Jesus and the Woman of Samaria
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptising more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptised— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. 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.”
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 laboured, 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 Saviour of the world.”
This has long been one of my favourite bible passages.
The story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.
A story of meeting
A story of recognition
A story of listening
And of knowing.
A story of enquiry and of challenge.
A story of desire and of change.
A story of equipping and of enabling.
Jesus, weary from his journey, sits by a well in the hot midday sun while his disciples go off to find food.
He wouldn’t expect to be disturbed.
For who, in their right mind would visit the well when the sun is hottest?
The early mornings are the time for that.
The early mornings, when the women would gather, exchange news and greetings while they took their turn at the well, filling their jars, before wending their way back to their villages.
Anyone drawing water at this time of day was probably avoiding something, or avoiding people.
So, when a woman comes along, no wonder Jesus’ interest was piqued.
We already know that her being a Samaritan wouldn’t have put Jesus off speaking to her.
Jesus was never one to stick with conventions.
But he would have been curious about her being at the well in the middle of the day.
And so he confronted her by asking for a drink.
I love that the woman was not intimidated by a rabbi speaking to her - surprised, yes, but not silenced as might have been expected.
Indeed it seems like quite a brave conversation to me.
When Jesus asks her for a drink, she challenges him - “Where’s your bucket?”
That, to me, sounds like a feisty woman.
A woman saying : You may be a Rabbi. You may be a Jew. But you still need a bucket to draw water!
This is a courageous woman.
Jesus met her courage head on and invited her to a whole new depth of encounter.
An encounter that only a woman with the kind of courage she possessed would be able to enter into.
Jesus engages her in a conversation that went far beyond the words being spoken - a conversation that resulted in transformation.
It is not Jesus the Rabbi who puts her gas at a peep.
It is the man who offers her the water of life.
That is what draws her in.
In Jesus’ offer, somehow she recognises something that goes way beyond their physical exchange, something that’s much more than banter between foreigners.
Instinctively this woman knows that the offer Jesus makes is deep and wide, far reaching enough to change her life.
And so, going way beyond her feistiness, she responds:
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty.”
Somehow Jesus has turned her feistiness into faith, her courageous conversation into committed conviction.
A conviction so great that she rushes off to tell her neighbours.
And what an evangelist she turned out to be.
At her word, her neighbours wanted to see for themselves this man who offered the water of life.
And when they did, they too were convicted, not just because of what she’d told them but because they too encountered Jesus, the source of life giving water.
Jesus brought transformation by engaging with the woman.
And the woman brought transformation by sharing her gift with her neighbours.
That’s the kind of encounter that Jesus invites us into today.
Encounter that transforms not just our lives but the lives of our community.
Jesus meets us here.
Jesus sees us,
Jesus knows us.
And Jesus offers us life giving water that transforms lives.
So what in this story is speaking to your heart today?
As you come to this well, where people gather, what is it that you need, what is your longing?
Have you come to seek solitude?
At this well, is your desire to be free from the crowds, from the anxiety, from the relentless onslaught of news?
At this well, do you seek, just for a time, some peace, some rest from the madness of daily life?
Have you come to be challenged?
At this well, on the edge of the town, do you seek wisdom for your daily living?
Do you want to be encouraged to wrestle with God’s word and to work out how you live into God’s love in your everyday?
At this well, do you seek, to sit here awhile and revel in familiar texts that underpin your life and work out what, in those texts spell transformation for you?
Have you come to draw deeply from the rich resources available here?
At this well, with its unplumbed depths, do you want to dredge up the sustenance that will allow you and your loved ones to journey on through all the joys and difficulties that you share?
Have you come to this well, in the midday sun, to be known?
Is this the place where you can be yourself?
At this well, are you able to lay down your display of strength, to lay aside the masks that get you through each day?
At this well, are you able to simply be you, knowing that you are seen and loved as you are?
Have you come to this well to be changed?
At this well, do you hear God’s word prompting you to live differently, to love differently, to be different, in response to all that you hear?
At this well, do you experience the will to change?
Jesus invites each of us here, at this well, into an encounter with one who has the water of life.
Those of us who are feisty.
Those of us who are weary.
Those of us who are hopeful.
Those of us who are fearful.
Jesus invites us to drink of the water of life and, in our drinking, be transformed.
What might all this mean today as we seek to live not by fear but by love, not in isolation but in community?
How are we, who gather at this well being called to transform the lives of our community with life giving water?
As we do all that we can, in this time of uncertainty, to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and well, may we model love for our neighbours, whoever they are.
May we model what it is to be in community, looking out for one another, sharing what we have, transforming life by acts of kindness. Always.
Knowing that Jesus transforms us to transform others.
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.”
May we who gather at this well take that life giving water into our neighbourhood and see transformation that is the gift of God for all.