Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed (although his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee. (John 4:1-3 The Message)
The religious leaders could not bear to think of Jesus and John "getting more converts" than they could amass in their roles. They were keeping count of the baptisms because this was considered the "mark" of conversion in those days (much like circumcision was the mark of conversion to Judaism). The silliness of the thing is the outcome! I am always amazed at how God turns what others might think as "their win" into a tremendous "win" for the Kingdom of God!
This attitude of the religious leaders actually caused Jesus to pick up and move on. He found himself on the road to Galilee - hungry and thirsty. His disciples often went ahead to the next village to secure some food for this company of travelers. This was the case on the day Jesus encounters one very hurting and rejected woman at a well. He is alone - his disciples having gone on ahead. They leave him to rest a while - he takes the opportunity to "change the score" for this hurting woman! Can you say, "Go, God!!!!"
The "score" was pretty dismal for this woman. Her choices in life had left her pretty destitute. Jesus asks for a drink - she cannot believe her ears. First of all, she is a Samaritan - a tribe of Jews disliked by the religious leaders of the day. Why? It dates way back to the exile of the Jews prior to the Babylonian rule. The Samaritans maintained they held to the specifics of the Jewish law as passed down from Moses. The "other Jews" deviated from this "pure" religion by adopting other practices and customs which "merged" into their religious practice of the Law. Since that time, there was intense dislike between the Samaritans and other Jews. Sheesh! Can you see the danger of "keeping score" here?
Anyway, this woman is one of the Samaritans - a woman to boot! She should have been shunned by a "pure Jew" just because of her ethnic origin. If for no other reason, she was a woman and as such, she should not have been worthy of the attention of a "great teacher". So, on both accounts, Jesus is having another "score" settled. He is showing ethnic background matters little in the Kingdom of God. He is embracing, if not elevating, the importance of women. It would be this woman who would lead many to find the reality of faith!
He asks for water - she is stunned. She knows she is not to even talk with the Jewish man, but for some reason, she engages in a discussion with him. The end of the discussion leads to a revelation which will be her "changing of the score" in her life! He asks for water - she tells him she should not even speak to him - he pursues deeper. I am always amazed at the persistence of God in my own life - how about you? What we see as "off limits" he is never afraid to "push to new limits"! In the unfolding dialogue, Jesus offers her "living water" - something not found in the well, nor understood in the pursuit of any religious exercise (Jewish, Samaritan, or otherwise).
In turn, she begins to try to understand why this Jewish teacher would speak with her. He offers her something - but at a slight cost. He asks for her to go get her husband. Uh oh! Now she is undone - one point for the failure column. What her tells her is that she has had 5 husbands and the current guy in her life she is not even married to! Ooops! In her eyes, she sees a big "negative one" for the scoreboard. In revealing this to her, he never seeks to point out her failure, just to reveal something about himself! He is not ashamed to associate with those who have huge "negative scores" on their scoreboard of life! Awesome!
What started out as a pretty happy day for the religious leaders - having run Jesus out of town by their "keeping score" - will end in just a whole lot more "positive points" on Jesus' side! It never amazes me - what Satan intends for evil in our lives, God works for good! This woman is so touched by Jesus, so encouraged by his unmerited favor, she cannot help but invite others to him. She tells the town! Don't miss that - she tells the TOWN about the one who knows all and still wants to have something to do with her (a woman with a big negative score). Two days pass while the "town" gets to know this Jesus for themselves. As a matter of fact, there are converts innumerable - so much so it takes Jesus two days to accomplish all the "score changing" God sent him there to accomplish!
Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman's witness: "He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!" They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days. A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. They said to the woman, "We're no longer taking this on your say-so. We've heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He's the Savior of the world!" (vs. 39-42) It was the witness of one whose "score" was changed that led to the changing of a whole lot of other "scores" that day! I wonder what would happen if we actually stopped focusing so much on the "scoreboard" of our failures and successes and more on the eyes of the one who actually "changes the score" forever? Just sayin....