Jesus seems to have his most productive and satisfying conversations with unnamed, individual, stigmatized and vulnerable women.
There is “the woman caught in adultery” (John 8:1-11) and of course, “the woman at the well”.
Both of these women were the kinds of people no respectable rabbi would speak with – and no man of any status would want to be seen with. And certainly no man would touch a strange woman – especially one seen as ‘unclean’ (ref, woman with hemorrhage).
The woman at the well, besides being female, ostracized by her own people, and married multiple times, was also a Samaritan – and as everyone knew “Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9 NIV)
Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well is so ‘satisfying’ that Jesus says one of the most astounding lines in the New Testament; “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32 NIV)
The woman, in turn, is considered to be the first evangelist – if not missionary. Her life, and the life of virtually everyone in that village, was changed forever.
It is significant that none of these women were named.
Naming in historical accounts of the time was for ‘important’ people – kings, prophets and leaders. These women were not ‘important’ – in fact they were cast-off, rejected, ‘unclean’ or unworthy. They were interruptions and distractions. Jesus’ conversations with them were ‘accidental’ and unintentional. And far more fruitful than his conversations with religious leaders – and his own disciples.
I too, learn a lot from unintended encounters.
I usually listen more than I speak.
People who are rejected, lost and broken speak with an economy of practical wisdom – they know all too well the deceptions and betrayals of the world – and even though they may try, they cannot ignore their own complicity in their own degradation.
Unlike them, most of us who live fairly comfortable lives, still believe (and live by) the lies of the world – and our own.
Most ‘Christians’ I know are ‘proud’ of the fact that they don’t ‘need’ anyone.
And, most of them, when I press them, freely admit that if it were not for the promise of Heaven or the threat of Hell, they wouldn’t ‘need’ God either.
These lost and forsaken women know better. They know that God can, and will, reach, touch and restore them. ‘Religious’ people rarely ‘need’ God – or even anonymous human grace. ‘Needing God’ by many of us, is seen as a sign of weakness. And perhaps it is. It’s a ‘weakness’ that allows us to be touched, or be the one who touches the broken, with unexpected grace.