What’s Getting In Your Way?

It’s the longest dialogue Jesus has with anyone in any of the Gospels.  We’ve all heard the story many times, and for good reason—this lovely encounter between Christ and a sinner cuts to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian.  In the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, Jesus comes to a well at noontime and there he meets a Samaritan woman who is about to fill her water jar.  The conversation they share at the well reveals how mercy and sin meet in the heart of the woman.  She is an outcast, a Samaritan, with whom no “respectable” Jewish man would speak.  Yet she and Jesus speak deeply together about social protocol, religious history, Jewish prophecy and, in a real stunner for the woman, her own broken marriages and sin.  She is transformed by her conversation with Jesus.  In the middle of this ordinary day, her life was totally changed.  She has met the Messiah at the well.  Since we know her shame and her sins, we know that her noonday trip to the well was something she’d planned.  It was no accident for her to be there when she was.  The other women of the town would have visited the well early in the morning.  So she’d avoided the stares and comments of these “respectable” women by timing her trip for the hottest time of the day, when no one else would be there.  Or so she thought.


But God had other plans for her life.  In the middle of an ordinary day, in the middle of her sinful life, the Creator of the universe asked her for a drink of water.  As they spoke together, Jesus revealed Who He was and gave her the promise of eternal life.  She was drawn to Him.  Jesus didn’t condemn her, which she was probably expecting.  Neither did He minimize her situation:  “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband (John 4:17-18).”  Jesus named her sin there in the light of the noonday sun.  And her eyes and heart were opened to see Him and hear Him.  He accepted her in her sin without condemnation or judgment.  His truthful words allowed her to imagine a new beginning.  His mercy was a healing balm for her broken and abused heart.  As she felt the impact of His acceptance and love grow within her, she did something remarkable—“…she left her water jar…”(John 4:28).  The very thing that was the reason she’d come to the well in the first place was now unimportant to her.  She left the jar to tell the people of the town about Jesus.  “Come and see a man who told me everything I have done”(Johne 4:29).  Perhaps the burden of that heavy clay water jar was like the other burdens she’d left at the well.  Her sinfulness, her emptiness, her shame and her guilt, these were gone, too.  She’d visited the well for ordinary water and found living water instead.  All her burdens were now laid at the feet of the Lord. 


We can see ourselves in her unfolding story.  What burdens, what sins, what shame are each of us being called to lay at Jesus’ feet?  What is it in my life that I keep in my own water jar?  And if we don’t give our sinfulness over to Him, how can we hope to be a witness to others of His life-giving water?  What am I carrying around that gets in the way of my sharing the good news of God’s mercy and love? 


“…whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst…”(John 4:14)

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