Jesus has had a hard day. Walking in the hot sun, he is glad to sit and rest, even without a drink. Yet, tired and thirsty, he can find the energy for a conversation. (John 4:1-42). His disciples will be surprised to find him talking to a Samaritan woman, and one who came to the well at midday to avoid company. Soon she finds his perception hard – these are things she didn’t want to talk about, but still does.
People coming to new faith may face up to things otherwise forgotten by choice. Christians coming closer to God as they turn away from all that is wrong may also find the process challenging. Though they cannot begin again, each day brings the choice of going on, or not.
Jesus didn’t want the effort, but took the opportunity. The woman didn’t like being so well understood, and created a distraction (the proper place to worship – the Samaritan or Jewish centre), but Jesus avoids it. The conversation continues until the woman leaves to bring others. They begin in curiosity, but as Jesus stays, they gain a faith of their own which no longer depends on second hand reports.
Jesus has taught us three things about being changed – converted. First, we have to face facts, even hard ones. Second, we need to avoid distractions. Third, the experience has to be their own for each person; second hand won’t do. This is true for our own conversion, but also for our going on in faith day by day, year by year. It is equally true for evangelism, as we try, with courtesy and urgency, to share faith with others around us.
Perhaps the twinning of this story with Exodus 17:1-7 (and its echo in Psalm 95) is fortunate. We don’t easily face up to hard facts about ourselves and our faith (or lack of it). Evangelism, and repentance, are for many a hard place. But when we find God there, the benefits flow like water in the desert.