Signposts: Daily Devotions

Monday, February 2

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
—John 4:5-7

Thus begins Jesus’ longest conversation with anyone in the gospels. The Samaritan woman with whom he spoke has become an icon for marginalized people because in her culture men did not speak publicly with women. Furthermore, Jews in Jesus’ time had no use for Samaritans, avoiding them whenever possible.

The Woman at the Well, as she is known, was bright, inquisitive and articulate. She and Jesus had a real conversation, not just small talk. Unfortunately, what most of us remember about this encounter are Jesus' remarks about her husbands: that she has had five husbands before, and that the man with whom she lives is not her husband at all. But their conversation is so much deeper. It is one of the most interesting and profound theological discussions in the Bible.

During Lent, perhaps we could try to be more present to people. Parker Palmer’s book A Hidden Wholeness describes “circles of trust,” in which people sit together and practice the art of listening to one another. How valuable it would be if we all belonged to such circles—if we began to listen to each other the way Jesus listened to the Samaritan woman and she, in turn, listened to him.

That woman became Jesus’ first disciple in Samaria. The gospel says, “many Samaritans of that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” (John 4:39) 

The woman was amazed that Jesus told her about her past life but I wonder: wasn’t it the fact that he honored her by listening to her, being really present to her, that helped her see who he was?

Gracious God, help me to honor those I meet today, just as Jesus honored the Samaritan woman. Give me the grace and patience to take time for conversation and interaction with all people, not just those like me. Amen.