Samaritan Woman 2008

Preliminary thoughts on John 4:5-42            The Samaritan Woman

It was about the sixth hour. [7] There came a woman of Samaria to draw water.

This is about Noon, the hottest part of the day.  It would be unusual for someone to be coming for water at this the hottest part of the day.  Something unusual or special drew her to the well.  She comes for the purpose of drawing water but note in verse 28 she leaves her water jar behind and returns to the city.   If the point of her trip to the well was to draw water, she totally forgets the purpose of having gone to the well in the first place.  She has found something even more important than the water without which life cannot survive.  In her conversation with Christ, she has found something more important and more necessary than water.

Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

Many Jews probably would rather have died of thirst than ask a Samaritan and a foreign woman (!) for a drink.   Some would have thought it a defilement to accept a drink from such a woman.  The woman is quite familiar with this attitude:  . [9] The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.   For His part, Jesus tells her bluntly to quit thinking so literally and mundanely:  [10] 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.” [11] The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? lite

Once again we encounter in this lesson from John’s Gospel how a literal interpretation of His words will not help the interlocutor understand Christ.  In John 3, Nicodemus’ literalism prevented him from understanding Christ’s words about being born again. In John 5 the strict literalism of the people prevented them from seeing the healing of the paralytic as an act of God and instead left them seeing only a violation of the Sabbath law.  In John 6 Christ’s words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood sound to the literal minded Jews like cannibalism.  So here in chapter 4 Jesus speaks in spiritual terms when He talks about “living water” – He is speaking about the Holy Spirit not about spring water.   The Samaritan woman does seem to see beyond the limited literalist understanding.  [13] Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [15] The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Christ is obviously speaking of something more or different than drinking water here.  He is equating the Holy Spirit with water and leading the woman to think beyond the literal and the merely physical.

 [20] Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” [21] Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. [22] You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. …  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The worship of God is not located in a geographic place, but in the place where the Spirit and truth are – in the heart and anywhere on earth with spirit and truth are present.

 [28] So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people,

She really has abandoned her literalist thinking and her water jar too!   She has found something which satisfies her thirst but it is not in the well and fulfills what she came to the well seeking.

[29] “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” [30] They went out of the city and were coming to him.

Gossip in villages is a major pursuit.  There probably was a lot of speculation about this woman who had had 5 husbands.   To hear “all that she ever did” would have been irresistible to every wag in the village.  This is going to be the Samaritan version of Jerry Springer.  No wonder they all rush out to see this man.

Note the woman – she is neither shamed nor afraid that Christ knows all about her life and her sins.   He does not drive her away because of her sinfulness.   Nor does He shame her, but rather as in confession her admission of her misdeeds brings her to faith in the merciful God.

 [34] Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.

Jesus is nourished by bringing back the lost sheep into God’s fold.  This is the very job He came to do in the world.

[35]  I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. … [38] I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

The disciples as Jews would hardly have thought of the Samaritans as a field which God had planted, nor would they have thought that God could harvest the fruit of His labors from the Samaritans.   Christ is asking them to see something which they are not prepared to see.

 [40] So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. [41] And many more believed because of his word. [42] They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Another stunning claim –  it is the Samaritans who first recognize Jesus as the Savior, not the Jews.  Salvation may be from the Jews (vs. 22), but it is not the Jews who first recognize salvation, nor that it is the salvation of the world.  The Samaritans – Jewish outsiders – understand that truth first and realize what the coming of the Messiah means for the world.

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