The First Evangelist

July 26, 2014

            Everybody knew her and, understandably, most did not like her. Her reputation was well known and living in that small town only made the scorn worse. Yet, God had other plans.
She had been through a pretty hard life. With so many past husbands, it was evident that she had endured significant loss. All the properly religious folks in her small village were quick to look past her individual suffering and shame. They saw only a woman with such loose morals that she was willing to be with whatever man would take her in.
            Of course, not much was said about the man she was living with. Some assumed he was just a nice man taking pity on a disgraceful woman. Others sneered with speculations of what favors he was getting on the side for allowing her to live with him even though they were not married. What was clear to everyone, however, was that as long as she was content to shack up with him, she was less likely to cause problems elsewhere. Considering her scandalous reputation and the previous five men she had been through, people were judgmentally pleased that she was kept in her place in that man’s house and away from their own.
            She really had no friends. She respected the social customs as best she could. There was to be no public socialization with men at all for a woman’s place was only with her husband or the other women of her village. This was particularly true regarding a woman of such publically questioned morals. Yet, even the women of her village hated her. She had heard the gossipy talk behind her back and the condescending remarks about what man would be her next prey or how she undermined the faith, family, and community. It was just such derision and gossip that forced her to live her life in relative isolation.
            Nobody saw her leave the village which was normal. People knew how she would wait patiently for the other women to return from the well before leaving to draw water for herself and the man with whom she was living. The arrangement was mutually beneficial. Even though she had to endure the dangers of being alone and heat of the midday sun, it was a sacrifice that paid off as she did not have to endure the shame cast upon her by the women of her village. They too enjoyed the freedom to not have to be seen with her, or pretend to be nice to her, since nobody would want to be associated with a woman like her. Just as quietly as she had left—unnoticed and unwanted—she would normally return to hide from the public scorn in the home of a man to whom she would probably never be married. Then, something changed.
            Rather than quietly sulking into the village with her jar of water, she was bounding in, empty handed, and filled with incredible excitement! Something was amazingly different. She was radiating—glowing with a new spirit and grace about her. This was not the same disreputable woman everyone knew and despised. This was a new woman and she spoke of a Jewish man whom she encountered at the well. Unbelievable as it seemed to everyone in this Samaritan village, this man who would have normally looked down on all the village as being half-breeds and undeserving of basic human dignity, had obviously connected with her in a very powerful way. The encounter was so powerful she was inviting them to come and see.
            Their curiosity was overwhelming and they all had to see for themselves. Then, this outcast woman whom everyone despised as a filthy sinner, led the whole village to meet Jesus. A woman with a questionable reputation, in a culture that did little to recognize the value of women, became the first evangelist of the New Testament. Jesus Christ smiled on the most unlikely of people and through her witness transformed a village—and our world!