READ: Mt. 4:12, 17; Mk 1:14-15; Lk. 3:19-20; 4:14-15; Jn. 4:1-54
Jesus heads toward his home region today. What drives this decision? He is certainly aware of the controversy his baptizing (or as John clarifies, the baptizing his disciples are doing) has brought to John’s disciples. And then John is put into prison for his bold rebuke of Herod’s lifestyle choices. Tensions run high on all sides as Jesus makes his way to Galilee. There is a deliberateness in this move and he goes preaching “The time has come! The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Jesus is on mission, choosing to go the most direct route to Galilee, usually about a 2 ½ day trip through Samaria. To me this feels like a trip up I-5 from Eugene to the outskirts of Portland, a trip of about 70 miles. I take I-5 when my purpose is in Portland, perhaps a trip to the airport, and my strategy is to get there as fast as possible. But Jesus makes a significant stop in the heart of Samaria at a little town called Sychar. This isn’t a quick rest stop just outside of the destination. Instead, Jesus ‘sees’ a woman there. With the eyes of the God who sees, He notes a woman alone at the well at an unusual hour and doesn’t just think “Hmmmm, that’s unusual”, instead he enters into her life, her heart and her need. He engages with her in such a way that what might have been a one or two hour stop for sustenance and rest becomes an additional two day’s sojourn to teach and encourage not just this woman, but the whole town that ultimately comes out to see him.
For me, this is one of the most amazing and encouraging stories of Jesus’ heart and purpose in all the gospels. This woman is less than a nothing in the culture and economy of the time. She is notorious in her town, but not in a good way. As she comes to the well, I can hear the music “I Will Survive” in the background. She is doing everything she knows simply to maintain life in her situation. And then this man, to whom she should have been invisible, sees her, speaks to her and offers her living water! Wow!
Once again I see the heart of God visible in the flesh. I see the same God who ‘saw’ Hagar in the desert, who ‘saw’ Naomi and Ruth in deadly circumstances. Jesus puts into the flesh the Hesed love of God that translates into kindness and compassion and he does this for a woman. I want to stand and cheer and praise God for this story of God’s heart for women!
And then, in a final beautiful encouragement to us all, Jesus schools his disciples when they puzzle among themselves about what has transpired. In the context of this story, of this time of teaching a whole town, Jesus speaks the phrase we so often quote to support mission efforts, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35 With open eyes Jesus saw the ripe need of this woman and step by step moved into loving and teaching her and then her community, reaping a rich, rich kingdom harvest. Oh to be like Thee!
Lord, once again You blow me away with Your ability to see and love and reap a rich harvest in another’s life. Jesus, oh how I want to ‘see’ like You do! You’ve given me the words of life! You’ve given me such abundance of living water. Now give me eyes to see those around me who are hungry and thirsty and ready. Give me such a heart that I can stop my agenda dead and spend time and listen and share with those who are ready!