02 Jul

Here was a friend

Here is one of my favorites stories of all time. Even more special these days given my line of work at Water4.org. 
Here was a friend who still meets people at the well, even today!
Here’s the story …
He was making the journey back from Jerusalem after His spectacular triumph in cleansing the Temple when He came to Jacob’s Well and, being tired, sat down. 
His disciples had stopped at one of the villages to purchase food, so He was alone. The well furnished the water supply for the neighboring city of the Samaritans, and after a little time a woman came out to it, carrying her pitcher on her shoulder. 
Between her people, the Samaritans, and His people, the Jews, there was a feud of centuries. To be touched by even the shadow of a Samaritan was defilement, according to the strict Code of the Pharisees; to speak to one was a crime. 
The woman made no concealment of her resentment at finding Him there. Almost any remark from His lips would have kindled her anger. She would at least have turned away in scorn; she might have summoned her relatives and driven Him away.
A difficult, perhaps dangerous situation. How could He meet it? How give a message to one who was forbidden by everything holy to listen? 
The incident is very revealing: there are times when any word is the wrong word, when only silence can prevail. Jesus knew well this precious principle. 
As the woman drew closer, He made no move to indicate that He was conscious of her approach. His gaze was on the ground. When He spoke, He spoke quietly, musingly, as if to Himself.
“If you knew who I am,” He said, “you would not need to come out here for water. I would give you living water.”
The woman stopped short, her interest challenged in spite of herself; she set down the pitcher and looked at the stranger. It was a burning hot day; the well was far from the city; she was tired. What did He mean by such a remark? 
She started to speak, checked herself and burst out impulsively, her curiosity overleaping her caution: “What are you talking about? Do you mean to say you are greater than our father Jacob who gave us this well? Have you some magic that will save us this long walk in the sun?”
Dramatic, isn’t it – a single sentence achieving triumph, arousing interest and creating desire? With sure instinct He followed up His initial advantage. He began to talk to her in terms of her own life, her ambitions, her hopes, knowing so well that each of us is interested first of all and most of all in himself. 
When the disciples came up a few minutes later, they found the unbelievable – a Samaritan listening with rapt attention to the teaching of a Jew.
He prepared to go but she would not allow it. She ran back to the city to summon her brothers and relatives. “Come,” she cried, “and see a man who told me all things ever I did.”
They followed her out to the well – these prejudiced, reluctant men and women who, an hour before, would have thought it incredible that they should ever hold conversation with one of their traditional enemies. 
Suspiciously at first but with steadily ascending interest, they listened to His talk. It is said that great leaders are born, not made. The saying is true to this degree – that no man can persuade people to do what he wants them to do unless he genuinely likes people and believes that what he wants them to do is to their own advantage. 
One of the reasons for Jesus’ success was an affection for people which so shone in His eyes and rang in His tones that even the commonest man in a crowd felt instinctively that here was a friend.
(Excerpt from Bruce Barton’s book, The Man Nobody Knows.)

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