Photini's Story
John 4:1-26
Woman at The Well
It was an exhausting journey for Jesus and his disciples. The day was hot as usual.  The rag tag group of dedicated men, his students, had been walking for many miles on their way to Galilee.  They decided to stop at a known resting place, a well, just outside of a Samaritan village.  At the well, the men could be refreshed from the journey before going all the way to town.  They did not stay at the well long.  They went on to the village to get some food, because they were hungry, and they needed to replenish their supplies for the journey.  Jesus stayed at the well, not because he was too tired to go any further, but because he knew he had an assignment to meet with someone at that location.
It was likely that many people stopped by the well that day.  Mostly women, because they fetched water for their households.  Jesus greeted all who stopped by, but there was a particular person he had come to meet with.  He knew of a woman named Photini before she ever arrived at the well.
Photini came to the well not long after the disciples left for Galilee.  Photini was very focused woman, tending to the household task of filling the family water containers.  She was not much of a chit chatter, especially with unknown visitors at the well.  However, today was going to be different.  She would encounter a stranger and her life was about to take a radical turn.
Jesus was sitting on the rock wall that surrounded the well waiting for Photini to arrive.  When she arrived, she set down the wooden shoulder yoke that balanced two wooden water buckets, one on each side of her shoulders.  That day her shoulders and back were screaming in pain from carrying the carved yoke, which wasn't carved for her shoulders.  She wiped her brow with the edge of her shawl and pulled her hair back while she was trying to catch her breath from walking.
While getting the buckets situated, along with the draw rope, this unfamiliar man spoke to her. It was obvious, by the way he dressed, that he was not from the same area.  He was a Jewish man.  We do not speak to Jews, she thought, when Jesus spoke to her.  Deep prejudice was very evident in those days between the Jews and Samaritans/Gentiles.  The time of day for drawing water was different for the Samaritans than the Jews.  The Samaritans had to come to the well in the afternoons, when the sun was hottest.  That way the Jews would have the best times to draw water, early mornings.  The Samaritans were despised by other ethnic groups.  They were looked down on and considered as a mixed breed.  They felt very persecuted and they were isolated from everyone else.
The conversation with Jesus began with him asking Photini, “Will you give me something to drink?”  Photini was shocked and did not know what to say or do.  She was looking around, maybe he was talking to someone else?  No… it was her.  Photini then caught the gaze of Jesus' eyes.  He was looking directly at her, but the look was more than a glance.  He was looking deep inside her being.  She stammered for words to answer him.  After gaining composure, she finally replied, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan, why are you asking me for a drink?”
You see… this encounter at the well wasn't really about getting a drink of water.  Jesus had been waiting for her to arrive because he had a very important message for her.  That message was about God's love and acceptance.  That message was about defining Hope.  If she received his message, this experience would become her new identity.
The English definition for the word hope is “a bright expectation for tomorrow.”  Jesus was at that geographical location because this woman desperately needed a bright expectation for her tomorrows.  She was ashamed of her yesterdays, and she was stuck in her today.  You see, Jesus is the author and giver of Hope!  He was the original hope dealer, the bright expectation for tomorrow.  No one or thing can give hope that lasts for eternity.
In the conversation with Photini, Jesus said, “Go call your husband and come back.”  She replied in a quivering voice, “I have no husband.”  Jesus already knew her personal history.  He responded, to this in a compassionate statement, “you have had five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband.”
Imagine what she must have been feeling and thinking at this moment?  He knows my history.  Who told him?  A list of names rapidly passed through her mind.  I am so ashamed she thought.  Who has had five husbands?  I am such a failure!  I have destroyed my life and ruined the lives of so many other people!  Who is this man to speak to me like this?  He is not condemning me. He is being kind, and the tone of his voice is so tender and understanding.  Who is he anyway?  It is what I have imagined love would be like she said to herself.  But how did he know my life story?
My friend, you are not reading this story by accident.  Whatever the reason, it is of no concern right now.  Maybe… you are reading this because Jesus is waiting for you, and he knows your story?  After all, we all have a story.  Some of our stories are more complicated than others.  Everyone's story is an important one.  Your story is your life, which matters to God!  Jesus is not wavering in his love for you because of your story, no matter how complicated it may be.  He already knows all about you and he knows why you have done what you have done.  He knows of the deep longings, joys and grief of your heart.  He knows what you have been through.  It is our heart that he sees and pursues.  Our actions simply reflect whats going on in our hearts.  Jesus is in pursuit of your heart because he has a gift for you.
Jesus accepted Photini.  Her being a Samaritan/Gentile was not a barrier to his love.  He did not have “exceptions” for his acceptance of her.  He was not thinking, I will accept her if she measures up to my list of qualifications.  He was not holding her past failures against her.  Jesus simply used history as a way of getting her attention; to help her look within her heart and recognize that she needed something more.  Something called hope.  We are all in desperate need of love and forgiveness just like Photini.  Our hearts scream to be loved for who we are, not for what we can do, or be to other people.
Today, Jesus is sitting on the well wall waiting for you to arrive.  He knows all about your yesterdays, today, and your tomorrows. He is tender, loving, kind and compassionate.  In fact, he is crazy in love with you in spite of your story.  He knows all about the story that no-one else knows.  Yet, he remains committed to you and is holding good things for you and not from you!  Jesus is all about new beginnings.  He is the creator of the universe and our world.  Because he is the creator, there is a new beginning awaiting you if you will listen to this Savior speak to your heart.  Yes, he is speaking to you and yes, he saves us from our failures if we ask him to.  He is not far off. He is near you!  There is hope and there is a bright expectation for tomorrow.  Meeting Jesus is not a religious experience.  It is simply listening for his voice and responding to him with, “I need you, please forgive me, and heal me”.  Jesus is in the heart healing business.  Experience it and see.
Dear Reader, this is the first in a series of weekly encouragement devotionals to share with you.  These devotionals will be sent on a weekly basis.  If these are beneficial to you, please give us your feedback or suggestions.
You are loved!
The Gather at The Well Crew

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