Meeting women (ancient history edition)
How does one meet women? Since I met my woman (and my soulmate and most faithful blog reader) a long time ago, I don’t really know how one meets women these days. In the movies and on television, it seems that buying a woman a drink at a bar connects interested couples in the modern world. But it hasn’t always been that way since the neighborhood “watering hole” became a fixture of modern life only recently. In the ancient world, one met eligible women at the literal “watering hole,” the village well, where people gathered daily for news and water.
Genesis 24 (and again in 29) pictures significant women in the life of national Israel meeting either their future husband or his agent. A man meets a woman at a well and it ends with a wedding. It’s as familiar to the ancient world as meeting someone at a bar is in our time. When we see similar things in literature, it sets up certain expectations in the reader or viewer. A man and woman meet at a bar, he buys here a drink, and a relationship begins. A man meets a woman at a well, and a wedding follows. But sometimes, an author “breaks” the literary type. What changes when the woman buys the man a drink? Oh, now we’re dealing with something different and slightly unexpected.
In chapter four of the Gospel of John, Jesus meets a woman at a well, which looks like there’s going to be a wedding. Jesus’ interaction with this woman violates cultural expectations. A Jewish teacher like Jesus shouldn’t speak with a woman who’s not a relative, much less a Samaritan woman who has been married five times over and currently lives in an ambiguous relationship. Meeting this kind of woman at a well shocks the ancient audience! What’s happening here!? As the story unfolds, John “breaks” the audience’s expectation of a wedding; Jesus isn’t looking for a wife. He’s seeking out an ideal follower of God, one whose past is imperfect, but who approaches God on His terms.
When Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well, she represents the kind of follower God wants. Is she beaten up by wrong behavior? Yes, probably. Is she from an imperfect and impure lineage? Yes, absolutely. But when she’s confronted with the realization that God sent Jesus as a rescuer and helper, she abandons her original mission to get water and goes back to the village to tell everyone about Him. This is the kind of trust in Jesus that God wants from us. You can catch the full sermon at: The Samaritan Woman and our YouTube channel is: Pathway Community Church