By Sigrid Fowler
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Recall that when the Samaritan woman at the well tells Jesus, “I have no husband,” she’s responding to his abrupt, very personal, and revealing words: “Go, call your husband and come here” (John 4: 16). Of course he knows the facts of her situation. It’s clear that he does because, having turned the conversation in this new direction, he tells her: “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true” (John 4: 17-18).
Keep in mind that Jesus describes himself as “the truth” (John 14: 6). Some editors assign a capital letter to the word truth in John 14, adding the weight of a title. I agree. The Truth is an accurate title for Jesus—as the gospels, letters, and the Bible’s final book affirm.
Jesus tells John to write to the church in Philadelphia, “These things says the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Rev 3: 7). To the Laodiceans, Jesus again speaks of himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation” (Rev 3: 14). Later, John records another voice calling Jesus “holy and true”: “I saw the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Rev 6: 9b-10). The throngs of heaven sing the Song of Moses, which begins: “Great and wonderful are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are all you ways, O King of the nations” (Rev 15: 3b). When judgement is poured out on the rivers and springs, turning them to blood and vindicating the spilled blood of saints and prophets, voices from the altar cry out: “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!’” (Rev 16: 7).
The woman of Sychar prefers to dodge the truth Jesus has put squarely in the space between them. She doesn’t want to talk about the five previous husbands or about the man she’s currently living with. She dodges the annoying businesshe’s pushing and changes the subject: “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” She’s diverting all this toward the familiar controversy between the people of Samaria and the Jews—which mountain is the proper place for worship (the mountain of Samaria or Jerusalem, Mount Zion presumably).Everybody gets what she’s doing here.
That she’s shifting the spotlight off herself is a valid point, certainly. But distraction or diversion or dodging—however we view her tactics, it’s clear that, for all her efforts, she isn’t the one in charge. Actually, it is her move that puts the conversation in just the place Jesus wants it to be. He is not only possessor of the truth but was prepared to state it openly—here to the very person the facts expose. But having gained her attention, he now has another purpose: He will reveal to this listener, odd and sinful yet one who clearly values the truth, what prophets of old and even the angels (1 Pet 1: 10-12) longed to know.
The woman is gripped by what he says and goes home to tell everybody. Indeed, this unlikely woman has been called “the first missionary.” She’s been given the whole truth, and she asks her town the right question: “Is this the Christ?” The story develops and we see the impact she has. Everyone is stirred to action! John quickly adds, “They went out of the town and were coming to him” then “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did’” (John 4: 30, 39).
Truth is at the center here—her owning “everything I ever did,” Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of it and bare-bones, plain and simple stating of the truth—these things gripeveryone. What he clearly knows and what he says are fullyverifiable. Openly stating the truth was as noteworthy then as it is now, it seems. More often the unadorned truth is hard to find! Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, Herod, Pilate, and the people, Jews and Romans, all speculated about Jesus’ identity. What’s the truth about this man? Who is he? Jesus will openly tell this woman that he is the Messiah. And once again, he will be speaking the truth.