Short Meditations in John 4: 18. Facing the Truth
Jn 4:18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
The truth, for this woman, is not comfortable but Jesus presents her with it nevertheless. As we have said, unless we confront our past and our state and see our need, we will never surrender to him. The truth for this woman – and the Pharisees among us might see it quite differently – is a past of recurring failure.
Now why did I refer to a Pharisaical attitude in respect of how we might think about her? Well it is possible that of course the cause for the fact that she had had five husbands was down to her. It is possible that she had been adulterous but if she had constantly been adulterous, at one point someone would have been screaming for her to be stoned. It is unlikely that she would have survived five husbands if the cause for the breakdown had been her unfaithfulness. It is possible that Sychar was not as rigorous about upholding the Law of Moses as Jerusalem might have been and so, yes, it may be that she got caught up with one adulterous relationship after another, and then ended up marrying the new partner.
Under the Law of Moses divorce could take place at the behest of the man and he only had to find something ‘unclean’ about her. Whether or not they conformed to Moses Law and regardless of whose fault each marital breakup had been, this woman had been through rejection five times. The fact that the man she was now with was not her husband either sheds light on her possible past immoral approach to relationships, or it may simply be an indicator of how beaten down she has become through these constant failures.
We have not considered the possibility of each husband having died – which would constitute a life of grief – because it is fairly unlikely that five men had passed away. No, her situation is open to speculation, but even if she has brought these breakdowns on herself through her own unfaithfulness – and that is not certain – she is a woman who has known insecurity and must question whether such a thing as love really exists. Whatever the causes for these breakdowns, she is more worthy of pity than condemnation.
In the modern society in which we live, where changing partnerships are not uncommon, there are many women (and men) who feel utterly rejected time and again, and who wonder if such a thing as stable love can ever exist. The folly is theirs because of their rejection of God and of His ways for relationships – one man with one woman for life – but that doesn’t take away the sadness over their state. Jesus didn’t condemn this woman or similar modern ones.