VALUE IN PEOPLE
|Mary Eggers - Woman at the|
Last blog I wrote about the value our society places on people of various stations and experiences. That kind of fawning over the rich and famous, according to the book of James, is simply wrong and ungodly (James 2….in fact, that passage suggests the wealthy and powerful are often the problem!) But today, what I wanted to tie this discussion up with is a reflection on how Jesus valued the people he met.
Jesus was with some people who were wealthy, such as Zaccheus, Simon, and a ruler of a synagogue. But he was also with people who were outcast and poor, such as the individuals suffering from leprosy and the peasants who gathered to hear him speak. But one of the most interesting stories to me, and one that has become more and more striking as times goes by in life, is the story of Jesus with the woman at the well in John 4.
When individuals teach or preach from this story, it is often noted that the woman was considered an outcast of sorts in her village, because she is out by herself drawing the day’s supply of water during the heat of the day, instead of in the cool of the morning with the other women of the village. It is assumed that this low status is because of her multiple divorces and that she was currently living with another man without being married. She is considered an outcast from the perspective of the Jewish people because she is a Samaritan…the wrong race, the wrong religion, the wrong parcel of land. The story itself points out that the Jews of those days had no dealings with Samaritans. In addition, while it did not make her an outcast, it was an issue of social boundaries, the fact that she was a woman and Jesus was a man meant that, in proper etiquette, there should not be any private discussion between the two of them.
In spite of all these things, Jesus makes a point to spend time talking with this woman. He makes a point to go through Samaria, rather than take the normal route to Jerusalem, just so that he CAN meet this woman at the well. He strikes up the conversation, which even surprises her, since she knows that her race is not acceptable to his. I have often pointed out that, in terms of what happens during Jesus’s life, this woman is a more effective minister for Christ than the disciples, because she goes to the village and brings all the residents back to meet Jesus, while the went into the same village and only brought back something to eat.
Clearly, Jesus demonstrates that God values people that most of the world would ignore, that he wants to reach out to them, and that he can use them, and he has set an example for us to follow. But I learned a couple of new things the last time I encountered this story (or, maybe I had noted them before, but just never really thought about what they implied).
The first new insight was that a booklet I was reading at the time pointed out that not only does Jesus demonstrate the value he places on this woman, but this story is actually the longest recorded conversation we have of Jesus with another person! Now, realize, I haven’t gone to compare and try to verify that, but it sounds about right. The other long discourses in the Gospels take place in a group setting, such as his discussions with the disciples at the Last Supper. Do you see what I saw when I heard that? Both the Gospel writer, and God who inspired that writer, decided that Jesus’s interaction with this rejected and outcast woman deserved to be recorded and preserved more than any other individual conversation he had. Interactions with the lowly matter!
The second thing that struck me, after rereading the story and thinking about what I learned, is that Jesus demonstrated his valuing of all people in this story in a way that goes beyond the woman. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, you may recall, when he met this woman. After her response, and the people of the village all coming to meet him (people who were ALSO of the rejected Samaritan heritage), the passage says that he then spent two more days just to be with them and to teach them. The woman had been stunned that the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, would talk with her. The disciples had misgivings about the experience, as well. Imagine what they all thought when he not only talked with her, but stayed in what would have been considered an unclean village to interact with this forbidden race for an extended visit!
Let me close with this simple thought.
First, others may tell you that you are less then they are, reject you for one reason or another (such as the fact that you have been divorced or your skin is the “wrong” color), or treat you unfairly.
You may be unnoticed in your world, in your job, in your church, and feel insignificant, especially when you see people fawning over others, the beautiful, the rich, the socially acceptable. But the story of the woman at the well, especially, shows that God places a great deal of value on each of us, whether anyone else does or not. Beyond that, the story also demonstrates that God can and will use anyone, who has a willing heart and servant attitude. This woman responded to what Jesus had taught her, and she chose not merely to keep it to herself, but to share it with others. I encourage you to do the same.