Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Woman at the Well

Woman at the Well

dougfloyd – 5/2007

Thirsty and hungry he sits, waiting, baking in the billowing heat. Eyes burning from the salty sweat that baptizes his forehead in the noonday sun. As he waits, he watches, drifting in and out of a thin consciousness.

He watches as Abraham’s servant walks up to the well and asks a young lady for a drink. Soon they leave together, and a marriage between Izaak and Rachel begins unfolding. There’s something about wells and love.

Tamar comes every day when the blistering heat of the noonday sun is at its peak. This miserable heat is better company than the constant cackling of the village women who curse her as she passes by. So she walks alone in the heat of the day while other rest in the shade. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t need them. She doesn’t need anybody. She comes to the well to find water, but who knows what else she might?

Interrupting her musings, he looks up and asks, “Can you give me a drink?”

“What? A Jew asks a woman of Samaria for a drink?” Tamar is well aware of the cultural and religious taboos this stranger has just violated. He talked to a woman. Some rabbis suggest that if a man talks to a woman for over twenty minutes, you must assume they’ve been intimate. Plus a Samaritan woman at that!

Jews despised the Samaritans. She remembers as a child watching a Jewish family pass through her town. She waved. They scowled and turned away as though she were some kind of wild animal.

“What does he really want, she wonders mischievously.”

“If you had recognized who is asking you for water, you would have asked him for living water instead,” He says climbing to his feet.

“Wow he must think he is really special!”

Looking around for his things, she queries, “You don’t have a pot or anything to even hold the water. This well is deep, so I am not sure how you even begin to offer me living water. Do you have some well around here I don’t know about? Are you somehow better then Jacob, our Father? He drank water from this well. His sons drank from this well. And now we enjoy the gift of his well.”

“This well can satisfy your thirst for just a moment. And then you’re thirsty again. The water I offer keeps satisfying. It springs up inside a man as streams of living water flowing on and on and on.”

Not sure if he’s flirting with her, she blurts out, “That sounds like my kind of water. If it’s as good as you say, I’m ready to drink.”

“Then go get your husband, and come here.”

“I don’t have a husband.”

“That’s right. You’ve actually had five husbands and the one you’re with today is not even your husband.”

The game was over. His words cut to the heart.

Instantly, Tamar traveled back in her mind to a large family gathering. It was a cool fall night and all her relatives had gathered in harvest celebration. Music fell on her ears like rain from the sky. The world was a celebration.

Intoxicated by this night of dancing and singing and eating, she fell into the arms of young man. Before she knew what she was doing, she had given away her only possession. In the middle of their escapade, they were caught, exposed in front of the entire village.

She publicly shamed the family. Responding in the only way he knew, her father cried out and grieved as though a child had died. The crisp fall air turned stale and a sick, pit-in-your-stomach gloom swallowed all festivity.

Tamar died that night. She died to family and friends. She left her home and never saw her family again. Learning to survive on her own, she did what a woman had to do. Men came and went. Each one with promises of a better life. Each one more vile than the last.

Worthless and used up, she grew hard to the world. Nothing or no one had come close to penetrating her fortress of indifference in years. A chance meeting with a strange Jew, and the fortress walls began to tremble. His words pierced her soul like javelins.

Grappling to recuperate, she says, “You must be a prophet.”

She wonders, “Could he be the prophet that Moses spoke of?” If so, maybe he can finally affirm our worship.”

Not only was Tamar a marginalized woman. She came from a marginalized people. They were outsiders. Cursed by the Israelites even though they held to the law and worshipped at the Holy Mt of Gerizim.

She asks, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship."

Looking directly into her eyes, Jesus proclaims, “Woman, listen to me and believe. The time is at hand to worship the Father in heaven directly. No more will it be this mountain or that mountain. From now, the true children of God will worship the Father in spirit and truth. He is drawing all men to himself and the hour is at hand for the true worshippers of God to wake from their sleep.”

Jarred by his direct response she replies, “If only the Prophet were here. He would tell everything we need to know.”

“I who speak to you Am He.”

His words echoed through every fiber of her body from her head down to her toes. Suddenly she realized she was running. Running madly into the village as though she were racing for her life. She was crying.

Crying for the first time in fifteen years. Her cold, hard, calloused heart suddenly ached again. She could feel something. She was alive. Like the teenager that died so many years ago, she was alive again.

Alive! Alive! She shouted, she cried, she laughed. Surely the people will think I am insane but who cares because I’ve seen him, I’ve seen him, the One is here, He told me everything, everything about my life.

“Come and see. Come and see. He is here!”

When she opened eyes, she realized that she was surrounded by a crowd. They swayed on her every word. When she paused, everyone started talking at the same time, asking, “What happened to you? You look completely different?” “Where is He?” “Can we meet him?”

Everyone shouting and pushing to get near her. Excitement, like that fall night so many years ago, danced in the air. All she could say, all she could do, all she could sing out was, “Come and see! Come and see.”

Then she began running back to the well.

A bustling panoply of people flocked to the well with a singing, dancing little girl leading the pack. “Come and see!” “Come and see!”

The disciples who had finally returned with food for Jesus, looked up from the well in shock and surprise. Jesus was explaining to them about another food and another harvest when they saw it with their own eyes.

He smiled as the little girl returned. She had finally come home to her father’s house and she was bringing her friends to the feast. They all laughed and cried and rejoiced at the words and wonders of Jesus. These outsiders to the faith; these marginalized people found the prophet of God who welcomed them into the Father’s house. As He talked and stayed with them, they realized that this is not just a prophet, they were feasting with the Savior of the world.

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