The Samaritan Woman: Seek First the Kingdom of God

The Samaritan Woman   Sermon notes 25 May 2008   John 4:5-42           

This Gospel Lesson follows a similar pattern also seen in John 3 (Nikodemus), John 5 (the paralytic, and John 6 (Christ teaching about eating his flesh).  In all of these cases, the over-literalism of Christ’s interlocutors prevents them from understanding the deeper, spiritual meaning of his words.   This case of the Samaritan woman is interesting, because she, a non-Jew, actually grows in the understanding of Christ’s words. 

Christ starts the conversation by asking for a drink of water from the woman.  Knowing that John carefully constructs his lessons about Christ, we do need to ask questions like “What is water?  What does water represent?”   and “What is a well?  What role does the well play in the story?”

Jesus asks the woman for a drink.  Despite His being Christ and Savior, the water he needs to refresh himself is out of his reach.  He needs human help to meet his human need. 

Notice the women’s changing and progressing understanding of Jesus during the lesson.  In verse 9, he is just a Jew, certainly a negative term for her.  In verses 11 & 15, she has become more respectful calling Jesus “sir” (Greek:  kyrie,  lord).   In verse 12 she questions whether Jesus is greater than the Patriarch Jacob.  By verse 25 she is talking about “Messiah” and in verse 29 she is beginning to believe Jesus is the Christ.  In verse 42 Jesus is acclaimed as “the Savior of the world.”   It is somewhat interesting that Jesus personal name is not mentioned in the lesson, only various titles are assigned to him, including the disciples calling him “rabbi” in verse 31.  So she grows in understanding from seeing Jesus as a Jew (enemy) to recognizing him as lord, Messiah/Christ, and Savior.  

Though Jesus says, “salvation is from the Jews” (:22), it is the Samaritans that recognize Him as the Savior, but not just the Savior of the Jews, but rather the Savior of the world!

The disciples come on the scene and want Jesus to eat something.  But Jesus speaks to them on this higher spiritual level as well.  “My food is to do the will of him who sent me.”   We might think back to Eve in the garden of Eden standing before the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.  She sees this food and reaches out and takes it for herself.  But if only she had realized her real food was to do God’s will – that is what was truly nurturing her!  But Eve did not understand the spiritual either, and sees what is before her as mere food and so takes it and eats and in so doing losing the full understanding of and communion with all food.

Jesus clearly taught us to seek first the Kingdom of God and that all the other things we need would be given to us as well.  But too often we seek from Christ all kinds of things that we might get in other ways, and the very thing He has to offer us – salvation, forgiveness of sins, God’s love, eternal life – we don’t even value.  Rather we only want the things of this earth and things to make our life here easier and more comfortable:   food, health, wealth, power, material blessings.

Jesus does stretch the woman’s thinking immediately when she jousts with him about his being a Jew.  He tells the woman he could have given her “living water.”  He offers her something that is beyond her reach – she might be able to give him water from the well but he can give her something more than mere water.  She does catch that he is talking about something more, though she reminds him he hasn’t even got a container to get the well water, so how in the world can he get or give “living water”? 

Jesus unfolds his meaning – water is a symbol of something greater, in this case water is a metaphor for the Spirit which will flow into, through and out of those who accept it.  The woman wants that water.

In :28, the woman leaves her water jar behind.  The very thing she came to the well for – water – is not even remotely important to her because she has found something even greater – her thirst on a much higher level has been slaked.  Jesus who asked for the drink never receives his request either.  He has thirsted for something, in this case the conversion and salvation of the Samaritan woman, and his thirst for this goal is satisfied even though she never gives him a drink.

We Christians need to think about our own relationship with Christ and what we want from him.  Are we really seeking the Kingdom first, or do we want all our needs and wants to be met first?   Do we lose sight of what is important and ultimate because we are too eager to get what we want immediately?   In what ways do we need to change our own thinking like the good Samaritan Woman in order to understand what it is Christ is telling us and offering to us?

Do we thirst for the water which only Christ can give? 

Do we allow ourselves to be nurtured by doing God’s will?

The Kingdom of God can be found through our seeking as the Samaritan woman discovered.

One thought on “The Samaritan Woman: Seek First the Kingdom of God

  1. anne

    thank you for your insights into ‘seek first the kingdom …’ this scripture is being constantly presented to me during my bible readings and I can see the connection between my understanding and the process the Samaritan women experienced with Jesus at the well.
    I feel that i am being offered …something beyond my reach, and that I need to continue and wait patiently and let the Holy Spirit do His work. thank you.
    :) Anne / Australia

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