“So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:5 – 10)
has been a lot of study of this passage, the Samaritan woman at the
well. One of my blogs was called “Pondering at the Well” based on
the nature of pondering conversation that Jesus and this woman
engaged in. Having a good deal of experience and having spent a lot
of time thinking about this passage in the past, I hoped that some
new insight would come through – or at least new to me. And it did!
I have a feeling this woman was philosophically adept. I do not think
that Jesus would have talked about living water if he felt she would
not be able to understand, eventually, the metaphor of “living
water”. The writer of the gospel of John’s tendency to emphasis the
mystical nature of Jesus notwithstanding.
“The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” (Verse 11 – 12)
other thing I realized was that Jesus could not get a drink himself,
so that is why he used his request as an “ice breaker”. But back
to my first insight. I had previously thought the woman asked in all
innocence about how Jesus would get water, much less living water,
from the well. But if she was unaware of the nuance behind his
statement I believe she would have just asked him how he would get
basic water. I may be wrong – maybe I would just like to believe
that she has some sense of what he was referring to.
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”” (Verses 13 – 15)
But once again I come up against her simplistic statement and understanding. And I am lead to a new thought. Jesus had infinite patience with her. Maybe she did not perceive the deeper of living water. That did not deter Jesus from trying to open her mind and come to a better understanding how to journey through life.
“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” (Verses 16 – 18)
beloved reader, that Jesus knew how this woman had made her way in
life, and he desired (I believe) to lift her out of that skewered and
dependent way of life to a new way of seeing one’s self and the world
“The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Verses 19 – 24)
you hear that bit of an assertive edge to her, beloved reader? This
is a woman of potential! I just knew it! Jesus is showing her the old
ways are passing and a new way of worship and understanding the
Divine is coming. And remember too that Jesus said, “Blessed are
those who do not see but believe anyway” – that is not a direct
quote of Jesus; it does convey his intent however.
“The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” (Verses 25 – 26)
Feminist theologians can and have brought new life and understandings to scripture passages. I attended seminary during a time when feminist theological thinking was comparatively new and in some cases revolutionary. It made me realize that each person can and should develop their own personal style in seeing and using scripture in their lives. I set out to do that; and what I came to realize was that the inspiration of the Spirit informs our thinking such that what seems diverse actually represent the multi-faceted nature of the Divine.
“Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.” (Verses 27 – 30)
last verse is a wonderful metaphor, isn’t it beloved reader? Leaving
the familiar to journey out to encounter the Divine. Sounds like
something other people in the bible have done!
“Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (Verses 31 – 38)
Did you puzzle over those preceding verses, beloved reader? I did a little. Think back to what the Samaritan woman said. That her ancestors worshiped but were told they worshiped in the wrong place. Yet from her words it is obvious her beliefs were in harmony with Jewish thinking in the coming of the Messiah. Think too what Jesus said that he has come to fulfill the words of the prophets. And that the Divine has called out many people to follow the Lord God. This common understanding of believing in One God was sown over many generations. Now, in Jesus’ time and this time forward there will be a reaping of “fruit for eternal life.”
“Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” (Verses 39 – 42)
I confess, beloved reader, when I saw the length of this passage I was not sure how to address it all, how to gather it under a common theme, nor how to tie it to the rest of the passages over the past week. But little by little, it came together – a thought here and a thought there that built on top of one another. That is often how the Christian life goes. You are not sure where the journey will lead, so you have to take it day by day. What makes the journey possible is that the Lord God the Divine is there at every step and on every day. While the journey may not be easy, for those of us who believe we would not have it any other way! Selah!