John 4:1-26 — Brutal honesty? Or truth in love?

Well, after two days in a sickbed, and a day of catching up with my work, I’m back blogging.  If you could throw some prayers my way, I’d appreciate it.  I’m not nearly at a 100% today.

Someone once said that the problem with brutally honest people is that most of them are more interested in being brutal than they are in being honest.  And often times, I think that’s true.  They tell the truth not because they really care, but because they secretly get some pleasure from hurting the people they nail with the truth.

Jesus was someone who could be brutally honest, as was John (the Baptist).  You can’t look at their interactions with the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees and not conclude that they were being brutally honest with them.  I do wonder at times why Jesus and John were so brutally honest with them.  The only thing I can think of is that their heads were so thick with pride, nothing else would get through.

As brutal as truth could be, however, most times Jesus used it with a touch of compassion.  It’s something that I think is seriously lacking in the church today.  But we see it here.

It’s interesting that it says in this passage that Jesus “had to” go through Samaria, because while technically it was faster to travel through there, most Jews didn’t.  Samaritans were considered half-bred Jews who had abandoned the true faith of the Jews, which was technically true on both counts.

But Jesus wasn’t one to live by cultural restrictions when it contradicted his Father’s will, so he blithely ignored them, probably to the disciples’ chagrin.

And when he got there, he sent them into the city to get some food, and tired as he was, he sat down for a rest when he saw a woman approaching.

If Jesus breached cultural norms by entering Samaria, he completely shattered them by talking with this woman in public, something no Rabbi would ever do.  And he starts with an innocuous request, “Will you give me a drink?”  (8)

I wonder what exactly this woman was thinking.  For one thing, she was apparently a woman of ill-repute even among her own people.  Most women would never come to the well at midday when it was scorching, but this woman did, probably to avoid the other women.  Furthermore, we’ll see that she had a habit of starting love affairs that had bad endings, and was “living in sin” even at that point.  Could it be she wondered if Jesus was looking for an affair with her.

It seems even she had her standards, because she spat out,

You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.  How can you ask me for a drink?  (9)

But Jesus spoke to her with gentility, saying,

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.  (10)

What was this living water?  In John 7:37-39, Jesus uses the same term for the Holy Spirit.

But this woman could only think of the physical, and so she said, “How can you give me water when you have nothing to get it with?”  (11)

Jesus answered,

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  (13-14)

In other words, “I’m not talking about physical water.  Physical water satisfies physical thirst for a short time, but I’ll give you a water that will give you life forever.  You will never thirst spiritually again.”

Perhaps this woman was blind, or perhaps she just didn’t want to acknowledge her spiritual need because of how much it hurt (or perhaps both).

Whatever the case, she seems to mock Jesus, saying, “Well then, give me this water, so I don’t have to come here all the time.”  (15)

And here Jesus hits her where it hurts.

Go, call your husband and come back.  (16)

Perhaps the woman winced as she said,

I have no husband.  (17a)

Jesus responded,

You are right when you say you have no husband.  The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”  (17b-18)

Ouch.

In one second, all her hurts are laid bare.  The years of seeking someone who would love her.  Giving her body to man after man trying to attain that love, perhaps sometimes stealing him from another, but ultimately being rejected to the point where the man she was with now wouldn’t even commit himself to her even for a short time.

Why did Jesus do this?  Because he wanted to see her hurt?  No because he cared.

When she tried to throw up theological smokescreen, he blew it away.  And when she tried to turn away and put off any more talk for “when Messiah would come”, he said to her, “Hey.  Look at me.  The one you’re looking for…I’m the one.”  (26)

And as she looked in her eyes, she saw someone who knew her completely.  Who knew the very inner part of her heart and soul.  And loved her.

How often can the same be said of us?  When we tell people the truth, do they see Christ’s love in us?  More than that, can we say from our hearts, “I really do care about you?”

Christ’s love turned the heart of this woman.  Truth pointed the way.  But love turned her heart.

Are you merely callous pointers of the way?  Or is the love of Christ through you turning hearts?

About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: crossroad-web.com 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください: crossroad-web.com
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