Bingetown Girl | John 4.5-9
So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) John 4:5-9 | ESV
And so he comes to a little Samaritan village called Sychar (“Bingetown”) – a town near an ancient Jewish landmark: the spot Jacob gave to Joseph his son centuries earlier. And right in the middle of that spot? Jacob’s Well. Jesus, totally worn out from the journey, stopped and was sitting just like this on the well, right at high noon. Then one of the locals appears. A woman. A Samaritan woman. She comes to draw water from the well (typically a morning or evening chore). Awkward moment. As she quietly goes to lower her bucket, Jesus starts a conversation. Now it’s even more awkward. “How ‘bout a drink?” (Jesus was alone, you see; all of his fledgling followers were off in the town getting something to eat.) Startled, she says to him – this Samaritan woman, “Excuse me? How is it that you, a Jewish man, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for something to drink?” (Jews and Samaritans, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead in such a conversation – nor would they dare even suggest sharing a drink!) MAV
It’s often remarked that the Apostle Paul was very strategic in his choice of the cities and town where he did his major preaching work – they were typically the more significant ones located at key crossroads to maximize exposure in the area to his message. This would seem sound wisdom, but I can’t help but notice the contrast with Jesus’ choices: he seems to keep showing up in little podunk towns that we’re still trying to locate with precision. Many assume Sychar is an alternate spelling of Shechem, or perhaps an intentional Jewish misnaming of the hated Samaritan city of Shechem (“shoulder”). “Sychar” means “drunken” or possibly “liar.” Others insist it was an actual village near the more well known Shechem – a wee little forgotten village right by Jacob’s well. And it’s here that Jesus chooses to stop for a breather – and how instructive that Jesus stopped for a breather! And how doubly instructive that he chooses as his rest stop a little hole in the wall called “Liarville” or possibly “Bingetown.” You can’t help but wonder what Jesus’ oh so Jewish followers were thinking about all this as they ran off to Bingetown to buy food from people they weren’t even supposed to talk to. But there they go, and here Jesus sits under a hot sun, wilting and waiting. And as we hear the sounds of a woman’s footsteps approaching, we sense, and no doubt rightly so, why Jesus “had to” pass through Samaria. He came for a pivotal conversation with an unnamed woman who wasn’t even supposed to be there – and who certainly wasn’t supposed to talk to him. We call such moments “divine appointments.” Such can and do happen not just at unexpected times and unlikely places – they can and do happen at times and places that are just wrong. Even in Bingetown/Liarville in an out-of-bounds country. It’s prudent to do demographic studies and choose ministry locations wisely and strategically. But one thing this story teaches us if we are listening: God’s definition of strategy and ours can often be worlds apart.
What unexpected “divine appointment” have you experienced most recently? What did you do with it? What happened?
Lord, open my eyes to see that one divine moment that you intend me to waltz into right on cue in your unpredictable kingdom dance. Help me not to be too busy buying food to miss it. Accomplish through me in it what you would intend. Through Jesus.
For all of this week’s small group resources including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.