Desperation comes in various ways, but it touches all of us at one time or another. Loss of income, out of control addictions, marriage in crisis, illness, a child walking in darkness. Or maybe it’s deep shame that you can’t get away from, a need that keeps you running in the wrong direction, a loneliness that threatens to overwhelm you. Many are the reasons that people find themselves with the deep ache of desperation. This will be part 1 of a 4 part post looking at 4 desperate women who encountered Jesus in scripture.
From John 4:3-32:
First, I want to note an important point at the very beginning of this account.
Jesus was leaving Judea to return to Galilee. The text states in verse 4, “Now he had to go through Samaria”. The original language meant it was “necessary” to go through Samaria. But Samaria was not the only route, nor the usual route for Jews traveling that way. In fact, Jews typically went around Samaria, to avoid any contact with Samaritans (huge, huge feud/hatred between Jews and Samaritans). Yet, Jesus found it necessary to go through Samaria. And in doing so, He encountered a woman who desperately needed to meet Him.
So, at around noon (the sixth hour), He came to a well and, tired from His journey, He sat down. Enter the Samaritan woman, coming to draw water from the well. This is where Jesus begins to break the rules.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?'” (v. 7).
Couple of things: First, Jews did not speak to Samaritans. Second, a Jewish man would never have spoken to a Samaritan woman.
So begins an exchange between a desperate woman and the One who can answer her desperation.
The conversation begins as a verbal dance between these two strangers. He begins to speak of water and thirst. He speaks spiritually, she hears in the natural. Finally, He puts his divine finger on the very spot that will reveal who He really is to her unseeing eyes. “Go get your husband.” A quick pirouette as she replies, “I have no husband.”
So Jesus pulled back the cover. “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.”
Married five times, and now living in sin. I think it’s safe to say that this woman had some shame going on. Many of the commentaries I read all agree that she probably came to the well alone, rather than when the other women would have come, to avoid the scorn that was likely a way of life for her.
But here she is, in a counter-cultural conversation with a Jewish man who is obviously a prophet, likely to her discomfort. And then, probably to her relief, the subject shifts to worship, and a life-altering revelation. This Jewish man, who purposely came into a place inhabited by despised people, broke the cultural rules and exposed what she tried to hide from Him…was her Savior. What was a girl to do? She went back to town and told others.
I imagine this woman, and what may have been her desperation. She was a woman with a reputation. Her sin identified her. Shame and the scorn of others dogged her steps. If it were me, what would I be desperate for? I would have been looking for and wanting security and love. But I would have been desperate for a new identity.
Now, look at verse 39 ~”Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.'”
As she left the well that day, she went from outcast to missionary. From a woman living in shame to a woman with something important to proclaim. A new identity.
All from one desperate encounter with Jesus. Living water…quenching an unquenchable thirst.