John 4:16-19 – Jesus and the Samaritan Woman continue their conversation.
What sort of life would you have to have led to sit on a hot day by a well in 1st century Samaria doing your best to hide from a stranger the fact that your past had 5 failed marriages in it, and now the man wanting his tea later was not even your husband. What sort of life?
What sort of life would you have had to lead to shun human interaction and drag a heavy water jar half a mile down a dusty road in the merciless heat to avoid gossip? Better to not ask than to be rejected… What sort of life?
We don’t know. We can imagine, and I am sure we do. We can make up stories, and I know I do. We can guess, and I’m sure there are times when we do our bit of guesswork and add two and two. But we don’t know.
What is remarkable about this story is that Jesus knows. He knows the woman’s past, and with a prophetic ‘word of knowledge’ He reveals to her that he knows her intimately, the secrets and the shame and the baggage of her life.
He knows whatever it is we don’t know about each other.
The other thing that is remarkable is that Jesus doesn’t reject her or makes her feel uncomfortable. He just tells the truth. The truth that sets her free, because there is nothing to hide now, it is already known by the only one perfect enough to actually pronounce any judgement – and we see that He doesn’t. Because He has not come into the world to condemn, but to save as we discovered.
Guilt, they say, comes from the things you do wrong. Shame comes from the wrong that is done to you.
On the cross, Jesus took away both. On the cross, Jesus carried, like the scapegoat on Atonement Day, all our sins away, never to be seen again. He also carried away the sins of other people. He took all that we have done wrong AND He took all that has been done wrong against us.
When the Lord’s Prayer says: …forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, perhaps that is what God means? That instead of labouring and striving to forgive when we cannot, what we need to do is to put other people’s sin where we put ours – on the scapegoat, and see it carried away.
Lately, I have found that picture helpful alongside our more familiar phrase: Take it to the cross.
The idea of seeing what has hurt me and left me sometimes reeling, wander off into the sunset carried on a goat helps me to let go. Forgive us… as we forgive. The same method – Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. On a cross.
But for now, He is sat at a well in Samaria, and a woman has discovered that not only is He a mighty Jewish man, far greater than Jacob, He is also clearly a prophet, and the best is yet to come. Soon.