(Surprise # 1)
. . . that there is a conversation at all. The barriers were great. Jesus is a Jew and the woman is a Samaritan. It was commonly expressed that the Samaritans were not full Jews, because they had been forced centuries before Jesus to intermarry with non-Jews by the Assyrian conquerors, which made them lose much of their ethnic identity . . . while the Jews of the southern kingdom of Judah had retained theirs. Therefore, the Samaritans were considered inferior in the sight of God. For a Jew to talk with a Samaritan was a surprise.
(Surprise # 2)
. . . that a man and a woman talked with each other in public It was not considered proper. As the story reads, the disciples were astonished that Jesus, to them a beloved rabbi, was talking with a woman.
(Surprise # 3)
. . . that she came at noon, in the heat of the day. Normally a woman who came to the well came early in the morning or later in the evening, when it was cooler, and socialized among themselves. Therefore it might be suspected that she had no friends, was of ill repute for some reason, and had to come alone at a time when no one was expected to be there.
(Surprise # 4)
. . . that Jesus promised “living water.” Literally, that meant water that was flowing rather than water in a well or in a cistern. She took this literally, whereas Jesus meant it figuratively, as he did on many occasions.
(Surprise # 5)
. . . that Jesus knew about her past. We don’t know the details about her past, but because she was alone at the well in the middle of the day, it can be suspected that she had few friends who would have associated with her.
(Surprise # 6)
. . . that Jesus acccepted her anyway, a surprise to her, a surprise to the disciples in light of her situation.
(Surprise # 7)
. . . that this woman wants to resolve the Samaritan vs. Jew situation in her own mind by asking about the proprieties of worship. Jesus moves her way beyond simple geography to spirituality, and that true worship is in spirit and in truth regardless of the whereabouts!
(Surprise # 8)
. . . that she believes in a coming messiah, and Jesus declares himself to be just that! Jesus doesn’t reveal that often, but to this marginalized Samaritan woman he does!
(Surprise # 9)
. . . that she leaves without her belongings to share what she has found, and people actually took her seriously. There must have been something attractive, compelling, and authentic about her witness. She has become an effective messenger.
So what has this to do with us? We don’t have to have our act together to be used in the service of the Christ. We don’t need to know all there is to know. Because our job is simply to point away from ourselves to the Christ at the well, as authentically as we can, and then leave the rest to God.
This is a liberating message we all need to hear, that we don’t have to be an All-Star to still play on the winning team. And for THAT SURPRISE we can be very grateful!