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.”
Oh, how I love this story. So many layers, so many mysteries. The details are rich, evocative and tell the story with shading and nuance, don’t they? Neither the woman nor the disciples get the message at first. They both move immediately to the literal, while Jesus is using figurative language and examples. They look at the water, the food, and see only what their hands can touch, their bellies can digest. Jesus looks at both and sees the mystery of life! There is water, there is food, that we cannot comprehend — water and food that give LIFE, real life.
This isolated, marked woman — a reviled Samaritan — becomes the first true evangelist. She carries the good news back to the village, the very village that had ostracized her into showing up at the town watering hole at high noon rather than early morning or evening when everyone else came to draw water. This woman-with-many-partners, this sparring partner for Jesus’s metaphorical jabs and pokes.
Here are some small details that I love:
- she leaves the jar behind — this news is so compelling that she completely forgets what she came to do and hurries off to share her news;
- Jesus shares a theologically freighted piece of info that he has not shared with anyone else: “God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth;”
- the disciples are shocked at Jesus’s behavior (that he would talk to a woman, alone, in public — saints preserve us!!) yet they don’t say a word;
- somehow this interchange with the reviled Samaritan woman (reviled on two counts — her gender and her ethnicity) has left Jesus on such a spiritual high that he has no interest in physical food for a while;
- he gives the disciples some HUGE hints about what is coming down the road;
- that whole returning to Galilee thing takes a definite backseat to what the Spirit is doing in the midst of that Samaritan village — so they all hang around for an extra two days and drink it in;
- the village people make it clear that they are listening to and believing in Jesus because of what their eyes have seen and their ears have heard directly from him.
The Samaritan woman has become the town crier —
but only Jesus can transform a life.
I’d say this is one rock-em, sock-em tale right here, wouldn’t you?
Oh, Lord — help me to remember this story every time I find myself slipping into questioning the way you so often choose to do things in this world! You work in surprising, sometimes upsetting ways, to breathe the Good News into this world and too often, those of us who say we are your followers get smack dab in the middle of the way. Help me not to be in the way of what you are doing in the world in my own corner of Samaria!