He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”
“I have no husband,” she said.
“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
John 4:16-18 MSG
In many translations this parable is artificially named by bible translators “A Woman At The Well”. Much like the parable of the prodigal son is called, “The Prodigal Son”. In previous posts I mentioned how much I like how Dr. Dale Ryan calls the prodigal son story “The Running Father”. This fits with scholars who teach us that parables are stories primarily intended to teach us one small thing about God.
Applying these principles to this story, I would like to take the liberty of renaming this story, “Jesus Sees and Knows”. Because I suspect this is the larger point of this exchange.
Jesus knew things about this woman that make no sense. He doesn’t beat around the bush in getting to the point either. She reveals a partial truth to a guy she shouldn’t trust “I have no husband” and he replies with the full truth of her current situation.
The reasons why she has had five husbands and is now living with a man are not given. Women were often married off to older men at very young ages. It is conceivable that her previous husbands have died due to natural causes, since life expectancy wasn’t great in those days. This could happen without her being a serial husband killer. Obviously, something about this is not socially pleasing. Clearly she is withdrawn and isolated from the women in her community. But we do not really know why, do we? But Jesus knows and this is such a big deal. Here’s what we can surmise from the text without going crazy with speculation. Jesus “had” to talk to this woman; in this meeting, Jesus is revealing as much about himself (which is the point of a parable) than he is about her.
Here’s what I love - I love that Jesus continually allows the “least of these” to be let in on the love, grace, mercy, and “gushing fountains of endless life”. Feeling marginalized? Being told you are “less than”? Always feeling outside the inner circle? Maybe these feelings are valid, maybe they are not. But either way they hurt, don’t they? Consider the fact that Jesus knows your part in your isolation, the part of others in creating distance, and none of that matters as much as who he is and what he offers to us all.
Think about that!