And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
(John 4:39 KJV)
Is there a difference between guilt and shame?
Someone once explained it in a simple way:
Shame says, “I’m a bad person.”
Guilt says, “I’ve done a bad thing.”
So, guilt is conviction. It spurs necessary and vital growth. Without conviction, we would never be moved to change harmful and sinful ways. Others can give godly wisdom in our lives that inspires this type of conviction. Now, we often–and when I say often, I mean 9.9/10 times–do not like this. Let’s face it, we don’t want to acknowledge when we’ve done something wrong. But avoiding this is extremely dangerous. Sin has consequences. Avoiding areas of our lives that we know are not God-honoring leads to more and more decisions and more and more sin that can alter our life for the worst. So, when I say guilt, I’m talking about a godly conviction that causes us to recognize our faults and pushes us to be more like Christ.
However, shame, instead of encouraging our heart’s change, scares us into hiding. It makes us feel as though we must push others away, that we don’t deserve community, or that other people are judging us. Shame is where Satan thrives. Through shame, he tries to convince us that God is against us, that He doesn’t love us, that we are unrecoverable. Often times, people blame Christianity for putting “shame” on people. God has nothing to do with shame. Shame has no part in the gospel. Jesus came to set the captives free.
Part Two of the Love Series looks at the Samaritan woman who met Jesus in an unexpected way. Living a life of sin, she was a woman who felt immense shame and had been searching for security in ways that left her empty. Despite the shame she felt due to her own choices and her treatment by others, this woman was offered a second chance. Jesus broke barriers and offered her a relationship with her Savior that changed her life.
INTRODUCING THE SAMARITAN WOMAN
(Reference: John 4:1-42)
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) (John 4:4-8)
The Samaritan woman’s story tells of a woman’s transformation from shame, to conviction, to a new freedom and love for Christ.
When this woman is introduced in verse 7, notice that she isn’t given a name. The fact that she is anonymous is important, however, as it implies that there is a larger symbol or lesson behind the story for us to learn and apply to our lives.
While the woman is unnamed, she is identified as a Samaritan. The Samaritans were the people of Samaria, a northern region in Israel, located between Galilee and Judea. The Samaritans had a distinct pagan culture that posed a threat to Israel. As a result of cultural and religious differences, great hostility existed between the Jews and Samaritans.
Another significant point is that the woman came to the well at noon. This was an unusual time of the day to draw water, especially because it was hot, so others wouldn’t normally be found at the well during this period. Before we know more about the Samaritan woman, the fact that she was there shows that she was most likely avoiding other people, more specifically other women who would come to the well. As we read the passage, we learn why–that this woman was living in shame due to her sin.
This shame caused division between her and others. There were probably those in the community who knew about her reputation and didn’t want to associate themselves with her, and she felt outcasted and kept herself isolated from others. However, Jesus came into the picture and showed her a love that pushed her to abandon her past and her fear.
An Encounter Motivated by Love
Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans (John 4:9).
Jesus broke two societal traditions by speaking to this woman when he asked her for a drink of water. Notice that Jesus asking for a drink was not offensive but it stirred up curiosity in her. Teachers of the law were not allowed to speak to women publicly, and a Jew wasn’t to associate himself with a Samaritan due to the contempt between the groups.
He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria (John 4:3-4).
These verses express that Jesus had to go to Samaria. What’s also notable is that Jesus is described as being physically weary from his journey–something we hardly ever see in the Bible (v. 6). There is a sense of urgency here. A sense of purpose. Jesus had a reason to be in this Samaritan region at this odd time to speak to this woman–things that a man of His background typically would not be doing, according to society.
The woman acknowledged the peculiarity of the situation in verse 9, asking him why he would be asking her for a drink. Jesus used this as an opportunity to reach a hurting woman.
While the Samaritan woman had been isolated from others due to shame, motivated by fear, Jesus approached her, motivated by love.
The Ultimate Source of Love: Living Water
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: (John 4:10-13)
Jesus wasn’t at the well to simply draw water–He didn’t even bring anything to draw it with! This wasn’t a mistake. Jesus often uses physical things that we understand to explain spiritual things, and we see this immediately during the exchange in this passage.
The Samaritan woman didn’t know she was speaking to Jesus (in verse 12, she asks if He is greater than Jacob), but she knew the “living water” He spoke of was one that she wanted. If whoever drank this water never would never thirst again as He claimed, it had to be another type of “water.” There was something the woman was thirsting after. Nevertheless, her curiosity sparked a willingness in verse 15. After Jesus told her the water He offered guaranteed eternal life, she asked Him for it.
However, before the woman could receive this water, she had to come to a point of acknowledging her sins. Face to face with the object of her shame. Why? She had to understand that she needed this water. She needed conviction.
Jesus addressed her about the way she had been living, but He did so in a way that showed love:
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly (John 4:16-18).
The Samaritan woman didn’t hide the truth from Jesus. When He asked her about her husband, she admitted that she had none–and Jesus didn’t condemn her. Instead, He acknowledged that she was telling the truth. This woman previously had five husbands (perhaps they had died in the past, etc.), and now she was living with a man she wasn’t married with.
Now, there are still consequences for sin. Jesus welcomes us with open arms, and He wants us to come to Him with our sins and turn away from them. He gives us a new life. However, sin does have consequences. Emotional, physical, spiritual consequences. Fortunately, when we turn away, Jesus gives us a new life and freedom from shame.
The Samaritan woman’s life perfectly illustrates the fact that sin has negative effects.
Let’s recap: She was living in shame, fear, and loneliness. Before she even spoke, we see this based on her actions. Maybe she was looking for intimacy in her relationships with men in the past or the affair she was having now. She never found it there or in any of her attempts to find fulfillment. She was thirsting for something that would finally quench her thirst.
Nevertheless, the woman still didn’t realize who she was speaking to. First she asked Jesus whether He was greater than Jacob, and now she stated her belief that He was a prophet (v. 19). Little did she know, Jesus was much more than a prophet.
Next, Jesus again broke religious tradition–barriers–man had set up that had no eternal value. The woman mentioned that the Samaritans believed that a certain mountain was the place of worship, while Jews believed Jerusalem was (v. 20). This had caused major tension between the Samaritans and the Jews. Jesus pointed out that they didn’t even know what they were worshipping (v. 22). It seemed that they loved tradition (where to worship) than they loved who they were worshipping. This was a tradition that brought division. Jesus explained that true worship of God was a matter of the heart:
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
By bringing up this new topic of conversation, perhaps the woman was trying to steer the focus away from herself–now that her secret life was out in the open–but this becomes a great opportunity for Jesus to reveal to her who He was–and that through Him, she could receive the living water she had been searching for. And that love (a mindset and an action, which we will see later) was the only way to honor Him.
The Reveal: Love and its Legacy
The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things (John 4:25).
The Samaritan woman showed a willingness, and this is key. She believed that a Messiah was coming, and she believed that whatever He says will be the truth–He will set things straight in this world.
In this moment, knowing already that this woman was now convicted and she was willing to change, Jesus reveals Himself to her.
Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he (John 4:26).
He was the Messiah she was waiting for. He was the answer. He was the living water.
And right away, the woman had a remarkable response:
The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? (John 4:28-29)
She went into the city and told men–who she once avoided–about Jesus. She even left her waterpot at the well, which implied that she meant to return. In fact, those she spoke to returned to the well to see Jesus (v. 30).
Remember who this Samaritan woman was. A woman who never had true intimacy with those around her. She was outcasted, and she wasn’t living God’s way. Living in sin will never bring contenement. We see that in her shame alone.
However, with a relationship with Christ, she experienced a relationship with the only One who knew her so deeply, who could tell her everything she ever did (v. 29).
Her love, faith, and obedience to Christ first opened this new relationship with Him. Now, this led to new relationships and restored contact with others who she could bring to Christ.
It’s amazing to study the legacy the Samaritan woman’s love allowed. Her love for Christ allowed her to love others, as she saw they had a great need that could only be fulfilled through Him. Perhaps living an isolated life became a stronger testimony for her to understand humanity’s great need for a Savior.
She had a tremendous impact on others. Afterwards, Jesus’ physically remained in that region, as He stayed two more days with these people (v. 40), and many accepted a new relationship with Christ because of the woman’s testimony (v. 39, 41-42). Clearly she was following Jesus’ lead by breaking boundaries through love and leading others to ultimate freedom.
“WHAT ABOUT ME?”
We are quite similar to this Samaritan woman. Before Christ, we search for intimacy in wrong ways. However, anywhere you look outside Christ, you will end up empty.
It’s interesting that Jesus remained with the people of the city for two extra days. What a great reminder that He is faithful to His promise of coming to us when we seek Him.
On the topic of love, conviction from the Holy Spirit brings us closer to understanding God’s love and grows our love for Him, but shame does the opposite. While nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39), shame puts a wedge between us and our relationship with God. Although He is near and His love is still unending, we, ourselves, can become resentful towards Him and make choices that distance ourselves from God. Note that this is a choice that we make. This is what Satan wants, but we can fight back. We cannot fight this battle alone, however, especially when it comes to dealing with spiritual matters.
God is there to help us in this fight.
What happens when this shame, this hiding, drives us away from God? As I mentioned in the introduction of the Love Series, we have a natural desire for love. So, when we are separated from the source of all love, God, we turn to other things and people that cannot fill this longing.
God has plans to make all things new, work things together for good, and you can be part of this great plan. God has plans for our relationships with others, but it has to start with Him. It won’t be right any other way. You can’t follow a God you don’t know!
He had a plan for this hurting woman, but Satan did, too. Imagine how many lives would not have known Christ if she had followed Satan’s plan to remain in sin and not live for her Savior. If we don’t live for Christ, imagine how many people we can impact negatively, how many people could miss out on eternal life, how many opportunities we can miss out on. It’s scary to think about. But think about this.
Just as the Samaritan woman discovered Christ’s love, we can as well when we choose to have a relationship with Him. Who knows where this love will take us. If we love God, we will live for Him. And when we live for Him, the possibilities are endless.
And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
(John 4:42 KJV)