The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. John 4:19-20
Olivia (the woman at the well) isn’t quite ready to open up to this stranger parts of her life that she has kept hidden. So she introduces a controversial topic, one that is sure to divert Jesus's attention from her shameful life. At least, that is what she hopes.
Through the Holy Spirit, a prophet has the power to reveal and make known the present and future. This may explain how Jesus knows so much about her. But she doesn’t want to talk about that, yet she isn’t ready to walk away from talking to Jesus either. There is something about this Man that sits at the well. He looks tired and worn from his travel, yet His eyes are kind, probing, and safe. Even in His questions, she feels no condemnation.
The Jews and the Samaritans had long-standing, even to this day, issues over where true worship was to take place. In Jerusalem was the temple Solomon built, the pride and joy of every Israelite. The Samaritan had built a temple, but it no longer stood; only the altar remained.
However, the Samaritans believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Still, their religion over the centuries had become intermingled with heathen practices, the worship of idols, and graven images. This was repulsive to the Jews and made it clear that it was in the city of David was the true worship center. Yet the Samaritans were not welcome there.
Olivia seeks to divert Jesus’s attention and conversation from her painful past and to understand the long-standing controversy over where to worship.
Let's pause for a moment.
I appreciate Olivia not walking away from Jesus, which she so easily could have. He was asking too many probing questions. Maybe she was lonely for conversation. Perhaps she saw something in Jesus that broke down those internal barriers in her heart. She was willing to risk speaking to a Jew that she knew wasn’t supposed to have any dealing with her, but here they were talking as old friends at a well.
I think we instinctively know that if we stand still and don’t walk away from Jesus, He is turning things around, even if it is in the direction we would instead not go… We know He knows what is best for us even when the test and trials come.
In starting this ministry, I have had some intense and uncomfortable conversations with the Lord. I firmly believe that a great deal of work by the Holy Spirit is done internally before He brings it to a conscious level. We may not always feel prepared to deal with our true condition before God, but we are more prepared than we think because we serve a loving, merciful God who would not allow us to bear more than we can carry.
We must trust Christ’s timing and believe He does not make mistakes and will always be faithful to His word. If it’s time to bring up a topic that we would rather not deal with, the truth of Christ, that He knows what He is doing.
My experience has been that when those topics come up, as with Olivia, Christ’s compassion and grace surround me. If we choose to, He will present the truth to us… The Holy Spirit was promised will convict us of sin and provide the grace we need to walk free.
Keep in mind that we have daily decisions that must be made about our character. The ministry we are called to do should be a reflection of the God we serve. We are stewards, and He alone can teach us to be faithful in our calling. Jesus is jealous for His name and reputation, and He is counting on us to make a bold statement that He alone is worthy to be praised and honored.
This should be our sole goal, and only then will the ministry be an instrument, a vehicle to the building up of His kingdom. So, no matter hard it may be to face those ugly things about our character, Jesus would be who He is and who we need Him to be if He allowed them to go unchecked.
I highly recommend that we permit God to have those difficult conversations. We don’t want those conversations to take place after grieving the Holy Spirit away. We then give the Lord no choice but to expose us. Remember, king David refused to admit his guilt in impregnating Bathsheba and killing Uriah, her husband. The Lord waited for David to come to Him for at least a year. David did not come, although I imagine the Holy Spirit encouraged Him to come. At last, the Lord had to go to David; his soul was in jeopardy.
And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised Me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 2 Samuel 12:7-10
I hear such hurt in the Lord’s voice, and I know it pieced the heart of David. He didn’t ask David but informed him that, “…because thou hast despised Me…” oh, how foolish we are when we don’t go to the Lord who stands ready to hear our sorrows and sins. He will never turn away a heart that seeks after Him even when we know we have failed Him.
We serve a kind, compassionate Savior, and He must inform us of anything that will bring shame upon His ministry. Let us go to Him in prayer throughout the day. Let us surrender to Him unreservedly, pray continually, and know His love and grace.