You may have noticed the bumper sticker reading, “Start Seeing Motorcycles.” What a brilliant ad campaign because it is working on me. I am noticing them more; I can’t help seeing one and thinking of that bumper sticker. I wish that would work in other areas of life. Like, for my kids “Start seeing Vegetables.” Or, my for my sons, “Start Seeing The Tall Grass.” For wives to their husbands, “Start Seeing the Dirty Dishes.” We could start a revolution of awareness. I would love to commission a company to make a bumper sticker with the phrase, “Start Seeing Hurting People.”
Maybe it would raise our awareness of the pain of suffering that is all around in our
town in our neighborhoods, our workplaces and even in our churches. This ad campaign reminds me a hurting woman, whose life was broken that had what she might have thought was a chance encounter with a Jewish Rabbi that would forever change her life.
This not random encounter takes place in the Samaritan town of Sychar. Jesus took a path most Jews avoided to go through the territory of Samaria to meet this troubled woman at Jacob’s well in John 4. In doing so, Jesus did something amazing he shows us how to notice hurting people. Look through the eyes of John at just how he did that. Here is a portion of that conversation:
“Jesus: Would you draw water, and give Me a drink?
Woman: I cannot believe that You, a Jew, would associate
with me, a Samaritan woman; much less ask me to give You a drink. Jews, you see, have no dealings with Samaritans.” (The Voice)
1) Jesus saw her through spiritual eyes.
If Jesus looked at her through the eyes of culture, he would have seen only this about her; she was unclean, she had a very questionable past. She was a woman, who in that culture alone, meant she had a second-class status just by her gender. Now add to that her moral issues of having had five husbands, which was two more that society allows and culturally she was the one person the Jewish Rabbi should have just ignored. However, Jesus broke with His culture and noticed her need for a rescuer.
If Jesus saw her through the eyes of history, she and her entire Samaritan clan were enemies of the Jews. As one historian recounts, “The woman reminded him that
Jews and Samaritans had no social dealings. This situation dated back to 722 b.c. when the Assyrian captivity was concluded by Sargon, who resettled nearly thirty thousand people from Samaria to other points in the Assyrian Empire. They were replaced by captives from other countries, and a pluralistic culture of sorts developed. Any Jew would become ceremonially unclean by using a vessel handled by a Samaritan.”
Viewing this woman through the eyes of history she was an enemy and an adversary.
The person with whom Jesus interacted with was not only a Samaritan but a woman. For a Jewish man to talk to a Samaritan woman was unheard of, and she probably had never experienced a similar conversation. She represents an oppressed minority, a commonality reality in many Middle Eastern cultures. But Jesus was neither racist nor sexist. He knew that his questioning would lead to far more than an exchange of words and water.
Jesus did not view the woman as an outcast. He didn’t see a woman who, by making contact with her, would make Him unclean. What Jesus saw was an opportunity to share the hope of a better way of life. Jesus wants to help repair a history of broken relationships, broken dreams and a life that did not turn out the way the woman had hoped for or dreamed about. Jesus was offering her a new beginning, that all began with receiving the gift of purifying water. The water of salvation, new life in Him. This new life will lead to a new reality a connecting of a Samaritan woman with a Jewish Rabbi in eternal fellowship in the new Jerusalem for all eternity.
2) Jesus respected but did not judge her journey.
Jesus pushed all metaphors aside and dealt in straight talk. Like this woman, we must recognize our sin and understand that God sees us for what we are, broken and weighed down by sin and guilt. This woman lived outside the boundaries of any religious or cultural standards of her day. Confronted by the sting of the law through Jesus’ penetrating analysis of her moral condition, the woman like so many of us would change the subject. “Let’s talk about religion, where is the proper place of worship?” As we encounter hurting people with social and moral backgrounds outside of our religious norms, be prepared for the conversation quickly becoming uncomfortable. How you handle those conversations may determine if this relationship moves forward or stagnates. Jesus chose not to focus her checkered past. We tend to get hung up here. We struggle to accept people where they are. Their past not only haunts them it troubles us. Jesus instead of getting stuck on where the woman has been and is currently stuck, He offers her a different path, an opportunity to start new, today. A lesson we must learn to help hurting people. Don’t focus on their pain focus on the solution. They know why they are hurting, they are looking for something, someone to ease their pain. Point them to the One, who can, Jesus Christ.
3) Jesus offers the hurting a different route.
Dr. Martin Luther suggested the conversation should have gone this way,
“I would be happier to reverse the order and give you a drink. In fact, this is the reason for My presence here. I am asking for a drink to quench My physical thirst that I might have occasion to give you a drink. If you only realized what a gift is now to be found on earth, you would ask Me for it, and I would give you a drink that would taste better than this water. It is of the utmost importance to recognize this gift and to know Him who gives it. But neither the gift nor the Giver is known.” 1
Our outreach is meant to point people to the gift, faith in the redeeming work of Christ Jesus and the giver, God the Father who sent his Son to redeem the hurting.
So, we pray that God will give us the spiritual eyes to start seeing hurting people and when we see them point them to the hope and healing we have in our Savior Jesus Christ.
1 Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, p. 525). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.