Encounter: Samaritan Woman

Encountering Jesus’ desire

to give us a clean slate

John 4:1-42

By Claire Westlake

The story of the Samaritan woman speaks to me in that, while I don’t necessarily have five husbands like she did, I can see myself in the way she reacted to Jesus’ glory. Jesus approached her, which marked Him ceremonially unclean, and requested a drink of water, which was literal but also symbolic. He crossed a cultural line, associating Himself with someone who was marked as “unclean” simply by her heritage. Her response, understandably so, was “Um, you sure about that?”

In my life, I have felt the creeping doubt that Jesus really wants to associate Himself with me, a sinner who constantly wrongs Him, who has the wretched capacity to forget the magnitude of His death on the cross. Not only did Jesus reach a hand out to the Samaritan woman — and to me, He demonstrated incredible gentleness. Jesus used the symbol of water to explain the Holy Spirit, but the woman took Him a little too seriously and asked where the smart water on tap could possibly be. So many times I find myself hearing God’s Word, reading about His living water, and over analyzing, overthinking where each dot on the map meets in my life. I distrust the fact that God had my life all figured out at the beginning of time and is working out everything constantly! 

Not only did Jesus show patience to the Samaritan woman concerning the power of His sovereignty, He showed patience in the power of His omniscience. He knew she was violating the gift of marriage, yet He still asked her to go get her husband. This allowed her to say, “Well, I don’t have one.” In which Jesus said, “Yah, you don’t; you have five.” 

We can hide and warp and mask our sin to others all we want, but Jesus truly sees our deepest, ugliest sin, and STILL says, “Yes, I want YOU.” Jesus could have strong-armed the woman, guilted her, and shoved the idea of the Holy Spirit down her throat. He could have condemned her status and said, “You’re a Samaritan woman, you need me extra bad.” But that’s not who He is. He ends His initial interaction with the woman with the words, “Yes, I am the Messiah you speak of.” He could have started with that sentence, stating His full authority over her, but He chose to end with it. He is so, so gentle with us as we slowly shuffle to the foot of the cross. 

Jesus shined light into her heart, and once the shock of disbelief wore off and she saw the glory of peace in Him, she was humbled and overjoyed. I deeply relate to her story. I have encountered Jesus’ desire to give me a clean slate in my life specifically through His church. My time in college began with a lot of choices that felt good but weren’t leading me to Jesus. I sought after partying, doing what felt good in the moment and basking in the newfound attention from boys. The more the sin stacked up, the more I felt unworthy to even accept God’s grace, even though I knew in my mind that grace itself is unearned. 

I didn’t let myself accept this free gift, nor really acknowledge any gift I had been given. My eyes were cast down, refusing to see the good, good God pursuing me everyday. Then, along came the beautiful and magical Mary English. For those who have known her, they would all say she is the sweetest woman there is. Jesus brought along a gentle spirit, a good friend, and a solid sister in Christ who began to show me true characteristics of Jesus that I hadn’t even learned about yet. 

God used Mary and so many people in his church to slowly tilt my chin up, so I could look at God’s true nature, His holiness of being completely set apart from sin, thus completely trustworthy. You could say that in that time, I actually did have five husbands like the Samaritan woman, which makes me cringe and want to hide under a rock from guilt and shame. What Jesus said at that moment was, “I love you so much anyway, and here are all these people who do, too, because of what I’ve done on the cross. Go now and live among them freely in my love!”

What Jesus did in that moment was say, “I don’t care who you’ve been with. I just care that you love Me.” I walked into a clean slate of fellowship, being reminded every day that I’m forgiven. Now, by the immense blessing and compassion of God, only seeing the purity of Jesus Christ covering me, I am engaged to an amazing godly man, who shows me every day that I am deeply loved by Jesus no matter what I’ve done to Him because of what Jesus has done for me.

Claire Westlake has been at UFC for about 5 years. She found UFC through The Good Fight, the church’s college ministry. She graduated from the University of Oregon and now works at a cafe in Eugene. She is engaged to fiance Nicco! Once they are married, she says she is “going granola” and moving to Bend, where he now lives.