God of the Instead

In this world we will have trouble and sorrow—we’ll be misunderstood, rejected, taken advantage of, maybe even abused. This is why we can relate to the Samaritan woman in John 4. We love this story because Jesus doesn’t leave us in our mess. What this story is telling us is that He is the “God of the instead!”  

This is a continuation of my series called “Loving Our Samaritans.” We looked at John 4:13-18 in my last post, where Jesus finds this woman at Jacob’s well. Like many of us, she was haunted by her failures and regrets, having put her hopes in the “five husbands” of this world, now living in a fallen space, left empty, disillusioned, and rejected.

But then Jesus happened. He came to offer her, and us, something that this world cannot give. It comes from a very different well—“a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, flooding you with endless life!” (John 4:14 TPT).

I love the following dialogue in the series, The Chosen, depicting how the Samaritan woman responses to Jesus when she finally gets it—that the worship God wants “will not be a matter of the right place but with a right heart” (see John 4:23-24):

Woman: “I’m going to tell everyone!”
Jesus: “I was counting on it.”
Woman: “Spirit and Truth?”
Jesus: “Spirit and Truth.”
Woman: “It won’t be all about mountains or temples?”
Jesus: “Soon…just the heart.”
Woman: “You promise?”
Jesus: “I promise.”

You can watch the whole clip here.

Let pick up the story from this encounter…

28 All at once, the woman left her water jar and ran off to her village and told everyone, 29 “Come and meet a man at the well who told me everything I’ve ever done! He could be the One we’ve been waiting for.” 30 Hearing this, the people came streaming out of the village to go see Jesus. (John 4:28-30 TPT)

What struck me about her response is her absolute joy over Jesus exposing her deepest darkest secrets. She wanted to tell everyone! Now, let me ask you, would you want someone exposing your deepest darkest secrets? Would your response be that you want to tell everyone? Probably not. That not only should tell us something about how God ministers to us, but also how we’re to minister to others. We could probably learn a lot about love and grace from this story. Just saying….

What’s evident is that Jesus didn’t reveal these things to shame her like everyone else did; He revealed them to free her from her shame. Not only that, but as we will see later, to reconnect her to her community.

There was such incredible grace in this confrontation of her failures that all this woman felt was love and connection, which is exactly what her heart had been searching for all along! Before, only finding failure, disconnection, and disappointment, now she could trust again, fully open herself up again to intimacy (in-me-see).

Look at the woman’s response again…

28 All at once, the woman left her water jar and ran off to her village and told everyone, 29 “Come and meet a man at the well who told me everything I’ve ever done!

She wanted to tell everyone because, perhaps for the first time, she felt fully alive and deeply loved, even in the most guarded and vulnerable parts of her soul. She got a taste of who she was created to be. This space is where we were all meant to live and thrive.

So, how would we respond? Because this is what happens every time we genuinely encounter Jesus. You cannot experience this kind of grace and love and connection and not be changed, healed, and set free! This is why the Gospel is called the good news that brings great joy! I think this is what what the world needs now…it’s what we need now.

One more thing. How did her community respsond to the Samaritan woman’s testimony?

30 Hearing this, the people came streaming out of the village to go see Jesus.

Think about it. This marginalized and rejected woman brought her whole city to Christ! Do you want to reach your community for Christ? Then come to this “well” with Jesus and leave those old “water pots” you’ve tried finding life from behind! People don’t need our canned speeches about Jesus. Even though their minds may not know what they’re really looking for, their soul does. It’s what this woman found, what only Jesus can give them, and us—“a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, flooding you with endless life!”

Beloved, we, too, may have been rejected by others, but not by Jesus. And when we open our heart to Him, He turns our sorrow into joy! He gives us “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isa.61:3). And this “God of the Instead” lives in us. And He’s waiting by our well.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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7 Responses to God of the Instead

  1. Tammy McCarthy says:

    I love how the Chosen takes a little artistic liberty and gives a reason why she may have gone from husband to husband. It’s a great reminder that hurt people hurt people. Instead of judging, we should be loving these hurt people and sharing the endless love of God that fills all those empty spots.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I really liked what they did, too. And you make a good point, Tammy. It does show us how to love people who hurt us. Like you said, hurt people hurt people. And love conquers whatever has been done to us, so that we can become who we were meant to be!

      That’s what we can learn from Jesus here, to look beyond the “outer shell” they are presenting to us and reach the heart.

  2. How judgmental “we” have become. I see her as a sad woman who has suffered much grief. I know many good Christians who have been widowed two or three times, all to good Christian spouses. And in the world back then, danger was everywhere. Many in that area worked in mines and there were many mine collapses. Travelers came that way from the east to today’s Europe and brought diseases with them. There were dangerous highwaymen in the mountains and deserts. The zealots were always attacking the Roman on the highways and in the cities. If they had a something wrong with their body such as cystic fribroses that took young people, doctors then did not know how to treat it (and hardly do today). It was a dangerous world they lived in. And women relied on the income of the men more at that time to survive. True, she finally gave up and lived with a man without marrying him. But she was not a loose woman. How do I know? Because of her influence in the city. The people in the city respected her. Otherwise, they would not have believed her and followed her to meet this stranger from Galilee. As I said, I think she was a sad woman, but a respected woman and we should stop being so judgmental of her.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Exactly, Katheryn. Seeing someone like this should produce sadness and compassion, not judgment. This is a good case study for us all in learning not to judge people because of their circumstances.

      You make a good point. It was a very dangerous time for a woman. At least this woman probably had the support of the man she was living with. And, in The Chosen series depiction, Jesus give a plausable scenario for why she was where she was at. Even with the so-called “adulterous woman,” later in John 8, she was a prostitute, probably because she had no man to support her, which, again, would be the main way she would have to survive if she had no family to support her. What’s sad (and hypocritical) in John 8 is that the woman probably became a prostitute because her husband threw her out (not to mention, some of the men with stones probably slept with her!). Truly, this story shows why Paul said the letter of the Law kills, but the Spirit gives life.

      In both stories, Jesus comes to save them, not only from hell, but from the hell they were living in on the earth. That’s why He came, for our freedom!

  3. Yayyy! Well done, Mel. I really like what you wrote about, “What struck me about her response is her absolute joy over Jesus exposing her deepest darkest secrets. She wanted to tell everyone!”

    That really is how Jesus ministers to us, and how we can help others, too. It’s kind of a delicate thing, you have to build community and trust, and also be heavily immersed in grace, but our secrets are often quite common to us all, shared among humanity, and much less intimidating then we believe when we try to carry them alone.

  4. SLIMJIM says:

    I really love the story in John 4; thanks for this exposition

  5. Pingback: Dining with Jesus | In My Father's House

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