Saints, Reprobates, and Stories Beside a Well
Meditation on John 4:4-6 by Cris Cramer
John 4:4-6 (NIV):
Now [Jesus] 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. Jacobís well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.
Here's the beginning of the story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman, told in John 4. As John sets the scene for us, he mentions the town is named Sychar, and it's located near a particular piece of ground, a plot that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. He says it in passing, as it were, and gets on with his story. But I love this tiny incidental note dropped into the beginning of the story, placing the well in history as well as geography. It reminds me that the Bible is a grand storybook, telling us about ordinary humans and their interactions with a not-ordinary God. Stories have such a power to teach and to remind us that we're not alone in fumbling through life. Many others have fumbled through before us, and God was faithful in helping them.
So many stories and lessons are linked in by this off-hand comment. Jacob the con-man, who God had to (literally) tackle into submission. Joseph the proud boy, who was pitched in a well and sold off as a slave and launched into a crazy life, full of struggle and strange reversals and devoted, determined responsibility. An older, humbler Joseph who wept as he welcomed his father and family to his adoptive country, settling them in good land and making provision for their livelihood. The family of Jacob, who grew into a nation and went back to their ancestral home, establishing a country and later a kingdom, and continued writing the story of God's people in battles and feasts, farms and famines, wars and laws, dedication and abandonment.
Jacob dug a well, and then moved to a foreign nation to live out the rest of his life. Eventually his people came back, and the years passed, and many people drew water from his well, until one day his far-removed many-greats grandson sat beside his well and named himself Messiah, to one of his far-removed many-greats granddaughters who had lost her way. I've never drawn water from Jacob's well, but I can read the story of his many-greats grandson, Jesus who still offers living water, and the Samaritan lady who also struggled to understand and believe him, just like I do. The story rolls on, and all of us brothers and sisters of Jesus have a part in it.
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