Getting Personal | John 4.16-18
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
John 4:16-18 | ESV
Now he puts on the brakes. “Not so fast. Go get your husband and come back here and then we’ll talk.”
And she grew very quiet.
“I don’t have a husband,” she nervously muttered. To which Jesus replies, “‘I don’t have a husband.’ Well said! You’re right about that, because you’ve had five husbands, haven’t you? And the man you’re with these days isn’t your husband at all, is he? No prevarication there! You have spoken God’s truth.” MAV
If we analyze this conversation between Jesus and the unnamed woman at the well as a textbook example of “how to do evangelism 101” it would seem that at this point Jesus has her. I mean, it’s time to close the deal, right? “Please give me this water so that I never thirst again or have to come here to draw water.” “Okay, it’s yours. Just bow your head, and say this prayer…” (insert sound of recording screeching to a halt)…but Jesus totally blows it. Instead of closing the deal, he opens up the woman’s chest for some open heart surgery by asking her one simple thing: “It’s high noon, Bingetown Girl. Do you know where your husband is?” Oh Jesus, the momentum was building so wonderfully, you had her drinking out of the palm of your hand! And then you go and make it all personal like that. You open up the core wounding of her life when you could have sewn up the whole business and had another convert to add to your retinue. You could have left her to deal with those deeper issues, you know, later. It’s called baby steps, Jesus. First things first. Let’s get her passage to heaven secured, and then she can deal with her deeper, messier issues, well, later. You could have been sensitive. But no. You go and make it all personal and touch the nerve of her very existence. “It’s high noon, Bingetown Girl. Do you know where your husband is?” You set her up! Not only do you hit the nerve of her very existence, you set her up to knee jerk an embarrassed, evasive, prevaricating answer. “I have no husband.” It’s not too late. You can still be sensitive and let her off the hook, but nooooooo, that two-edged sword coming out of your mouth fillets her heart by exposing the truth she knows – the truth everyone who knows her knows which is no doubt why she’s come to draw water at noon when no one else is there and she doesn’t have to endure shunning glances and snarky remarks. “No. You don’t, do you? The truth is you’ve had five husbands, Bingetown Girl. And the one you’re living with now isn’t your husband at all, is he?” Heart successfully filleted. Splayed. Jesus, you’re cruel. And even worse, you’ve lost the sale, haven’t you? Yes, but then he turns to us, that two-edged sword now pointing in our direction. The knowing look, a slight shake of the head. That’s the whole point. Lose the sale, save the soul. The question is, will we now linger long enough to risk the filleting of our own deepest interior spaces? Will we risk his getting personal with us? And we find ourselves longing for the opening strains of “Just As I Am” to start, just so we can get away…
If we do take this conversation as a textbook case of “how to do evangelism,” what do you learn from it? What one simple question in the mouth of Jesus would be the one to undo your own soul?
Lord, give me the grace and courage today to risk the piercing compassion of your gaze, to risk the word from you mouth that will undo me, redo me. Not just as I am, Lord, but just as you would and will. This day. Through Jesus.
For all of this week’s small group resources including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.