Jesus was hot, sweaty and tired. The noonday sun was beating down mercilessly on him as he rested by the well of Jacob. He wanted to slake his thirst but had nothing to draw the water from the well with.
His eyes picked up the shape of a lady shuffling towards the well. She had a jug but was moving too fast as if dogs were chasing her. He was curious. Who came to draw water at this time? Most ladies came in the evening while the sun was setting and the heat lessened.
Unless there was something about this lady. She was avoiding the crowds. Maybe they would gossip about her. Maybe throw a sarcastic taunt now and then. But Jesus knew why exactly. As the woman approached, Jesus asked her for some water to drink.
A look of shock registered on her face and she was stunned for a moment. Jesus was breaking all barriers at once – gender, racial, cultural. He created in her an irresistible desire for living waters so she wouldn’t have to come draw water again. But he had a catch.
He asked her to bring her husband back. He hit the nail on the head. Probably she shifted uncomfortably. What did she say?
The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
Let me stop the account here. The incident in John 4 is remarkable. As Jesus interacts with the Samaritan woman, we catch a glimpse of the master at work. Often this encounter is used as a model of evangelism. I want to take a different angle – a pastoral angle. Jesus loves the woman first before ever asking her to believe in him. And the way he loves might surprise you.
It is one thing to read about it in the Bible. It’s another thing to meet a lady who’s been divorced four times and now cohabiting with a man. Furthermore, she is of a minority race, discriminated by social systems and even her own people. How would your impression change? Would you be able to show love?
There are two main pastoral lessons we can learn:
1. Pastoral Care is Intentional
Jesus chose to initiate the conversation. Breaking all barriers, he made the first move. Obviously, the Samaritan woman wouldn’t have spoken to him. So he spoke to her.
Sometimes, hurting people want to avoid us from asking probing questions. They want to avoid us completely. The woman drew water at noonday to avoid the townsfolk. She might have stolen some women’s husband and created a lot of bad blood. Jesus makes the first move with a simple request for water.
2. Pastoral Care is Gentle
In today’s terms, the Samaritan would have been guilty of divorce and cohabiting. Surprisingly, Jesus doesn’t reprimand her. She diverts the conversation and he goes with the flow not bringing up the issue again.
We need to be gentle with people who are hurting. Don’t scold them or bash them. They need loving care. Leadership guru John Maxwell says it best, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
3. Pastoral Care is Spirit-led
The Spirit revealed to Jesus the Samaritan woman’s history. For us, God might prompt us to ask a certain question that acts as the key to unlock the person’s heart. We need to keep close to God, asking God for wisdom throughout the process.