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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 15: John 4:7b
You are … ( I AM …

Two people meet up in this amazing story. We will think about the first, the unnamed woman, here and the other, Jesus, in the following study.

No wonder she was surprised by the question Jesus asked, she was a woman – second class citizen in the thinking of those days; she was a Samaritan – long antagonistic to the Jews; she had a somewhat doubtful moral background – having had 5 husbands and now living with a man she was not married to (although there is no word of condemnation from Jesus so she may just have been a very unfortunate lady). On the positive side she was able to carry on a vigorous and effective conversation with a strange man and the village people gave her enough respect to come out to see Jesus at her suggestion.

We must not overlook the fact that Jesus treated women quite differently from that expected by the culture of his day. That is not immediately clear from the Biblical accounts that we have, but that may be because they were all written by men! But there are many easily overlooked hints that women had a considerable role to play in the early church. The news that Jesus had risen was entrusted to women (John 20: 1). As we shall see in the next study the news that he was God came first to a woman – this woman! Junia was an apostle (Romans 16: 7). Phoebe was an important and highly trusted member of the church in Cenchrae (Romans 16: 1). Women participated in the church services in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11: 5). The passages in which women’s participation in the church services are restricted (1 Corinthians 14; 1 Timothy 2) are both rather odd since they appear to contradict things Paul says elsewhere.

It would be nice to be able to claim that Jesus started a trend that has lasted through the 2000 years since but that would probably be overdoing it! Paul said (Gal 3: 28), “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus had already amply demonstrated the truth of that, showing that neither race, nor status, nor gender is of any significance in the Kingdom. To those we should add for our world skin colour and education level. There may not be a clear trend through the many years since but Jesus made a statement that set a target. Only now as with modern sophisticated machinery nimble fingers and a quick mind become more important than brute strength is the equality of women being increasingly recognized.

The sharpness of the contrast John has drawn by his choice of Nicodemus: well known, named, respected, male and this unknown, unnamed, doubtful, female for his two stories close together is a warning to us just how easy it is to slip into an attitude of ‘not one of us’. There is no ‘them’ and ‘us’ in the Kingdom.

The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.

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