Focus – Liberation Day
Like many Americans, I have spent time this month reflecting on the rights and liberties I enjoy in this country. Though I’m weary from the crime and discouraged by the materialism that saturate this society, the pomp and sparkle of Indepen-dence Day remind me what a privilege it is to live in a land where the fulfillment of one’s potential is encouraged, not squelched.
It has not always been so free for everyone in this land. The right to vote would not have been mine a few generations ago, because I am a woman. The right to own anything–even oneself–has not always belonged to the black men and women here. Today, we recognize that these rights are reasonable. But long before Americans secured these freedoms, Jesus declared us all of equal value, on what I like to call “Liberation Day.”
“Liberation Day” was the day Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well and turned her life around (John 4: 1- 42). In my opinion, it is one of the more pivotal points in Scripture. The first act of liberation in this passage was the equalization of all ethnic groups. To Jews, the lowest human form was a Samaritan. Typically, a traveling Jew would avoid setting foot in Samaria, no matter what length it added to his journey. Samaritans were “half-breeds” whose ancestors were a mix of Jew and non-Jew (II Kings 17). But Jesus was in Samaria, offering living water–salvation–first to a woman, and eventually to all the town. In choosing to offer living water to a non-Jew, Jesus offered salvation to all non-Jews. He made it plain in verses 22 and 23 that though salvation came from the Jews, it was now for anyone who would worship in spirit and truth.
Jesus’ second act of liberation was directed at womankind. There are many in Christian churches today who believe women are ecclesiastical inferiors, without equal place in the church. They mistake social observations and cultural reflections in Scripture for biblical by-laws. There is so much to be said on this crucial subject, but we can begin by pointing to John 4 and noting that the greatest, most significant spiritual revelation of all time was made to a woman. She astutely mentioned the coming of the Messiah, perhaps realizing that the man at the well could be he. He then told her frankly: “I who speak to you am he” (v. 26). Would Jesus choose to make this declaration to her if her womanhood made her spiritually less than man? You will find that this woman went on to lead an entire town to Christ (v. 39). It makes me shudder to think that if she had done so while standing behind a pulpit, many Christians would call it heresy.
Finally, we are confronted by the greatest liberating act of all. In this account, we see the woman at the well was an experienced sinner. In fact, the poor, used, shell of a woman was at the bottom of society. She had sunk so low she found it necessary to draw her water from the well at noontime, in the scorching heat. Decent women came to the well in the cool of the day. I can only presume this woman came when she would be alone because she couldn’t bear the public humiliation she would have to endure if the others were there to scorn her. She even begged Jesus for a drink of the living water of which he spoke because she assumed it would mean she would never need to visit the well again.
But Jesus took this pathetic creature and liberated her. He gave her living water. Set her free. Restored her self respect. Once the Messiah himself forgave her, why should she fear the scrutiny of human beings? Jesus broke down all barriers on that day! All prejudices were dispelled, because Jesus chose as representative of humanity someone who was of an oppressed sex, a despised ethnic group, and an unacceptable reputation. By revealing the greatest truth of all time to someone sitting on the lowest rung of the social ladder, he equalized all of humankind; he put us on the same rung.
More important, when Jesus offered salvation to the most dishonored person he could have found, he made it clear that no one is beyond redemption. No sin-stain is so dark that he can’t erase it. No soul has wandered so far that he can’t retrieve her.
That woman’s day was my Liberation Day. As a woman, I was declared equal. As a gentile, I was included in God’s plan. As a thirsty sinner, I was offered the cool redemption of living water. Let all who would be free stand side by side, without discrimination, and eagerly drink of the water of life.