Traces of chocolate around his mouth betray a young child who has had his hands in the sweets jar. Evasive eyes indicate a neighbor has a secret. Telltale signs of shame provide clues that unmask our elaborate attempts to disguise our shame.
The Samaritan woman exhibited many shame-driven behaviors. She went to the well in the middle of the day to avoid the other village women. Her initial prickly, defensive replies to Jesus revealed her deep-seated insecurity. What was driving such behavior? Their first round of banter uncovered her sense of inferiority as a Gentile and a woman.
Jesus disarmed her with a humble request, addressing her fear of rejection with an offer of something she needed. He affirmed her humanity by including her along with everyone who needed the living water of His Spirit. And He looked deeper, recognizing that the first explanations for her attitude and actions didn’t fully explain her shame. His insightful question exposed the secret she had valiantly fought to hide. Her confession came out, along with the assumption that this religious Jewish man would dismiss her.
The condemnation never came. Jesus had known her secret all along. It didn’t change His offer, and neither did her attempt to divert Him with an argument over politics and religion.
Having identified the source of her shame, Jesus affirmed the woman’s worth in God’s eyes. The Father would accept her as a true worshiper—He had sent the Messiah to seek her out. Liberated from her shameful secret, the woman ran to the people she had formerly avoided, boldly and shamelessly testifying to what Jesus had said.