redeeming the woman at the well

Every sermon I have heard about “the woman at the well” (John 4) has made her out to be some kind of notorious sinner. Now that I am studying and preaching through the book of John I have finally come to this text.   I try to look at the scriptures in a fresh way each time I study, but most times you cannot help but bring your pre-conceived notions into your study time.

While dissecting the text and reading commentaries I expected to find that this woman was steeped in sin, and Jesus came to the rescue and saved her from that sin. What I found was quite different. After studying this passage, I found myself wanting to apologize to this 2000-year-old woman for judging her and speaking ill of her nearly every time that I had previously preached this text.Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-06-02 15:51:36Z | |

Most preachers have cited that because this woman was there at noon, she was trying to avoid the other ladies of the town. She was ostensibly trying to hide her loose sexual morals. Further into the story we find out that this woman has had five husbands and the man she is currently living with was not her husband. To 21st century Christians this is damning evidence of a loose sexual ethic. She must be a notorious sinner.

However what every preacher I have ever heard has failed to mention is that this account of Jesus with the woman at the well was meant to be contrasted with the previous one, Nicodemus and Jesus talking about being born again. Many preachers do not take into account that John is one of the cleverest writers in the Bible. The account of Jesus meeting with Nicodemus happened at nighttime, which is a Jewish symbol of unbelief. The account of the woman at the well happened at daytime, specifically at the sixth hour, when the sun shined the brightest, this is a Jewish symbol for belief. John is trying to contrast this ultra religious teacher of Israel who didn’t believe with a woman who did believe but would have had a repugnant status among Israelites.

The fact that Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well happened at the 6th hour has a much deeper significance than most preachers have ever gone deeply into. We know that in John’s gospel that John is concerned Jesus’ “hour” of his most important work on the cross. (John 2:4, 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 13:1, 17:1)

In John 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”  In John 4 John alludes to when that will happen, John 4:6 shows this conversation happened at the 6th hour, the same time that Jesus was crucified (John 19:14). Could it be possible that this conversation is so much deeper and greater than whatever this woman may have done to offend God? I think this story points to something far deeper and greater, this woman is the living embodiment of what would be possible after the death and resurrection of Jesus.   After all John 4:4 tells us that Jesus had to go through Samaria. Wait a second…no he didn’t. At the time there were plenty of other routs around Samaria. So why did Jesus have to travel to this despised place? I think he had to find her. He had just spoken to Nicodemus about being born again and he wasn’t necessary ready to accept what Jesus was teaching. I think Jesus wanted to show us what it looked like to be born again. This woman is what it looks like for God to “so love the world.” This woman’s five husbands didn’t mean she was sinful; there were many ways to lose a husband in the first century: war, disease, accidental death, or divorce and in this culture, divorce would not have been her call. Many scholars say that if divorce was the reason for the many husbands than this woman was more than likely barren.

Having a child was everything in this culture.

In her encounter with Jesus at that well, she was born again. In her spiritual rebirth she couldn’t help herself. She had to go to her town and tell everyone who she had just met, a man who told the truth about her life because he is the truth. In the process this woman who was probably barren, birthed many spiritual children. She deserves a redeemed place in church history and in our consciousness, her sin whatever it was, is not relevant to the story. She did something that the teacher of Israel wouldn’t do. She put her confidence and trusts in Jesus and became the first missionary to her town.

When you hear the story of this nameless woman. I want to challenge you to see her the way that Jesus saw her. A lone woman who felt she was valueless, who probably was depressed because of her sad existence. A woman who was so marginalized in society that she essentially didn’t matter to the world. She became a woman of high value. She was the first new birth of the new creation. The first who was truly on mission with Jesus.


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meet nancy

A few weeks ago a good friend passed away.  Nancy Gauntlett made life beautiful.  Her profession was an interior decorator, but her life’s work was creating beauty.  Every event Nancy had her hand on was a work of art, the interiors for the homes she designed were gorgeous and she generally just made things look good.  As I was sitting through her memorial service I was struck with the thought that she was an active participant in the mission of God.  I don’t know that people always see or appreciate beauty as a spiritual way of life.  What Nancy did was to take a run down home and renovate it.  She would take broken things and fix them.  In the process the main thrust of her life seemed to be inviting others into relationship with their creator.

When God said, “Behold, I am making all things new,” I think Nancy got that in a deep way. She exemplified this verse by taking the broken and run down and breathing new life into it.  It was more than a job; it was the most natural thing for her to do.  I look back at her life in awe of the way that God wired her.  I wish I could see potential in things the way Nancy could, the way that God does.  Whether she was aware of it or not, the way Nancy looked at an old sofa that deserved to be thrown in the trash is the same way that God looks at us.  I would just throw the sofa away, but Nancy would have re-imagined it and given new life to the once broken sofa.

The way she lived illustrated God’s grace, I’m not kidding I broke her jet ski one time and she and her husband Todd just laughed about it.  I still owe them a throttle. The kid who should have paid for the Jet Ski part, the sofa that should have seen the trash, have an element of new life because of Nancy.

Will you epitomize the gospel with your life?   Will people say, she/he lived and breathed redemption? When all is said and done will others have felt the warmth of God’s grace because of the grace that you have extended to them?


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There is this crazy story in the Bible that I am not sure what to do with.  In the book of Second Kings Elisha is presented with water from Jericho that is bad.  No crops wouldgrow and animals wouldn’t drink it, it was just bad.  Since water is so essential to life this is kind of a big deal.  The prophet said, bring me some of this water and he dumped salt in it.  Suddenly all of the water in Israel was cleansed.  This is a strange story, but it is kind of cool.  Salt in the Old Testament was a sign of God’s covenant with Israel.  All sacrifices were sprinkled with salt and even the wood that the sacrifice was burned with was covered with salt.  Salt was a big deal.  It was meant to be a reminder of a covenant.   The promise of God and his people is that no matter how bad you screw up, he will always take you back.  Salt symbolized all of that.  That God’s grace and redemption is huge.

I never really knew what to do with this story until the words of Jesus jumped into my head, “You are the salt of the earth.”  Looking back on all of the uses of salt in the Old Testament this is really a powerful statement.  We can read it as; you are to be living sacrifices.  We can read it as; you are to bring God’s covenant to the world.  Or we can look at it as; you are to bring life to the world.  Either way we read it this is a huge reminder of who we are called to be.

I think the call of Jesus is to a way of living that displays the covenant between God and mankind.  He is always here, no matter what we do or how far gone we think we might be.  There is always a second chance.  What if we live that way?  What if God’s redemption was so prevailing in your life that it utterly changed the way you interacted with others?  What if you actually were the salt of the earth?


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more than morality

I really do love the church.  I know that there have been people who have been beat-up and broken down at the hands of the church.  I know the critiques of the church from the past and the present.  I have my own critiques of the church, but I love it.  
I love the metaphors given to the church in the scriptures.  I love what it is ideally called to be and I love the messiness of what it is now.  Whenever you put a community together that needs grace and redemption you will always have some drama on your hands.

I love that the church is specifically designed to be redemptive.  There are not too many organizations or businesses that have a redemptive purpose.  I believe that the church is essentially perfect in its scriptural structure; it is the people that make it imperfect and the people who cause so much pain and division.  (People like me by the way)

I understand those who have been, “hurt by the church.”  In reality they were hurt by other people who call themselves the church.  When I was young my family went to a church where the lead pastor had an affair.  People left devastated.  My family left because my parents decided that they could teach us better family values doing things together on the weekends.  They were right.  I learned a lot about family values by camping and getting close with my family.  As I grew up I saw no practical need for the church.  My parents were amazing moral compasses, and that is all I needed.

I have always seen the point of society; you don’t have to go to church to be a moral person.  Anyone can achieve morality.  In fact there are many role-models in society who are super moral people.  But when it comes down to it, those people can not offer freedom and redemption.   I love the church because it offers more than morality.  It offers freedom from the slavery of morality.  Jesus offers redemption and the community of the church embodies that redemption.

The funny thing is that the reason why most people get hurt and leave the church is also why I love the church and I think you would love the church too.  I’d rather people not get hurt but honestly redemption is messy.  The reason why I love the church is because as the community of Jesus gathers to worship, I see a broken and messed up people admit their need for grace and liberation.


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the best shower i’ve ever taken

I love showers.  My wife makes fun of me sometimes because I shower for too long.  In 2005 I was working as a volunteer relief worker for the Red Cross in Plaquemine LA, Iberville Parish.  It was right after Hurricane Katrina.

I flew in from LA a few days earlier in to Jackson Mississippi.  When we landed we were shuttled to a small hotel.  The hotel was filled with other relief workers as a staging area.  I spent the night there barley getting any sleep.

I wanted to shower but there were notes on all of the faucets saying do not use.  Apparently the water was contaminated due to Katrina.  So the next day I drove into Baton Rouge LA, I stayed the night at another staging area and left early the next morning.  The water was contaminated there too.

When we finely got to the community center in Iberville Parish, we worked all day and slept backstage on the floor.  We were told that we could shower in makeshift public restrooms, but since they were still pulling people out of the flood waters the only shower they could offer us was at midnight and it would be a mixture of half chlorine and half water.  I opted to add an extra layer of deodorant to my already deodorant caked armpits.

On about day ten I was in a Win-Dixie buying some fresh fruit, something I craved due to eating McDonalds for ten days straight, and I was telling a friend that I needed a shower.  I told him that I didn’t care I will find a hose and spray myself off but I couldn’t handle my own smell any more.

We were wearing our Red Cross Vests and a woman in line told us that we should go over to her house and take a shower.  It was like an angel flew down from heaven at that moment because there was nothing more important to me than getting clean.  That night we went to this woman’s house.  Her name was Hope.  She had a great family.  They offered us food and drinks, warm cookies and veggie platters.

Coming from shelter life this was pretty amazing.

Then there it was.  A shower and a shave.

As soon as I stepped in the shower I started to cry.  It wasn’t a sad cry.  It was joy.   I was overcome with Joy that I was able to shower.  I soaked up every minute.  I shaved slower than I normally would.  I let shampoo sit in my hair for a few minutes just so the hot water could hit me for a little longer.  It was the greatest shower I’ve ever taken.

I’ve been alive 9,884 days.  Some days I take two showers if I’ve had a really crazy day, if I’m camping I may not shower.  But I’ve at least showered 9,000-10,000 times, but this one shower is really the only one that I remember.

Sometimes there are things in life that are so ordinary that you pass them by.  You go through life never thinking of their significance.  But when your journey has been tough, when there’s been ups and downs in it, the destination is that much sweeter.

Things like showers become memorable events that symbolize hope.  You’ve probably seen some amazing sun rises but the ones you remember were special because you hiked to the top of a mountain to see them.

How has a long or tough journey made they final destination that much better?


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