant pools in to vibrant, flowing streams of living water.