EXODUS 17:3-7 | ROMANS 5:1-2,5-8 | JOHN 4:5-42
It started with a drink of water. It was the hottest time of the day. The area around the well was abandoned except for Jesus who was sitting near the well, and a Samaritan woman who had just arrived to fill her water jugs. She was the town pariah. She suffered under a strict patriarchal system. She was married five times and was presently living with a man. She never came to the well in the cool hours of the morning when the other women, chatting and sharing bits of gossip, gathered to get their supply of water for the day because she would be shunned and become part of the gossip. When she saw a Jewish man sitting at the well she expected trouble.
Samaritans and Jews were historical enemies the most hostile kind because they were related. They were both Israelites. They split in the 8 th century B.C. because of political and religious disagreements surrounding the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple. The people of Judah rejected the assistance of the Samaritans, so they built their own temple which was absolute heresy in the eyes of the Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon.
Jesus asked her for a drink of water because he didn’t have a bucket to draw water from the deep well. It was spontaneous; her answer reeked with anger. “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” The dialogue that followed may seem strange to us, but a tremendous healing was in process.
He asked her for water and then offered her living water, “water that becomes a spring that wells up to eternal life.” She said, “You people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” He then addressed her as “woman,” a revered title that Jesus used to address his own mother, and told her that the day was coming, and was indeed very near, when people would not need a place to worship because they would “worship the Father in Spirit and truth.” He
then told her “everything she ever did.” The dialogue ended with Jesus revealing himself as the Christ the Messiah she, the Samaritans, and the Jewish people, had been longing for.
One sentence at a time Jesus knocked down the walls of hurt and prejudice that held this woman prisoner. His kindness healed the wounds of her personal past. He put God into a new perspective for her. Her heart and mind soared to the Father in Spirit and truth. He gave her living water. It became a life-giving spring within her.
Her story has the most wonderful ending. “Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me everything I have done.’ Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.’” This tarnished, suffering woman became the first apostle to the Gentiles. Her testimony converted the hostile, Samaritan town of Sychar. The people, in turn, gave witness to Jesus and brought hope and change to many lives.
The Samaritan woman’s story gives testimony to us, too. God knows everything each of us has ever done. That doesn’t stop God from loving us. If anything, it draws God closer. If we just believe that God sees everything and loves us even more for it the freer we can be to “worship in Spirit and truth”, to acknowledge God’s Spirit in us, to see beyond the deception of the world. The world is longing for God’s peace. If we can witness to God’s love in our own lives, the greater will our power be to open the world to the Kingdom of God.
So today, the gospel asks us to say yes to the Spirit. Say yes to the healing and transforming love of God.