Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John — although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink? “ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
I am fascinated and challenged by this idea that Jesus saw people in the context of their entire life’s journey. It challenges me because so often I see people in the moment of my encountering them and fail to take into consideration the full contour of their life. It may not be possible to have that perspective for everyone, but I am convinced that the life God wants us to live includes an openness for the Holy Spirit to work in us that we might be sensitive to the bigger picture that is always going on around us.
The people walking near a well in Samaria would have seen a Jewish rabbi talking to a Samaritan woman of dubious reputation. Jesus could have done what was expected, a sigh of disdain and an unwillingness to encounter someone so much further down the cultural food chain from him. But Jesus saw her need, her pain, and her thirst for water that only he could give. How do we do the same with the people we encounter every day?
I was flying back from a long business trip when I encountered a frustrating delay for a flight that would likely cause me to miss a connection resulting in an extra night in an airport area hotel, tacked onto an already long trip. Two female gate agents were working furiously to accommodate growing lines of angry passengers who faced a similar fate as me. After the last person was accommodated the two sat behind their computer terminals in a daze. Fifteen minutes went by and still no plane, or update on its status. My frustration reached a tipping point. I rose to my feet gripping my boarding pass in my hand and began walking toward one of the gate agents. I would be polite, but my tone would be sharp and my words expressive of just how incompetent I felt the whole situation had been handled. As I moved up in front of the beleaguered woman behind the computer screen, another man stepped forward and spoke before I could. “Hey, I just want you both to know how much we all appreciate what you’re trying to do for us. I know this is a lousy situation, but you have done a great job and I just want you to know that we all really appreciate it, and you. I’m going down to Starbucks to pick up some coffee, can I get you anything while I’m there?” I will never forget the looks of surprise and gratitude on their faces. Nor will I forget the pain in my spirit. I was about to respond in the heat of the static moment, and this man had considered these two women in the context of their larger journey, and blessed them. It’s a lesson I’ll ever forget.
You will encounter people today who, like the woman at the well and those two agents at the airline counter, desperately need a word of encouragement, of compassion and of hope. How will you prepare your heart and your mind to be ready to respond like Jesus?
When Jesus encountered the woman at the well his response was completely unexpected. When that man approached the airline ticket counter his comments were the last thing anyone expected to hear. Ask God to prepare your heart to do something unexpected today. Look for an opportunity to respond to a situation in the least expected way; which means responding as Jesus would. It will mean setting aside your own agenda, not worrying about getting your own way or justifying your actions, or even accomplishing your goals. It will mean looking at life from the perspective of the other and responding in a way that meets their needs, not yours. It might be the highlight of your day. Will you pray for it?
Loving and gracious God, help me today to take my eyes off my own agenda long enough to see the work you would have me do in the lives of those around me. Too often I have gone through life with my eyes focused on my own goals and my heart striving to secure my own happiness. Lift me out of myself and help me to see the ways in which you want me to be a blessing to people around me. Teach me your ways, Lord. They are so different from mine. I will need the power of your Holy Spirit to make me sensitive to those things that I’ve been blind to in the past. I will need courage to say things I have never said and the faith to set aside so much of myself in loving service to others. This is a huge step for me, Lord. But with you all things are possible. I claim that today in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.