Today's Gospel reading is John 4:5-42, about the Samaritan woman at the well. All Gospel readings are fruitful, some are especially useful for typology or historical context, but some you can plop yourself right down in the middle of and look around. This is one of those.
Picture the well, deep and without a bucket handy. There must have been a few trees and some greenery around the well, a little oasis. Picture the woman, who after five husbands and her current squeeze must have looked, well, I picture her looking a little cheap - too much makeup, a little too much wiggle while she carried her water on her head. See Jesus, tired, dusty, sitting down for a rest. It was about noon, Scripture says, so the sun is overhead and hot. He butts into her activity and shortly tells her of the living water He has for those who recognize Him.
There's an obvious evangelism lesson in the reading: she sees, hears and believes. She tells the people of the town and some believe because of her telling, but then after hearing Jesus themselves, come to believe on their own because of their "personal relationship with the Lord."
Something new touched me when I heard it proclaimed this morning: that Jesus told her about her sinful life and instead of turning around and going into the desert to mourn her sins, or, more what I'd want to do, moving somewhere far away to get a fresh start, she bounds back into town, saying "Come see this man who told me everything I've ever done!"
In their conversation, I don't think she was "positioning" herself with Him. She was so aghast that a Jew would speak to or share a common bucket with a Samaritan that I doubt it occurred to her that this stranger would know she was the town easy.
Note that He didn't soften it any and say "well, you sleep around too much, but you're good to your neighbors and generous at the temple." Nor does He get into grisly detail. We only hear briefly about her lifestyle and she's HAPPY about being told! Nor does He tell her that He loves or forgives her, and it's not recorded that He told her to repent. In fact, it's not recorded that she straightened up and flew right, but you know she did.
God willing that I develop a joy about being convicted in my sinfulness by His justice and mercy! I cannot honestly conceive of that yet. Faith-sustaining relief and grim happiness that He does indeed know me personally, because He can see into my heart and my soul and my motives, and I can therefore with confidence approach Him: at least He won't say "who are you?" I hope this Lent will teach me to recognize my own imperfection as the road to the Heart of all Perfection.
David Bentley Hart Grapples….
5 hours ago