If you’re trying to kick off a new religion in a place that doesn’t acknowledge the voice of a woman, especially a Samaritan woman, especially an adulterous Samaritan woman; then your not likely to choose that kind of woman as your poster girl, right?
Bringing the Good News to a hostile community is serious business. Surely it requires some pre-approved training. Surely it requires a clean resume so as not to discredit the movement with scandal.
So the woman left her water jar and went into town and said to the people, “Come, see the man who told me all that I ever did. Could this be the Messiah? (John 4:28-29)
The adulterous Samaritan woman of John chapter 4 is, as far as popular public opinion is concerned, unclean, untaught, and hardly an authority on such things as Messianic prophecy.
Never-the-less, she has this in her favour: Jesus has spoken to her. She has heard. And something is welling up inside her that cannot be contained. She doesn’t know much, only that she has been wonderfully busted and exposed by this remarkable stranger.
She was not calculating her next move. She had not sat down with the lamington crowd in order to construct an awareness campaign. She had not pitched a revival tent or even (can you believe it!!) co-ordinated with the local chapter of the Evangelistic Committee for the Saints of Inverted Ablution (The ECSIA) in order to develop a three-pronged approach to getting a new religion off the ground.
No. She just started shouting from the rooftops. She opened her mouth with the kind of pure, imperfect passion that comes upon someone who has been struck by the Spirit of Grace.
No one told her to go out and speak. No one had called upon her to testify of what she had seen and heard.
Nobody needed to.
And it’s worth noting as a point of historical fact that this former floozy, a type and picture of the church that would follow, became a poster girl for the body of Christ and the first Christian evangelist. No pulpit, no collar. Just a humble testimony among her own people of what Jesus had said and done.
…and many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of this woman’s testimony (John 4:39)
When salvation comes, when Jesus is present and active in raising the dead from their sinful slumber, everything about that person begins to testify that this truly is the Saviour of the world.
Paul cautioned believing women to watch their manner of life and to conduct themselves in godliness so as not to discredit the message, and we should always aim for this. But it is possible to aim at this in a way that actually muzzles the messenger altogether.
We muzzle the testimony when we insist on dressing it up with a smoke machine and face paint. We muzzle the testimony when we try and decorate it with our colourful clown shows and groovy muzak.
We muzzle it and squeeze the life out of it when we insist that all such testimonies be parsed for offence and only delivered by well-trained and effeminate weird beards who attended the six-week course.
We are called to testify. To testify is to stand as a witness before others and declare what we have seen, heard and believed. To testify about what Jesus has done.
Yes, we want to do it faithfully. Yes, we want our lives to reflect the truth, purity and power of the message we preach. And yes, we want to be wise.
But if the proclamation of the gospel, in word and deed, had depended on our purity or the perfection of the messenger, it would never have gotten off the ground.
Thankfully it doesn’t. It doesn’t depend on the perfection o the speaker, but on the power of God who raises the dead.