November 4, 2017 Bible Study — What the Story About the Woman at the Well Teaches Us About Relations Between the Sexes

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on John 4-5.

    As I am reading the story of the woman at the well, I wonder why Jesus asked the woman to go get her husband when she asked Him to give her the water He has. I do not feel that way because a moment later Jesus knows that she has had five husbands and is living with a man to whom she is not married. No, that part I get, He had not bothered to think about her marital state, so it did not enter His awareness. What I wonder is, why would He ask her to get her husband at all? I have two theories on why this might be, both have a certain merit but nothing in the passage gives support to either one.

    Perhaps Jesus asked her to get her husband to avoid scandalizing His disciples when they returned, which the passage certainly implies happened. “Scandalize” is likely too strong of a word, but they clearly wondered what Jesus wanted from this woman. If He did not want something from her, why was He talking to her? Or, closely related to that, perhaps Jesus asked her to get her husband to follow a rule which I know to be a good idea (and this becomes a third theory I have). When it becomes routine for a man and a woman who are not married to each other to meet in private, trouble ensues sooner or later. Just look at the Harvey Weinstein scandal. If it had not been “routine” in Hollywood for a man and a woman to meet in private, many of the women Harvey harassed and assaulted would never have been in a position to be harassed or assaulted. Further, in that world where it was out of the ordinary for a man and a woman not married to each other to meet in private, even if Harvey had been able to engineer such situations it would have been more noteworthy in a way to make it easier for women who fell into his clutches to escape.

    On the other hand, perhaps Jesus asked her to get her husband for the simple reason that a husband and wife are one. I thought explaining what I meant by that would be easy, but I was mistaken. I think the place to start is from a quote I heard a radio personality use (I no longer remember who it was), “An interfaith marriage is a no faith marriage.” That phrase means that if you choose to marry a person from another religion from yourself, you do not really believe what your religion teaches. The only possible exception to that are those who marry someone not of their faith in the belief that they will be able to convert them after they get married (I will not take the time here to go into why that is foolish). In the case of the woman at the well, Jesus may have asked her to get her husband because it would be harder for her to stick to the new faith understanding He would try to impart if her husband did not share it (the reverse would also be true). There is a real need for a married couple to be on the same page about what they believe. Actually, not only is there a real need for that, but my experience says that if the marriage is healthy they will be on the same page whether the couple makes a point of it or not. Of course, resisting being on the same page in their belief systems is one way to damage the health of your marriage.