Over the years, I have found certain stories in the Bible difficult to teach—not because they are hard to understand or have complicated theological doctrines, but because they are overly familiar. The account of the Samaritan woman is one of those stories. It is perhaps my favorite of all the stories in John’s gospel, and countless lessons can be gleaned from the conversation that Jesus had with this marginalized woman. But more recently, as I was studying to give a teaching on the passage, I found myself stopping repeatedly at one line. At the conclusion of Jesus’ conversation, the scene switches to the disciples who have returned to buy food.
“They marveled that he [Jesus] was talking with a woman…” (John 4:27)
I looked up the Greek meaning of “marveled,” and discovered that they were awe-struck; the translation denoted something miraculous. We would expect the disciples to marvel at Jesus performing a miracle, but merely speaking to a woman? And yet, just a little research of the culture of the time reveals that it was unheard of for a man to talk to a woman in public who was not his wife. In fact, rabbis would not even speak with their wives in public. Jesus certainly broke cultural norms and was far ahead of his time regarding the rights of women. But this is not all that I found marvelous.
Even more marvelous was that Jesus saw, and spoke with a marginalized woman. She was a Samaritan (hated by the Jews). She was sinful and rejected by others (evidenced by her solitude when drawing water during the hottest part of the day). And how marvelous was it that Jesus pursued her, and that for the first time in the Gospel of John, Jesus reveals Himself as the promised Messiah. How marvelous was it that He gave her a new purpose—so much so that she promptly laid down her heavy water jar and proclaimed to a town Jesus’ good news.
As I reflect on my own spiritual journey, I find equally marvelous so very much:
It is marvelous that while I was a sinner, Jesus, found me, and revealed Himself to me.
It is marvelous that He did not give up on me.
It is marvelous that He forgave me.
It is marvelous that He has offered me living water, and I have been given the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life.
It is marvelous that He has given me a purpose for His Kingdom.
It is marvelous that the God of the universe loved me enough to send His Son to die for me.
It is marvelous that Jesus continues to speak to me through His Word.
Yes, it is indeed marvelous.