In the Gospel of John, Jesus functionally begins his ministry at a Samaritan well talking to a woman. I say he functionally began his ministry, because he had just left the desert from being baptized by John the Baptist. So what a place to start: not only with a woman, but a Samaritan woman, and even more so, a Samaritan woman of ill repute. What makes this particular event so powerful is that just prior to this conversation in the previous chapter comes the famous line he spoke to the Pharisee Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” We never get Nicodemus immediate response, but from Jesus we get an inclination that he wasn’t completely sold on the idea: Jesus makes it clear that those who prefer the cloak of darkness and fear exposure of their wickedness are already condemned. So after journeying to Samaria, while his disciples had gone to look for food, he stopped for a drink of water. What followed, (I will make you read it for yourself) was nothing short of remarkable…especially given the timing.
I think it is remarkable because he not only spoke to this woman of ill repute, but he talked to her as if she were anyone else of equal value. She was the first person who, when told he was the Messiah, believed him right then and there. (Nicodemus was most probably still pondering the idea and the disciples were amazed he was talking to a woman and concluded he simply needed to eat something). You see this is of utmost importance because he knew all about her disreputable past, appreciated her telling the truth, and then offered her everything, because she, like all those who came after her, were in need of and wanted everything he offered. She wasn’t afraid of the truth, of being exposed. And yet I still wondered, why her? Jesus must have recognized a remarkable quality in her, because even though she was a woman of ill repute, when she went back into the village saying, “He told me everything I have ever done, could he be the Messiah?” they actually came. She wasn’t afraid of her wickedness, like perhaps many of those who feared Jesus. She wanted the light.
What would his ministry have looked like had Nicodemus believed him right away instead of perhaps falling into his fear of exposure. What if it was he who ran and said to the people “I have met the Son of man who will bring us eternal life” maybe Jesus whole ministry would have transpired differently. The Samaritan woman stood in truth when exposed and that made all the difference in the world.