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Saving The Lost: Jesus Raises The Status Of An Accused Adulterer

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

 The Mission – Confronting Sin With An Aim To Elevate (John 4:16-18)

The stage is set for further revelation of Christ’s identity and mission. Keep in mind the betrothal theme, the reader will notice a shift in the story. With the awareness of  “Jesus’ identity as the covenantal husband of Israel and the biblical typology of the well as the meeting place for a betrothal, we can understand the statement by Jesus, “Go call your husband?” (4:16) as the primary purpose of this encounter.”[1] Jesus’ aim here “is not so much to discuss ethics or the woman’s lifestyle as it is to show his revelatory knowledge so that the woman would begin to recognize his identity.”[2]

The strategy here is “by asking her to invite her husband, Christ leads the Samaritan woman to confront herself, and makes her begin to understand her inner world,” and in so doing, he “assists the woman to realize her form of existential failure, to know her fall, in order to move towards recovery.”[3]  This is fully in line with the Johannine author’s intent to show the mercy of God revealed in Messiah. Jesus, not perturbed by her sin, moves her along slowly down the path of repentance that leads to godliness without explicitly judging her (Jn. 12:47).

Notice as well, that  Jesus issues her a challenge to her to participate in his world. Bailey notes that he gives her three commands – “Go, call, bring” (4:16); these commands require that she, a woman, become a witness to a man. As he creates a spring in her, Jesus challenges her to allow its waters to flow to those around her.[4] This sets the stage for her post-conversion work as an evangelist (4:28-9). 

Christ’s aim is two-fold: progressive self-revelation, plus a greater self-awareness. Indeed the woman becomes more self-aware, leading to her hiding behind an excuse – “I have no husband” (4:17). A touch of the living water now exposes her (sin) – “You have correctly said, “I have no husband; for you have had five husbands; and the one whom you now have is not your husband” (4:17-18). No doubt she is embarrassed ashamed and exposed; leading her to deflect – she changes the conversation to matters pertaining to religion. Rather than condemn her, the Good Shepherd affirms her truthful admission and indulges her deflection as he is fully aware that this woman represents the people he came to save (not to condemn; cf. Jn. 10:3, 7,9,11).

[1] Skinner, Characters and Characterization, 190.

[2] Bennema,  Encountering Jesus, 165-6.

[3] Fotiou, Transformation of Existence, 329.                  

[4] Bailey, Middle Eastern Eyes, 208.


Written by Dr. Kevin A. Hall (05.05.19)



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