The Woman at the Well: Jesus and the Ministry of Women -- By: Roberta Hestenes

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 12:1 (Winter 1998)
Article: The Woman at the Well: Jesus and the Ministry of Women
Author: Roberta Hestenes

The Woman at the Well:
Jesus and the Ministry of Women

Roberta Hestenes

The Reverend Dr. Roberta Hestenes has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary and served as Chair of the Board of World Vision. Formerly President of Eastern College, she is now Senior Pastor of Solana Beach Presbyterian Church in California. Priscilla Papers 4:4, Fall 1990.

“Then leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him... Many of the Samaritans from the town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did’.” (John 4:28-30, 39, NIV)

Her name is lost. We do not have the name of the first public evangelist in the Christian movement. We have the names of Peter and Andrew and Barnabas and Stephen and Paul, but we do not have her name. We only know her as the woman at the well, the woman of Samaria.

She had come to draw water. Then Jesus asked, “Will you give me a drink?’

And the woman said, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

She had a question. She was curious. Jesus had broken the norms of the culture and she pushed forward to find out why. She was not passive. She was not pondering inwardly. When she wanted to know something, she went for it.

Now this woman knew that she had three strikes against her. The first one was that she was a Samaritan, a minority person within the majority Jewish culture. Strike one: wrong race.

Secondly, she had five previous husbands and was living with a man now to whom she wasn’t married. Strike two: wrong morals.

Thirdly (and three strikes and you’re out), she was a woman. Wise men—teachers, rabbis, men who cared about their reputations—didn’t talk to women in public. It wasn’t the thing to do. Besides, to have a serious conversation with a woman in public was a waste of time because generally speaking a woman was considered incapable of really understanding the deeper things. So you might talk to her about the house and the children and the water. But about God?

Nonetheless, this woman wanted to know about God and so she pushed Jesus. Jesus answered her: He revealed himself as the sent one, the anointed one, the Messiah of God.

How did she respond? The text tells us that she became an evangelist: She left her water jar and went back to her village. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Christ because of her testimony...

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