The woman was from the wrong side of town. Her skin was the wrong color. She went to the wrong church and ran with the wrong crowd. She’d had a string of live-in boyfriends and most of the people in the neighborhood crossed the street when they saw her coming.
It was about noon when it happened. The woman walked into a neighborhood fast food restaurant. A sign in the window read “Help Wanted” and she intended to apply for the job. The man behind the counter was surprised when she asked for the manager, but not nearly as surprised as the manager was when she asked about the job.
How could he get out of this? Why hadn’t he pulled the sign out of the window when he saw her coming? Why hadn’t the guy behind the counter told her that the manager was “out”? Now here she was and he couldn’t think of one single reason — at least one that wouldn’t get him into trouble — to refuse to hire her.
It was about noon when it happened. Most of the women went to the well early in the morning, when it was cool. She came later. It was hotter then, but the other women were less likely to be around. The women didn’t like her much. She came from the wrong side of town, and she was living with a man she wasn’t married to. Besides, she had a disturbing habit of getting in your face, asking questions about politics and, worse yet given her questionable status in the community, even religion! The woman was bad news and as far as most people were concerned she was invisible.
But she was not invisible to Jesus. It almost seemed that He had timed his visit to Jacob’s well to coincide with hers (Jn 4:5-42). And then, to make matters worse, He talked to her – him, a man, and a Jew, talking to a Samaritan woman! It was unheard of. Couldn’t he have gotten out of it? What if she wanted to become a disciple, too? What would Jesus do? What would the other disciples do?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the Diocese of Green Bay.