We must be careful not to make this story into one about a sinful woman who was changed by Jesus. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding her marriages, but we do know that women in that time and place did not have the right to make their own choices in life. Maybe she was widowed or maybe she was unable to bear children, leading the husband(s) to divorce her. Regardless, no ordinary Jewish man would acknowledge or interact with a woman he didn’t know, and a Samaritan woman at that! Of course, Jesus was not an ordinary Jewish man, and it is to this Samaritan woman alone in the gospel of John that he reveals his true identity.
This is the first “I am” statement of Jesus. “I am he [the Messiah]…the one speaking to you.” It was that acknowledgement, that interaction, and that self-revelation of Jesus that changed her, giving her the confidence to boldly share the good news with her community. This story reminds us that Jesus goes out of his way to bring in those the community would push away. It reminds us of the importance of noticing, acknowledging, and interacting with those who are not normally in our orbit. Imagine the good news that might spread to and through such an interaction!
Who are the people you ignore? Who are the people you go out of your way to avoid? Can you think of a time when you interacted with someone you normally wouldn’t have? What was the outcome of that interaction? Could Jesus have been at work in that situation? In prayer, ask for the courage and the compassion to reach out to someone you might otherwise avoid.