To walk in the footsteps of Jesus as educators, we must carefully trace His footprints. One instructive moment is His interaction with the woman at the well (John 4:5-26).
The student was a marginalized person. She was a woman, and this meant that she was excluded from certain privileges. She was also a Samaritan, an ethic minority demeaned by the Jews. Finally, she was of flawed reputation, ostracized by her own community. The fact that she came alone to the well at noon, rather than in the morning or evening when the women would typically gather to socialize, reveals that she was scorned by the village women.
Jesus, the Teacher, sits near the well. He is available, accessible. When the student arrives, Jesus takes the initiative and asks, “Could you give me a drink?” It is a request that the student can readily fulfill. The request helps the student feel valued and provides an opportunity for service. Further, by asking for water, Jesus arouses interest. “How is it,” the student asks, “that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (9).
Notice also that Jesus begins with water, the student’s present interest. But then He inserts an anomaly: Anyone who drinks the water that I give will never be thirsty again (13-14). In so doing, Jesus transitions from the known to the unknown, the concrete to the abstract, the physical to the spiritual, and the immediate to the eternal.
When the student asks for this water, Jesus instructs her to go get her husband. It is an opportunity to witness, to share her knowledge. It also involves active learning. In the dialogue that follows (17-24), Jesus moves from the student’s immediate need, water, to her deep needs of self-worth and positive relationships. He knows the background, needs, interests, and dreams of His student.
Jesus also resolves the student’s misconceptions by clarifying concepts, in this case her beliefs regarding worship—that it is not defined by a place, but by a spiritual experience (20-24). Finally, Jesus delivers direct instruction, declaring, “I AM the Messiah!” (26). Through it all, the purpose is for the student to know God and experience His saving power. The lesson focuses on hope and transformation.
What were the outcomes? Here is the rest of the story.
“The woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward Him…. And because of His words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world’” (28-42).
The student becomes a believer, a witness, and a disciple-maker. All because of her encounter with the Teacher and the life-changing effect of a single lesson.