Prejudice is a cancer.
I have first hand accounts with both. Like cancer, prejudice begins with a small defected entity but quickly grows until it kills every healthy living cell in its path. Cancer kills the very life Jesus gives. Prejudice kills all the goodness of life.
The story of the Woman at the Well in John 4 is a story about prejudice. We have two main characters. One is without sin. Therefore the prejudice is found only in the woman.
The woman (I want to give her a name but the only name I feel appropriate is my own and that’s too painful) is a victim of prejudice. Most scholars place the time of this story to be noon, the sixth hour of Hebrew time. If this were true, then she would be considered an outcast among women by not being allowed or feeling comfortable to draw water at the normal early morning time. Instead she was forced to venture out in the heat of the day.
Women of ill repute are often scorned. The underlying force is the same within all prejudices. Fear. Fear that we will become like them. If we hate them enough, our hatred will provide a dividing wall between them and us. Prejudice provides that sense of false safety.
I was raised immersed in a culture of prejudice. I prided myself on not being like those prejudice people who hate others for the color of their skin, social status, or religion. But like cancer, prejudice creeps in where we least expect. I had become prejudice against the prejudiced. So had this woman.
She instantly noticed Jesus was Jewish. She addressed Him with ‘you Jews’ and ‘our prophets’. Sinless Jesus was breaking down barriers but she wasn’t making it easy. Her comfort zone was on her side of the wall. How can you even think to ask me for a drink? You stay on your side and I’ll stay on mine.
Prejudice people are often highly defensive and steeped in their religious traditions.
Her argument could sound like this today, “You think you’re more Jewish than me, well look, we own Jacob’s well. You can’t get more Jewish than having the life-giving water for the 12 tribes of Israel. And by the way, you’re not any more religious than me just because you have a temple in Jerusalem. We worship just fine on our mountain.”
This sounds very similar to the arguments of today: hymns vs. choruses, cathedrals vs. shopping malls, KJV vs. NIV. When we’re pushed, we come out fighting about anything and everything.
But you have to admire her boldness. She didn’t hesitate to talk to a stranger. If you compare, she’s nearly equal to Jesus in word count. Is that because she’s a woman? Maybe it has something to do with it. But I think it’s more because she’s a fighter. Prejudice breeds angry warriors.
So here we have a bold, prejudice, defensive, woman warrior who doesn’t quite know how to handle Jesus or His words.
- How are you going to give me this living water if you don’t even have a jar?
- If this water will keep me from having to come here again, then I’ll take it. If not, then what’s the use?
- You’re confusing me, I know one thing for sure, someday a Messiah will come and when He does He will explain everything.
- He must be a prophet since He knew my secrets, but could this man really be the Messiah?
The woman saw Jesus as a Jewish prophet without a cup to drink from.