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Jesus the patient teacher

I’ve been benefiting from listening to a Swahili women’s podcast ‘Wanawake wa Imani‘ (Women of Faith). One of the recordings is a talk on John 4, Jesus’ encounter with the Samarian woman at the well.

I was especially encouraged by the comments made about the bit where the woman asks Jesus how he’s going to draw the living water out of the well since it’s deep and he has no bucket. It’s clear at this point she just hasn’t got what Jesus is talking about!

The speaker suggested that this might be a familiar experience to some of us! We read the Bible and we just don’t get it. Or we think God is saying something to us or teaching us and we have no idea what it is.

The speaker asked us to notice how Jesus keeps talking with the woman at the well. He does not become angry or impatient or scold her for being dim. He just keeps teaching her until she grasps it.

This is completely different from how teachers normally operate in Tanzania. They have their thing that they teach, and once they have delivered it, if the student doesn’t get it, that’s the student’s fault. The teacher will ask, “How come you don’t understand?”

I know that feeling of being just a bit too stupid to pick up what’s going on – that’s life living cross-culturally! But even in my own culture, I know the fear of saying something stupid and being exposed as a fraud.

However, the pointed out that this passage gives us hope. Jesus does not get tired of teaching us, or annoyed that we do not pick it up faster. He leads us gently and patiently, and we need not fear his scorn. We can keep learning and questioning, regardless of our level of understanding or education.

I’ve found Jesus’ forbearance tremendously comforting. I articulated to some visitors last week that my faith feels frozen. It doesn’t feel like it’s growing at the moment. Everything is dulled by grief. There’s inertia, or an image they suggested was an anaesthetic. If Jesus is trying to teach me something at the moment, I am not able to grasp it. But hearing this teaching on the woman at the well this week, I see that he is not annoyed with me, or impatient with me. It takes however long it takes, and Jesus is not rolling his eyes or tapping his foot waiting for me to finally twig. He’s happy to go at my pace, in the stage of life in which I find myself. The teacher said, “Hii ni neema” – this is grace.



Photo credit: Franco Volpato

Categories: Tanzania Woman Written by Tamie

Tagged as:

Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

4 replies

  1. That’s a really interesting+helpful insight.
    It seems like Jesus is frustrated with the disciples so often, and so I wonder if there is an aspect of how we ourselves respond to Jesus (or others)? With a genuine curiousity and humble posture like the woman at the well, or a ‘I think I’ve got my stuff together and have nothing left to learn’ posture like the disciples (which, when I have been like this in a cross cultural context, has never served me well). Food for thought, thank you!

  2. THANK YOU. I often feel like the woman who had many husbands as I have the misfortune of being conned by the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Yet similar to the Woman at the Well, Jesus shows her compassion. This also comforts me.

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