The conventional wisdom about the Woman at the Well in John 4:1-26 goes something like this: since she had 5 husbands and was currently living with a man who was not her husband, she must have been some kind of unfaithful trollop. After all, what's wrong with her if she can't keep a husband and now she's just living with a guy?
What if we read the story a bit differently? In first century Palestine & Samaria, women were little more than property. A man could easily discard his wife with a certificate of divorce for any reason at all. So how do we know she hadn't been discarded 5 times? It was also an era when disease was untreated and men were often sent off to war. So how do we know she hadn't been widowed 5 times?
In those days, for a woman to be divorced or widowed, she had no future. It meant a life of poverty. Chances are, she would have gone to any man who would have taken her and provided a roof over her head and food in her belly.
The point of this story really has nothing to do with the woman at all. This story is about Jesus who invaded her broken world and offered her new life.
When Jesus entered her life -- and broke all sorts of social taboos along the way -- he gave her the dignity she needed
1] Jesus gave her the dignity of community. We live in a crisis of isolation today, as did she back then. Jesus gave her his time and life-changing face to face, eye to eye, person to person interaction. He gave her the dignity that comes from being a wanted part of community.
2] Jesus gave her the dignity of a new identity. Despite her past and history of brokenness, in Christ what she was is not who she is anymore! Her history had shaped her identity, but Jesus gave her a new one!
3] Jesus gave her the dignity of the Gospel. She was not outside the reaches of God's grace. Even though she had been marginalized from society (by her sin or the sin of others), it was her separation from God that left her lifeless. Jesus remedied that with himself so her soul would never thirst again!
As we get a glimpse of where God is leading us as a church family, there is a big part of me that is convinced our ministry will be among the marginalized. Like us, they need the dignity of community, the dignity of a new identity, and the dignity of the Gospel.
Transformation for this woman began with a question: will you give me something to drink? Jesus met her where she was at, and her life was changed in the encounter.