Have you ever learned something new that changed your perspective about someone or something? I have preached on today’s passage and have listened to others preach from it many times. However, just recently a female student taught me something new about this narrative that I, and others, have likely missed. After a mostly casual conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus dove deep into her personal life. He invited her to call her husband (v. 16). She truthfully replied, “I have no husband” (v. 17). Jesus responded with an even fuller version of that truth. She had five husbands and the one she was with currently was not her husband (v. 18).
Like many commentators, I was under the impression that she came to the well later in the day, apart from and after the other women, because she was unfaithful and uncommitted. It is reasonable to assume that her sinful lifestyle kept her from community. However, my student suggested that perhaps the reason she had been married so many times was her infertility.
If she had been unable to get pregnant, men would have quickly moved on from her. The women in her community would have looked down on her as inferior and disgraced. She herself would have felt a personal shame. Yet, when Jesus encountered her at Jacob’s well, He saw her as precious and valuable. If she was infertile, as my student suggested, others would have considered her as worthless. But when Jesus stepped into her life, her self-worth radically changed. The woman was given another chance and an opportunity to gain eternal life from the only One who could give it. When she eventually realized that Jesus was the Messiah, her new, forever life began.
We should never write someone off as hopeless simply because of his or her reputation. Following the example given by Jesus, dig deeper into their lives and see how the gospel can give them another chance.