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Read John 4:1-45
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” (Proverbs 29:23 NLT)
In the last devotion we talked about Nicodemus and how Jesus schooled him. What was not mentioned in that, but is important to note, is that ultimately Nicodemus did have an open and receptive heart to what Jesus was teaching him. As we find out later in John’s Gospel, this Pharisee goes on to be a supporter of Jesus’ and he, along with Joseph of Arimathea, end up pleading with Pilate to give them Jesus’ body so that he may receive a proper burial. Tradition has Nicodemus as one Jesus’ post-resurrection followers.
What I love about the Nicodemus story in John, a story about the humbling of a man of prominence, is that it is followed by the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. This woman’s status could not be any further apart from that of Nicodemus. While Nicodemus was a revered and respected teacher, a wealthy individual who was highly educated and powerful, this woman was not revered or respected, she was shunned by her own community and her community was shunned by Jews as being totally unclean and detestable.
What we have in the Samaritan woman is the pretty much the exact opposite to Nicodemus the chapter before. She was a woman who was traveling by herself to the well to get water at the hottest part of the day. If modern archaeology is correct, Sychar was about a mile or so away from “Jacob’s Well”, which is still in existence today. It would be highly unlikely that this Samaritan woman would travel to this place alone, let alone at the time the sun is the hottest.
What this tells us, if we read the text carefully in light of the social and historical context of that place and time, is that this woman was outcast from the other women in her village. Why? The text gives us the answer to that. This woman had been married five times and was currently with a sixth man to whom she was not married. She was, no doubt, a threat to the other women of her village. What’s more, to be divorced that many times was a shame upon the woman and her family. It mean that she was “less than adequate” as a wife, which was the highest station in life for a woman in that time period. On top of that, she was living outside the marital covenant with another man.
In other words, in the ancient near east context, this woman would have been considered an unclean scourge upon her community. Then add that to the fact that she was Samaritan, the fact that the Jews believed the Samaritans were “unclean” from birth and that for one to even cross the shadow of a Samaritan would defile him or her, and you can see that this woman would have been considered a scourge within a scourge. She was the lowest of the low.
So, knowing this, it should be QUITE SHOCKING that Jesus was having any sort of conversation with her, let alone that he was alone with her at a well (which was a common “hook up” place in the ancient world. E.g., Genesis 24:17; 29:10; Exodus 2:16-21). Jesus is breaking some major social taboos in order to engage this woman in conversation, including the fact that women were not considered to be “teachable” and worthy of being a “student” of a teacher. Yet, Jesus does engage her and treats her no differently than he would have his own disciples.
What can be said is this, Jesus models the economy of heaven here. This woman was the last and the least in her society. She was humble because she had nothing in her life to be “proud” of. Her station in life as a Samaritan woman was humble. As a sinner, she was also humble in that she knew that others judged her and that she was not welcome among the other women in her village. To say that this woman was “lowly” would be an understatement of the worst kind.
In Scripture, we are told that “pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor”. While Nicodemus, in all of his pride, was humiliated by how little he seemed to know in comparison to Jesus, who was a lowly teacher, this woman was honored by the Teacher who chose to engage her over any of the self-righteous villagers who continually shunned her. As such, this woman not only came to see that Jesus was the Messiah, but she also became his witness to the rest of the villagers. “Come and see,” she exclaimed with joyous excitement, “the man who told me everything I have ever done!”
Today’s challenge is for us to evaluate ourselves. Are we humble or are we proud? In what ways are we proud? How can we let go of the pride we imprison ourselves with? Remember that God humbles the proud and exalts the humble. If there is any part of us that holds ourselves in higher regard than others, that is the part of ourselves we MUST die to. I pray that we all come to a place of humility so that we may be exalted for the glory of God!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
It is far less painful to be humble than it is to find ourselves in need of being humbled.
Lord, teach me the ways of humility so that I may be your humble servant. Amen.
I have just finished with the series on the Beatitudes. I think it can be seen that Jesus Christ’s teachings were both provocative, as well as controversial. They were mainly the latter because they challenged the status quo of his times, and challenged people to see the sin within themselves in order that they might repent and change the direction their lives were heading in. Unfortunately, as we can see today, when those who have much are challenged to give more than they take, all hell breaks loose. This was the case in Jesus’ day too, and unfortunately Jesus was put to death on the cross for challenging the wealthy and preaching truth to the powerful. But Jesus’ story doesn’t end there, because he resurrected and his life and teachings live on in those who are faithful to him, as Lord, and his message as supreme.
This week I will be taking a short break from writing and will be putting out two previous devotions for your edification; however, when I do start writing up again, I will begin a new series that will continue on from the Beatitudes to the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. I pray you will continue reflecting on the previous series in preparation for the one to come.
Rev. Todd R. Lattig
During the end of Advent, as we approached Christmas, I began a 7 and a half week devotional series on the 15 Ailments of the Church, based off of an address that Pope Francis I delivered to his Curia just in time for the holidays. Since then, I have entertained the idea of starting up a new devo series and have finally decided that the time is ripe for such a series to begin. With the fruitful season of Spring here, and Summer approaching, I thought it would be an appropriate time to start looking at the Apostle Paul’s writing on the Works of the Flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit. This devotional series will begin in just two days (5/13/15) and will last twelve weeks. In this two part series, the devotion will start off discussing what Paul calls the “works of the flesh” (7 and 1/2 weeks), which will then lead into the second part…”the fruit of the Spirit.” (4 and 1/2 weeks). Even as I have begun writing these devotions, I am ever aware at how uncomfortable it can be talking about sin…and how challenging it can be talking about the kind of VIBRANT LIFE that God is calling us to live. I pray that you will open yourself up to the discussion, reflect on the Scriptures, and challenge yourself to be honest in your reflections and meditations. If you have questions or thoughts, as always, feel free to post them. Please keep them pertinent to the devo and appropriate for all ages. While I may or may not have answers to those questions, I certainly invite such engagement as that is what helps us all to grow together. With all of that said, I pray that you find these next several weeks to be spiritually challenging, as well as spiritually nurturing.