Prodigal at the Well

BY KATHY STRAUCH

She was the talk of the town. Everyone knew her for all the wrong reasons.  While most sought shelter from the scorching sun, shuffling feet kicked up sand and dirt as they scurried to gather water under the sweltering heat. 

Necessity drove her to the well. She wasn't there for fun or socialization. If she didn't gather water she would die. Her life depended on the water the well provided. Her shame drove her to gather water when no one else would, when no one would see her in the heat of the day. That is, all except one. 

That day there was a stranger resting at the well. A traveler was passing through town and her water source had become His place of respite from the journey. 

This weary, thirsty traveler was different. He wasn't like other strangers. She did not know Him but He knew her. Before she saw Him, He saw her. The Son of God waited for the parched Samaritan woman to come to well in the midday sun.

The harsh rays of the sun beat down on her as she approached the well. As her skin was exposed to the radiance of the sun, so her sin was fully exposed to Jesus who was waiting for her. She may have been able to hide from the condemning glares and words of judgment from her fellow Samaritans, but there was no shelter, no fig leaves, nothing to hide or conceal herself and her guilt from the Lord who stood in her presence. 

However, to Him, she was not just another sinner, another bad example. Not just a person that could, with a little bit of work and guidance, be "fixed." She was not just another stop on His way to Galilee. He had to go through this town. She was the reason He had to come.

She was gathering water at the well as Jesus spoke with her, but she was still dying of thirst. While she dug deeper and deeper into her own dry cistern of iniquities. She was faithless to Her faithful Lord. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (Jeremiah 2:13). The Living Water, Himself, now stood before her, conversing with her. 

When she ran away from her Life, her Life took off running after her. Jesus had to go to Samaria just as He had to go to Jerusalem. He had to pour out His love and life on this woman whom He loved. That's why Jesus came.

The Living Water came to be poured out for a people who had forsaken Him and tried to create their own wells. The same Jesus who confronted the sin of His beloved would later cry out, "I thirst" (John 19:28) as he drank dry every drop of the world's sin and guilt. Jesus came to pour out blood and water from His side as He was crucified for us so that He may pour out His baptismal waters on us and give to us His body and blood for the forgiveness of all our sins. 

Jesus had to meet with this Samaritan. He had to be crucified, dead, buried, and raised for her. And, for you. 

Jesus still chases down prodigals at the well of the baptismal font. He still meets and converses with sinners through His Word. Like the prodigal father in Luke 15, Jesus comes running to embrace sinners like me and you with His very own robe of righteousness. He, Himself, quenches our thirsty souls. He leads us by the still waters that bring us life. Jesus is willing to leave the 99 to run after the one (Luke 15:4). 

It turns out this woman wasn't the only prodigal at the well. The Lord who stood before her seemed reckless in His love. Her sin didn't deter Him. Rather, it was the reason He came. While He knew her record and everything which stood against her, He came not to condemn her but to justify her and be condemned in her place. 

Martin Luther writes, "The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it." The love of God did not meet her because there was something good in her, but because Christ, Himself, was good and loves to bless and robe His saints in His righteousness. God is pleased, we are His beloved, because Christ has created us through His death and resurrection to be pleasing.

He knows everything about us, yet refuses to leave us in our shame. He is steadfast in His love for us. He restores our parched souls with Himself. We are the ones for whom Christ had to come.

Kathy is a bookworm, writer, graphic designer, and coffee lover from Michigan. She enjoys reading and learning about Law and Gospel as well as the Lutheran Confessions. She also loves learning, researching, writing about, and drinking (good) coffee. Kathy is thankful for the friends who consistantly reminded her and give her a passion to communicate the message of the Gospel—Christ for you—through conversations and writing.  Hymns continue to teach her theology and she enjoys learning to play those hymns on piano. She also loves traveling, especially with her friends. 

Twitter @08Kathy