Shorter, fewer details, general comments
Longer, more details, specific comparisons with Nicodemus
I’ve come to feel that the “woman at the well” has received a bad rap. Truthfully, I envy her and would like to be more like her. I mean, she had one on one with Jesus out in the middle of the desert; he revealed to her point blank that he was Messiah; she received him into her heart without struggle; and she instantly went out and testified to all the men in her own town, bearing much, much fruit, even a hundred fold (John 4:30, 35, 39-42). She really exemplifies Romans 8:28—in the end, everything in her life worked together not only for her own good but for the good of many others, because she loved God and was called by him according to his purpose.
Sadly, at times, I feel more like a female Pharisee than the woman at the well—judgmental, argumentative, way off base— while the woman at the well was sincere in her joy, generous with her treasure, sharing her love for Messiah with everyone. Or, sometimes I feel like a female Nicodemus, of the Sanhedrin—an expert in the law, the “teacher of Israel,” who came to Jesus by night, sneakily, in fear of being spotted and condemned by one of his own crowd, outed. And he never quite got it. At least not in those moments when he had that awesome opportunity to interview Jesus one on one and speak to him without the jostling crowds competing for his attention.
So often in sermons and teachings, I hear the woman at the well being brushed off as a sinner, as though that were her one defining characteristic (1, 2). What ever happened to Romans 3:23 and 3:10? And when she learns that Jesus is a prophet and asks him a prophet’s question, we hear from some of the pundits that she is using an evasive tactic to divert attention away from her sin. Excuse me? We’ve already passed that part. Jesus scored. Can’t a woman whose sin falls into the category of sexual also have an intellect and a genuine interest in the big questions of Samaritan life—this mountain, that mountain, what is truth? She did better than Pilate on that one—she recognized Jesus for who he is. Or, do many commentators, especially those of an older generation, scorn her, finally, because she is a woman, period? Jesus, after all, was a ground breaker.
Yet, this story is mainly about Jesus, rather than the woman. We see him as a passionate evangelist. He really cared about people, all people, even people whom church ushers place near the back. You see, that is prejudice. Jesus sat this woman in the front row, directly, never in the back. This spot was reserved for her from all eternity past. He loved her, capital agape. He loved everything about her. We are wholes, not conglomerates of fractions. When we love someone, we must love all of them, because that’s who we are. The arm is not separable from the toe. He loved her as she was, and he loved what he knew she would become in him. He loved that she responded to his love by loving him in return. And he loved her town and all the people in it. I truly don’t think I would have done as well as the woman at the well. She, like Jesus, was a passionate evangelist who loved people.
Think: Jesus revealed himself to this woman more fully, more directly, and more quickly than to possibly anyone else in the Gospel narratives. What is God trying to tell us in this portion of Scripture? I can think of a few things—
- Jesus Christ, Messiah, God’s precious Son who reveals the heart of God to humans and who always does what God tells him to do, loves women.
- Jesus Christ loves sinful women.
- Jesus Christ, very God of very God, reveals himself gladly and directly to sinful women.
- Jesus Christ can use a sinful woman who believes in him to greatly advance his kingdom.
- Jesus Christ has no favorites.
This last point will be developed in Section II.
1. “Consequently by all expectations, she is not a woman worthy of attention from the Son of God. She is not a woman who is elevated. This is condescension.”
https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-20/messiah-the-living-water-part-1. MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Messiah: The Living Water, Part 1, John 4:1-15.” Grace to You, April 21, 2013. Accessed January 25, 2018.
“So when He speaks to this Samaritan woman, it is a shocking condescension. It is an unexpected condescension.”
https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-21/messiah-the-living-water-part-2. MacArthur, John. Sermon: “Messiah: The Living Water, Part 2, John 4:16-26.” Grace to You, April 28, 2013. Accessed January 25, 2018.
My comment on the above: It might be a “shocking condescension” for a person who judges by externals and sees himself as actually being quite above a person such as the woman at the well. But what if Jesus Christ, as revealed in his having become human, is in fact as humble in character as both his birth and death indicate he is? Was he posing when he chose poor, uneducated people to be his earthly parents? Was all that about being born in a stable and laid in a feed trough for animals a charade? I posit that Jesus humbled himself in “shocking condescension” by becoming human in the first place. From his great height next to God the Father, the difference between Nicodemus, the well-respected Jewish male rabbi, and the woman at the well does not even exist. To us who are proud in heart by nature, Jesus perhaps “shockingly condescended” to the woman, but more likely, for him, he did not view his sister that way at all.
2. Contra the above and in defense of the woman’s perceived immorality, see Reeder, Caryn. “In Focus: Revisiting the Woman at the Well.” Intervarsity, Graduate Women in the Academy and Professions, May 27, 2014. http://thewell.intervarsity.org/in-focus/revisiting-woman-well. Accessed January 25, 2018.
Outline of Psalms Revisited
B. Expect God to Speak to You—Yes, You!
3. Jesus Evangelizes a Sinful Woman: Section I
Never think that you might not be good enough, smart enough, educated enough, rich enough, or important enough for God to talk to you personally. And if you think that God does talk to you, that does not mean that you are crazy (as in, why would God talk to you?).
Who in the Bible does God share himself and his thoughts with? Who are the ones to whom he opens his heart? The Psalms answer this question in a multitude of places: God loves those with a humble heart; a proud heart he despises.
Psalm 18:27 For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.
Psalm 69:33 For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
Psalm 138:6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.
See also Psalm 22:6; 22:24; 146:8; 147:6; 149:4.
Again, who did Jesus reveal his true identity to? Who did he share himself with? He chose twelve disciples, some of whom were fishermen, one was a tax collector, none were religiously educated or well placed in the synagogue or society. He himself was born in a stable, and his legal father was a laborer, a craftsman who worked with his hands. His forerunner John the Baptist was something of a wild man who lived in the desert, wore camel hair clothing, and ate insects. Jesus ministered to the blind, the sick, the lame, the lepers, those possessed by demons, to sinners and women who committed adultery and other sexual indiscretions. These were his life, and these were his chosen environment.
Consider this. No one has ever risen from the dead, except Jesus. He had been crucified on a cross, and a soldier stuck a sword through his side. Water and blood, separate from each other, came out of the wound. Jesus was genuinely attested as dead. Then he was placed for three days in a cold, dark cave with a stone sealing the exit. Rising from the dead is a major event—it just doesn’t happen! So, to whom did Jesus show himself first? In a society in which a woman’s voice counted as nothing and women themselves were not greatly valued, Jesus, just having done what no human being had ever done before or since, first showed himself to Mary Magdalene, a woman who had once been possessed by seven demons (Luke 8:2; Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 1:9; John 1:1, 11-17). He showed himself to two disciples who were not among the inner circle, while they were walking to their dwelling in a town called Emmaus (Luke 24:1-33). He also showed himself to Peter and the other disciples (Luke 24:34, 36), who were all hiding behind locked doors.
The point is that Jesus did not appear before the Pope (there was none then), nor to the high priests, nor to the secular ruler Herod, nor Nicodemus, a well-respected teacher of the Jews, nor to any of the religious authorities of the time—not the scribes, nor the rabbis, nor lawyers, Pharisees, or Sadducees, all of whom were religiously educated and regarded as authorities. No, but he chose to show himself to those few whom the world might call “nobodies.”
Question: if you happened to be one of those “nobodies” who first saw Jesus, would you draw your religious beliefs from your own experience of just having encountered the risen Jesus, or would you base how you thought about fulfilled Scripture on the teachings of those experts who never encountered Christ after he rose from the dead?
It is true that later in New Testament history, Jesus did reveal himself to a very highly educated man, Saul, who after this encounter received the new name Paul. He is the one who wrote thirteen of the books of the New Testament and possibly Hebrews. Yet here are Paul’s own words:
NET Philippians 3:8 More than that, I now regard all things [the things in his prior list of accomplishments] as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things– indeed, I regard them as dung!– that I may gain Christ.
ESV 1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 1:26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
In other words, it wasn’t Paul’s great education that the Lord chose, but he chose Paul’s heart of passion, learned humility, and willingness to serve.
All these Scriptures and multitudes of others show that God wants to have an open doorway of direct communication with every single least one of those who believe in Jesus Christ. God definitely talks to “nobodies” always and forever, because there are no “nobodies” in his sight. God judges very differently than we humans do. He can and does look inside a person’s heart, and the important people to God are the ones who sincerely desire to know him.
Christ in the Psalms: Contents
- Introducing Psalms 2 – A Second Go Round … Link
- Pursue Your Hunger … Link
- God Is Willing to Talk to You … Link
- Jesus Evangelizes a Sinful Woman … Link
- Jesus Evangelizes a Rabbi … Link
- The Holy Spirit in the Reader … Link
- Which Bible Should I Use? … Link
- Psalms as Prayers of Christ … Link
- Presuppositions–Where I’m Coming From … Link
III. Specific Psalms
- Psalm 132 Intercession and Divine Speech … Link
- Psalm 132 Concrete-Literal and Spiritual-Literal … Link
- Psalm 116:1-9 (114 LXX) … Link
- Psalm 116 Christ Loves the Father … Link
- Psalm 116:11 All Mankind Are Liars … Link
- Psalm 88 A Tenebrae Psalm … Link
- Psalm 89 History to the Foot of the Cross … Link
- Psalm 89 A Short Devotional … Link
- Psalms 18 and 118 Up from the Grave He Arose! Link
- Psalm 18 Papa Roars and Rescues … Link
- Psalm 116:11 All Mankind Are Liars … Link
- Psalm 1: Headwater to the Psalter … Link
- Psalm 1: God’s Instruction Freely Given … Link
- Psalm 2: God’s Son the King … Link
- Psalm 3: Is God Schizophrenic? … Link
- Psalm 4: Jesus’ Prayer Closet … Link
- Psalm 4: A Peek Inside the Prayer Closet … Link
- Psalm 5: Characteristics of Unrighteousness … Link
- Psalm 6: Enter God’s Wrath … Link
- Psalm 7 and Psalm 37: Dynamic Duo … Link
- Psalm 8: Humanity in General or Christ in Particular? … Link
- Psalm 9 and Psalm 10: Justice … Link
- Psalm 9 and Psalm 10: A Readers Theater … Link
God loves to communicate. He is in the business of communication. He created by speaking all things into existence (Genesis 1), and His Son is called the Word (John 1:1-5). After Christ’s atoning death, resurrection, and ascension, God sent the Holy Spirit to take the place of Christ on earth, and the Holy Spirit will be with us until Christ comes again (Matthew 28:8, 20). The Holy Spirit reminded the disciples of everything that Jesus ever said to them (John 14:26, 16:12-13). He is still with us today to act in our lives, reveal Christ to our hearts, and to open and explain Scripture to our understanding.
God does not keep secrets (Matthew 28:20; Luke 11:9). Nor does he have favorites (Romans 2:11). He loves a humble, broken, repentant spirit, and to everyone who is hungry to learn of him, he eagerly gives his spiritual food (Luke 11:11-13). This means that you don’t need to be well-educated to understand the Bible. God wrote it for everyone to understand and use (Proverbs 1:20; 2:4-5).
But you must be hungry for his Word. If you are not so very hungry, pray that the Holy Spirit will make you hungrier. And if you are already hungry, then you are blessed (Matthew 5:6). Pursue your hunger and pray that God will give you the answers that your heart desires. Ask him to open Scripture to you, especially those specific parts of Scripture that you want to know more about (Luke 24:27). God’s Word promises that he will answer your prayer. So keep on praying until he does, because he will (John 15:16; 16:23).
Frankly, I wish I were a better writer. I wish I had the skill to write short and succinct. Get to the point, illustrate it, apply it–bim, bam, boom, an awesome post that hundreds of people would eagerly read in about one or two minutes max.
I’m not and I don’t.
All I am is a tiny person with an even smaller voice.
But I’m someone who loves the Lord with her whole heart, soul, mind, and spirit, and I love his Word. I believe that the Lord has given me the key to unlocking the Psalms (I’m certainly not claiming to be unique in that), and I want to share its treasures with you, for the one purpose that you, too, will find that key and enter into the most marvelous fellowship with the amazing Son of God/Son of Man whom they present.
I’m positive many of you already love the Psalms. If so, you might want to skip what I have to say. I’m mostly writing for those who are puzzled by Psalms or haven’t yet found a door for enjoying them more completely.
As always when approaching Scripture, pray, pray, pray, because what is the Psalter, if not a conversation, as in dialogue, between God and man? As you read the Psalms, share your heart with God through prayer, and see if he doesn’t share his heart with you.