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.” 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?” 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.” 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!” 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.” 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.”
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. 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.” 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.”
March 15, 2020
Jesus spoke to a stranger at the well at Sychar. She was an outsider in many aspects. She was not a Jew, but a Samaritan, Samaritans and Jews were not often friendly. She was an unaccompanied woman, Jesus was not following community tradition, talking to a woman he didn’t know. Also, she came to the well mid-day, an unusual time, possibly because she was not well accepted in the community. She was a 5 time widow, and living with a man who was not her husband. She lived on the outside of community, and yet Jesus spoke to her and broke multiple barriers.
And not only did Jesus ask her for water, he interacted with her by having a deep theological conversation. Jesus discussed how worship will soon change for both Jews and Samaritans. Jesus spoke of the living water. He shared with her. He shared his own knowledge of the world, and of God. Jesus shared respect with this woman, something she wasn’t used to. And yet Jesus spoke to her, and talked of eternal life.
Maybe this is just what we need to think about today. We are in the midst of a pandemic. Our daily lives have been changed drastically. We don’t get to worship together to save the weakest in our communities. I would surmise that none of us have experienced this before. We are in a strange situation. We have to find a way forward, a way to be Christian in a new time.
Jesus was in a strange land, in a strange situation. He could have ignored her. He could have waited for the disciples to arrive and get him a bucket. He could have walked and found a different well, in a different town, a Jewish town.
But, Jesus instead stopped in a Samaritan town, and talked to a ostracized Samaritan woman about being the living water. This is the first time Jesus talked of being the living water, the first time he reached out to someone outside the Jewish faith, the first time he spoke about someone’s history without them telling him.
Friends, this is huge. Maybe it is only huge to me because we are living in a strange time, a time when our neighbors, who we may or may not know, might need many different kinds of help. If we look to Jesus for guidance, we find him reaching out when he could have easily walked on by. Even Jesus’ disciples, when they arrived, were surprised that Jesus was talking to this woman. And then not only the woman, but many from the village came to belief by inviting Jesus to stay, and his acquiescence.
Jesus talked to the woman at the well not only about what he wanted, but also what she needed. He allowed her past to be known and verified her truthful statement. Then Jesus shared the grace and love of God with the woman, allowing her to know that God’s love is for all people. In agreeing to stay in the town, Jesus touched other townspeople’s lives, bringing them to transformative knowledge of God and God’s son.
Who are we to relate to in this reading from John’s gospel? Are we to see ourselves as the woman at the well, as recipients of good news, willing to go to town and share it with friends? Or are we the towns- people, hearing good news from the woman and following her back to the well? Or are we more like the disciples, coming late to the conversation, wondering what was going on, then trying to control Jesus and the distribution of his message?
In light of our current situation, and all that is going on in our country as well as the world, I wonder if we are the disciples, coming late to the party and wondering what is going on. That may be how we are feeling, that may be actually where we are. But as many of us have experienced, God changes a lot of things in our lives.
So I would like to think we are to experience ourselves as the woman at the well. Although we might have not led as colorful lives as that particular woman, all of us have felt ostracized from the community at one time or another. We have been the outsider, the one who has to go to the well when no one else is there. And all of us have experienced hearing the good news, and wanting to share with our community.
During this time, in the midst of the social distancing we are experiencing, while we wait to see how bad this pandemic will be, while we wonder about our friends, neighbors, and loved ones near and far, let us assume to position as the woman at the well. Let us say, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!”
Then let our neighbors, who we have invited to know of Jesus through our actions, our words, our reaching out in love, will be able to say, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves,”
These few weeks, as we try to keep sanity in our homes and lives, I want us all to think about our situation. Although we are not able to gather, although our schools are closed, our stores are having trouble keeping up with supposed needs, and we have been invited to socially distance ourselves, there are good things happening. I have seen people reaching out to others. I have witnessed calls between friends, just to make sure things are ok. And I saw this online – “I imagine all the closings and cancellations give people a sense of ominousness. But its really a loving and giving act. We’re sacrificing so we can give nurses, doctors, and hospitals a fighting chance.”
As we continue our lives, let us try to take care, and let us live out our Christianity, sharing love and compassion. Let our lives and actions allow others to see God’s love, Jesus’ kindness, and the Holy Spirit’s presence with us all. As we continue, let God be with us all. Amen.