“I have no husband.” Anyone who has ever been an older single knows that this question comes up often. Do you have children? No. Are you married? No. Do you want to get married? Yes. Then what’s wrong…?
“I have no husband” is an unwanted invitation for interrogation. “Why?” “Why not?” “What’s the problem?” And for 98% of singles, divorcees or otherwise, it’s a painful one.
The Samaritan woman had married five times and was currently living with a man. And I wonder how would I treat a woman like this that I knew? Maybe not as well as I would have liked. Then it dawned on me. I do know someone who has been married almost this many times, and is currently with another man. I treat her no different perhaps because I see behind the pain.
She has been married to some not so good men. One of which was a terrifying man. And even though everyone knew the kind of man he was and what he did, no one stood to her defense and protection. The fact that someone could publicly be violent toward her and no one stood for her, even to call the police, was more traumatizing then the act of violence itself.
The belief lodged in her heart that there was no one to protect her. So anytime a future man came along and assured her he would be the man who would protect her, she fell in love. Only to find out that violence to the heart can be just as bad if not worse than physical violence. That’s why the marriages came and the marriages went. The heart has always been searching for protection.
I know another woman who was spurned by her father at a young age. In her adult life she fell for any man who gave her even a sliver of attention. It too led down a road of multiple broken relationships and broken hearts and breaking lives.
So when I come to the woman in Samaria, I ask myself, what was her need? What led her to “have had five husbands” and was currently living with one who was not her husband? The text doesn’t say. It just says that as far as she tried to squirm out of her spiritual needs being addressed, Jesus met her and did something very special. He declared to her and told her plainly that he was the Messiah. She ran home to tell everyone else.
But there’s a clue as to what her need may have been. When the disciples came back they were astonished to see him talking with a woman. They wanted to ask her, “What do you want?” (v. 27) and they wanted to ask him, “Why are you talking with her?” (v. 27) but they didn’t. It would appear that Jesus had breached this social norm before–talking with a Samaritan who is also woman. She even affirmed this. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How do you ask me for a drink? (v. 9).
What I read into this is that the woman above all else wanted to be loved and accepted. She was easily outcast by others. Rejection was what led her to the well in the middle of the day, the hottest part of the day, alone, and when no one else would be with her. This woman was lonely. Outcast. And unwanted except when she could be used up sexually by multiple men.
Jesus didn’t come on to her which I’m sure she thought he might, which is why her defenses were high on alert. He didn’t spite her by silence towards her. Instead Jesus treated her with respect. He broke cultural boundaries to extend to her kindness. He treated her with purity. And in a moment not to be repeated in a direct way to anyone else, he spoke to her giving her great honor by telling her openly that he was the Messiah.
This was such life-shattering truth and life-transforming love that she left her water jar, her earthly source of life, and ran to tell others. And while many thought she didn’t have much value and probably wasn’t too smart, she was actually genius.
In Greek you can ask a question that clearly implies whether the answer is yes or no. When she ran to town and told the others, she told them about him. Then said, “Could this be the Christ?” (v. 29). But she said it in a way that implied a ‘no’ answer. Why? Because I believe she knew they wouldn’t believe her otherwise. By saying, “He probably isn’t the Christ” it aroused their curiosity and they ran to find out themselves.
At the end of the day it was about this woman. The men, the townspeople, and even partly the other disciples saw her sin. But Jesus saw her soul. He didn’t just try to get her to change her behavior. I’m sure many had already done that. Instead he invited her to believe. Because it was only in him was water for her soul.
And on this day not only did she drink deeply. But so did all those around her who had only despised her.