Updated: Jul 2
The perfect lie? Is to tell the truth. And she tried it with the Son of God.
Many politicians and corporate leaders are quite adept when confronted with a question they do not like. At times, they may:
Provide an answer to a question that was not asked
Deflect the question by changing the subject
Continue talking as if the question had never been posed
Admit to or volunteer a minor failing to misdirect from far more serious misdeeds
But the most artful response is to simply tell the truth. And allow the truth revealed to mislead from the original question.
He (Jesus) told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
John 4: 16-17(a)
We cannot hear if her voice was flat or laced with acid, revealing a level of hurt and betrayal that she could not conceal. What we can know is her response lacked any pretense of love. She had long since given up or perhaps forgotten the dreams she had once harbored as a girl. Maybe she did not intend to lie, but she certainly had no interest in sharing this aspect of her life with the Jewish male stranger standing at Jacob’s well. And so she offered this shell of a response concealing her most painful truth.
But Jesus knew exactly what she was doing.
"You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
John 4: 17(b) – 18
We cannot know why her life had revolved through five husbands. Maybe she had a mouth. Maybe she was barren. Probably both. Her first marriage was quite likely very young. Maybe against her will. Perhaps she was barren because of being placed into marriage so young. She was from Sychar, a town with no archaeological record in spite of its close proximity to Jacob’s well. She almost certainly had not married up. Most likely, she had felt the hand of anger slap across her face more than once. She was an outcast in a dusty town, living with a man she did not love who would not marry her. At the end of her road as well as her world. Surviving.
But she had not lost her fire. She spoke with intelligence and wit. We cannot hear her tone, but she likely looked the Son of God straight in the eye. When Jesus tried to open the most painful part of her life, she answered in a way that would have halted any further question of that nature with any other person. But Jesus not only saw straight through her reply, he could see straight into her.
So let mercy come and wash away
What I've done I'll face myself To cross out what I've become Erase myself And let go of what I've done
For what I've done I start again And whatever pain may come Today this ends I'm forgiving
What I've done
Linkin Park, What I’ve Done, Minutes to Midnight, 2007
Jesus never condemned the woman at the well. His tone and words were not as accuser. He spoke as fact with compassion and understanding. And if God forgives us, who are we not to forgive ourselves?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
2 Corinthians 5: 17
Much has been written about why Jesus took the time to talk with the woman at the well. Jesus was Jewish; the woman was Samaritan. The gulf. The divide. Jesus as a bridge to all. All true.
Perhaps, though, the purpose was far more simple. Jesus was thirsty. He saw a woman in need. He took the time to talk.
And this exchange between Jesus and the woman at the well is not only the longest recorded discussion that Jesus had with anyone, it is also the longest recorded conversation found anywhere in the Bible.