Have you ever been the loser at any one point in your life? Or have you been on the other end, the one giving the loser a hard time?
Jesus met lots of losers when he walked the roads of Jerusalem, Galilee, Nazareth…Samaria. One time He and his disciples were going through Samaria while heading somewhere else and stopped for a break. Jesus told the disciples to go on into town to get food while he waited just outside of town by a well. It was midday and hot. As he looked out across the stony ground he saw the waves of heat shimmering low and felt the sun baking his already browned arms and hands. He heard the shuffling of feet drawing nearer and turned to see a woman, all alone, coming to the well for water. She came in the heat of the day all by herself because she was a loser. At least that’s what the rest of the village had decided. Her lifestyle was the subject of many a gossipy conversation among the other women that lived there. Married several times and now living with a man who was not her husband, she was clearly trouble. She couldn’t bear their taunts, the accusing stares, the way they stopped talking as soon as she neared their group so it was easier to wait and come by herself, even though the heat was oppressive.
She carried a heavy water jar on her shoulder and looked at Jesus warily. Who is this man? Why is he here? “Would you give me a drink of water?” he asked, looking directly at her. She looked down as she reached the edge of the well, surprised that he would speak to her then said tentatively, “You’re a Jew and I’m a Samaritan. Why even speak to me, let alone ask me for a drink?”
“If you only knew who was asking you for a drink, you’d turn the table and ask Him for living water,” Jesus said with a faint smile, his gaze constant and fixed on her face. She kept her eyes focused on the dirt and the well, clearly confused by this attention and since this man had no pail or jar to hold water, no rope to lower anything down into the well. Where was he going to come up with this amazing living water? “The water you get from this well will satisfy you for a time, but the water I give becomes a never-ending spring of life flowing from within, quenching every thirst,” he stated confidently. She then looked up and into his face. Something told her that he was sincere, that this wasn’t a come on from yet another man wanting her affections. She wanted to know more. Over the next few moments, in conversation, Jesus proved that He knew her, knew all about her and her choices, and yet his offer still stood. Grace. Acceptance. The needs of her heart met, for real. Something to quench her thirst that wouldn’t leave her hurting and empty again. As the disciples returned with food, shocked that Jesus was sitting talking to a woman, let alone a Samaritan woman, she set her jar down on the ground and ran past them into the village. She ran to the people, even those who had shunned her, those who had pushed her away and written her off. She told them about Jesus. Her encounter with Him was so amazing and real that the grace she had just been offered she was already offering to them. A whole crowd came out to the well to meet Him and hear for themselves about this thirst-quenching, grace-filled offer from the Messiah.
Some other losers Jesus reached out to come to mind: Matthew and Zaccheus, despised tax collectors, the adulteress caught in sin and thrown at Jesus’ feet to be stoned, the woman so grateful for forgiveness that she wept while anointing Jesus’ feet and drying them with her hair, even the disciples when time to time again they would doubt and not fully believe in Him, Peter when he denied Jesus on the night of his trial. He never turned these people away, never shunned them, never looked past them as if they were invisible, never looked down his nose at them. He loved them. He restored them in the truest sense of the word.
I don’t know anyone who has the right to call anyone else a loser. We’re all losers. We all fall so short of the standards God has for us. We all deserve to be outcasts, turned away by a holy God. Instead, He came and identified with us. He became a loser himself to take on all our hurts and mistakes and failures and to give us a new label: forgiven and accepted child of God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone, not just for those who have lots of friends, not just for those who successfully run a business or make lots of money, not just for those who seem to have an easy time maintaining relationships, not just to those who go to church or read their Bibles. The Gospel is good news for every single person…it’s for the losers. It’s for us.
This song is a recent favorite of mine: