I will never forget the first time a girl I was in love with, touched me on the hand. To protect the innocent, we’ll call her Rosie. Rosie passed me a note in Study Hall where she declared her undying love for me. Well, maybe that’s a little strong but since it was my first “love” note, it really didn’t matter what was in it. When she passed it to me, she brushed her hand on mine. I was instantly careened into a new state of consciousness I was previously unable to discover. We were in love!
We professed this exclusivity together as a couple for one day and the future as far as I could see looked pretty bright. Whenever we held hands, it didn’t matter that I was profusely sweating and that it was terribly uncomfortable. The fusion of her hand in mine was all that mattered. “Hands off girls. He’s mine!”
This life-altering relationship lasted for one week. You heard that right. One week. And to make matters worse, I was dumped in the library of all places. As if I needed another reason not to darken the doors of a library.
However brief our relationship, one thing had changed that could never be taken away. I was no longer untouchable. My status had forever changed. I was no longer one of those untouchable, “germ-infested” boys. I would never again be labeled untouchable. Rosie changed my life.
During his time on Earth, Jesus not only touched the untouchable - but offered to drink from a “germ-filled” jar and as a result, changed lives forever.
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10
Most people who read the powerful Woman at the Well story miss a small detail that drastically elevates this story to a whole new level. Most people assume that the mere conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman was the giant chasm that was bridged. It was much more than that. Let’s take a look at the story.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” ( For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) John 4:7
Misconception: Jews and Samaritans didn’t ever mix.
To help explain, I am borrowing from Robert Mounce’s explanation in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. “That the disciples had gone into town to purchase food indicates that ordinary commercial dealings between Jews and Samaritans were not out of line. The KJV’s “have no dealings with” implies a degree of segregation that goes beyond what actually existed.”
It wasn’t uncommon for Jews and Samaritans to communicate. In fact, it was likely that when Jesus sent the disciples into town, they themselves would be speaking to Samaritans as they shopped and traveled through. This was not uncommon. What made the Samaritan woman go berserk and run into the town, forsaking her shame and tell everybody about Jesus wasn’t just a forbidden conversation between a Jew and a Samaritan.
It was Jesus’s willingness to touch the unclean.
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus asks for a drink from her jar. (To the Samaritan woman, that was like asking a 5th-grade boy with a snotty nose if you could have a splash of his energy drink!)
Again from Mounce. “It was at a later period that a rabbinic regulation was laid down restricting the common use of vessels by Jews and Samaritans based on the fact that Samaritan women were assumed to be ceremonially unclean from the cradle (m. Nid. 4:1). This uncleanness would be transferred to anything they handled, so to drink from a pitcher belonging to a Samaritan woman would automatically defile.”
What a difference a touch can make!
Jesus turned a harlot into a missionary with the simple request of drinking from the defiled woman’s jar. The woman ran into her village to share her remarkable experience. She couldn’t contain herself! She was longer ashamed and shared with anyone who would listen how this man’s contact with her transformed everything about her. This touch changed her life and no doubt countless others. She went from untouchable to loved with one touch.
So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him. John 4:28-30
Modern Day Samaritans
There are so many divides raging through our country at the moment. Racial divides, political divides, perspectives on public safety, and gender identity confusion just to name a few. What if we reached out and touched someone previously thought to be untouchable. What if we threw cultural or religious preconceptions out the window and just took the time to reach out in love? It’s uncommon. It’s unexpected. It’s life-changing.
And… it’s not as dangerous as you might imagine.
B.L.E.S.S. Your Neighbors
I’ve recently been reading a book by Dave Ferguson called B.L.E.S.S.: 5 Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World. In this book, Ferguson outlines five simple ways you and I can reach out in love to everyone around us without sweaty palms. These steps are as easy as taking a drink of water from a neighbor’s glass and have the same potential to change not only your neighbor but your neighborhood for Christ. Here’s how he explains it:
B – Begin with Prayer
Prayer is how you both discover your mission and how you live out the mission. Over and over again, we see Jesus retreating to pray. If you’re not sure who God is calling you to bless or where God is calling you to go to be a blessing, you can begin with prayer. And if you know the people you want to bless, begin praying for those people now.
L – Listen
Asking questions and then listening was central to Jesus’ life and teaching. In the gospels, Jesus asked many more questions than he answered. Any relationship starts with listening to someone’s words in life. True listening may be the kindest and most loving gift you can give someone.
E – Eat
Jesus liked to eat! Over and over, as in Matthew nine, we find Jesus with tax collectors and sinners… Doing what? Eating! There is something about sharing a meal together that moves any relationship past acquaintance toward friendship – faster than just about anything else we can do.
S - Serve
Jesus told straight up, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…”. He modeled for us that once you begin with prayer, listen, and eat with someone, there is a good chance that you’ll discover how you can best serve the person God is asking you to bless.
S - Story
When people were ready to listen, Jesus would share his story. When you befriend and bless people, they feel relationally safe and want to know your story. Then, and only then, you can tell them how the love of God in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection have changed you.
Just ask for a Drink
See… I told you it isn’t scary. Can you see yourself incorporating B.L.E.S.S. into your everyday life? I speak from experience when I tell you that this is a way easier way than the old “Bait and Switch” evangelism. “Hey! Can I talk to you about your vacuum? Does it suck? Well, life sucks without Jesus. Let me tell you about Him.” UGH! Talk about an uncomfortable conversation!
Sharing the Hope of Jesus, the love that touches us deep down in our souls, forever changing our status and transforming our lives doesn’t have to be risky or scary or fake. No more sweaty palms. No more dry mouth. No more stutter step. There’s a better way. Just be natural, organic, and real - and ask for a drink!
Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:13-14
Read more on practical ways to connect with your neighbors for the sake of the gospel.