The 25th anniversary of Baby Jessica’s rescue is significant because it was the day her trust fund was to mature and she could finally have access to it. All the donations that were made to Baby Jessica by well wishers at her rescue 25 years ago were put in this restricted fund. The amount is believed to be about $800,000 – a gift gushing up to her, that amounts to a pretty sizable check, like winning the Lottery! Or a trip around the world? Or a new house? What will she do with it?
Jessica is a pretty normal, laid back kid, her parents have said. She still lives in the Midland area, just a couple miles from the water well. She married young like her parents, and has two children: Simon, 4, and Sheyenne, 18 months. Maybe she’ll use the money for her medical bills and the 15 surgeries she’s had already to repair her injuries from the ordeal. Or for her juvenile rheumatoid arthritis she continues to be treated for. But Jessica has never wanted to exploit her experience. She has granted only three interviews in all these years. And in the one that she did with Matt Lauer at age 21, he asked her about the scar on her forehead. “Don’t you want plastic surgery to remove it,” Matt asked her? “No,” she said. “I’m proud of all my scars. I have them because I survived.” (“It’s my reminder that I’m still here, when I could have not been here.”) So, what will Baby Jessica do now with the trust fund money? She has always said she will put the money in a new trust fund for her children’s education, and keep on living her low-key life. She intends to have the gift, keep on giving.
The Samaritan woman received a gift gushing up to eternal life, the day she met Jesus at Jacobs well. Through her conversation with the Messiah, she was changed. She left her bucket behind, and with her thirst quenched, she went to share the good news with her neighbors – a gift that keeps on giving.
The Samaritan woman was like Nicodemus in one respect, that at first, she mistook Jesus’ offer as some kind of earth bound miracle, like a new well down the road somewhere, just like Nicodemus wondered how you could enter the mother womb a second time. But she is unlike Nicodemus in that she does not give up on the conversation with Jesus at that point, and so her perseverance is able to lead to transformation and change. Nicodemus came in the darkness of night, she comes at high noon, in broad daylight. Nicodemus was a respected leader of the Judeans, while the woman is un-named, a Samaritan and bitter enemy of Israel, her faith suspect. Nicodemus tells no one. The woman from Samaria activates her whole town. Nicodemus slinks away in silence, she presses on and shares the good news, becoming a conduit for “many more” believers to come to Jesus.
When have “we” been like Nicodemus and let the conversation die out, unwilling to pursue it, or afraid of where it is going? And how can we be more like the Samaritan woman, having the courage to go deeper with Jesus? Where is Jesus in the conversations with our family, friends, and others out in the world? What does it take to press ahead and be transformed and changed, more and more into the image of God?
The Samaritan woman at the well used her worldly experience, to stay open to the heavenly message, of God, in Jesus. That he talked with her at all was unusual. And the words he used were respectful and engaging. But she was on her guard, none-the-less. Only when Jesus changed the conversation, “Go, call your husband, and come back,” did she begin to understand. And that he knew so much about her, the life she had had: 5 husbands and counting, everything! And yet there was no word of judgment, must have been refreshing! What is life-changing for the woman is, according to her, that she has been entirely known by him, and this being known, has enabled her to know him. Jesus reveals himself first to her, and, through their encounter, to her neighbors, and then to us.
At the well, both the Samaritan woman, and Baby Jessica, sow the seeds for change, and we are gathered up, the fruit of a harvest for transformation! Jessica said as much, that she herself was not really changed in her 2 day ordeal at 1 ½ years old. She can’t even remember it, she says. And yet her life has slowly been shaped by it and she has become a conduit for our transformation. Jesus worked through her, just as he did through the Samaritan woman, to bring others to faith.
When Matt Lauer interviewed Jessica, he asked her if she’s ever been able to understand why so many people became so emotionally involved in her rescue and her life. “I explain [it] to myself,” she said, “that I believe that people cared so much because they would hope that somebody would care that much about them.” “In a way, helping me out, and caring about me, helped them out.”
The Samaritan woman both believed in Jesus as the Messiah, and became a conduit for others to believe. She left her water jug behind, absent-mindedly, or intentionally, we don’t know for sure, by coincidence or on purpose, in reality or metaphorically. But either way, she doesn’t need it now. Now she is drinking of “the living water, the spring of water in her, gushing up to eternal life,” she is “rejoicing together with sower and the reaper.” She brought others to faith as a conduit, a pipe-line that can be attached directly to Jesus, even without her. At the well, she didn’t give up on the conversation with Jesus. Can we hang in there and go deeper with Jesus? In our darkest hours do we have it in us, like the pure innocence of Baby Jessica, to sing a song, stay in conversation, trusting in our rescue? Do we have the courage like the Samaritan woman to risk letting Jesus know everything about us?
In the waters of Baptism, we have already been named and claimed, its waters quench our thirst, and we are raised up with Jesus to live a new life. Our lives have been re-shaped by these deep waters, and “we have heard the good news for ourselves,” and “we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”