“Purpose? Me? This blog doesn’t apply to me. God could never use me.”
I’m confident that there are women who will find this blog and will think that – that God can never use them and therefore there is no great purpose for their lives. Maybe it was something they did. Maybe – tragically – it was something someone else did to them. Maybe it is just what others have told them – all lies- but they believe it. But they feel worthless and useless to God.
The Samaritan woman at the well shows us that no matter what we’ve done, no matter what has happened to us, Jesus still wants to use us and can use us.
The apostle John tells this story in John 4:1-42. I’ve always heard it taught as a model for evangelism – how to initiate a conversation, how to turn a common experience into a chance to share the gospel, how to cross cultural boundaries in evangelism. But it wasn’t until I heard it taught again recently that I saw it as a story of Jesus using a woman – and an unexpected one at that – to influence people for His kingdom.
I love how John starts the story. In verse 4, he says that Jesus “had” to go through Samaria. Technically, Jesus didn’t have to go through Samaria. It was the most direct route but not the only route. There was also one to the east through Perea. “In Jesus’ day the Jews, because of their hatred for the Samaritans, normally took the eastern route in order to avoid Samaria.”1 John even parenthetically adds in verse 9 the fact that Jews wouldn’t have dealings with Samaritans.
But John didn’t make a mistake in his wording. Jesus did have to go through Samaria. He had to meet this woman, save her, and then use her to reach those in her city so that they would also come to believe in Him. Jesus is always seeking the lost, even those who are the outcasts and despised in the culture.
The Samaritan woman doesn’t fit the mold of the typical leader, someone you would expect to be used to have an impact. For one, she is a woman and they weren’t valued in society at this time except as property. “Women had such little standing in that culture that they had no religious or legal authority as spokespersons.”2 The way Jesus treated women is one of the many ways He was radical. She is also a Samaritan whom we’ve already noted were a class of people who were despised by the Jews. Besides that, she has had five husbands and the man she is with now is not her husband. Not the stellar reputation you expect for a leader. The time she picks to come to the well (about 6pm) shows that she is trying to be there alone, to avoid the scornful, judgmental looks of others that remind her of her shame.
But Jesus chooses her. I get tears in my eyes as I type that. How kind Jesus is, how gracious, how amazing. He not only chooses her to save her and give her hope of never thirsting again, but He also chooses her as His ambassador to her city. The story ends with her leaving her waterpot, going into her city, and telling the men about Jesus. Verse 39 summarizes her impact on her community: “And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’”
I don’t know if anyone but Jesus would have picked her. His disciples were amazed that He was even speaking to her since she was a woman (v. 27). She was amazed He was even speaking to her because she was a Samaritan (v. 9). The people in the city would have known her history with men and most likely wouldn’t have chosen her. But Jesus did. He chose her to be the one to influence her community and make an eternal impact.
And if Jesus chooses and uses her, He can choose and use you. He’s already made it clear in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 that He calls you to take the gospel to the world and that He has given you the power to do it through His Holy Spirit. Will you believe it? Will you believe that He does have a purpose for you? Will you believe that you are important to Him, important enough for Him to die for you? Will you step out in faith and trust Him to use you to influence those in your community like the woman at the well?
1The Bible Knowledge Commentary, page 284
2From an article on everystudent.com – http://www.everystudent.com/wires/women.html