So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
"Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
"Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.
They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” - John 4:5-42
Jesus really doesn’t have to do anything. He is not beholding to stockholders having to make sure what he is selling will make a profit, or a board of directors who expect him to watch the bottomline. He doesn’t have some set of evaluations made by a governing body in Washington DC or Brussels telling him what he must do or not. He is not even accountable to you. He doesn’t have to be your Savior. He doesn’t have to be your God. He doesn’t have to be the Word made flesh come to earth to be proclaimed for the salvation of the creation; for the freedom of the captives and the condemned; for the healing of the broken. But – He is. That is who He is and he cannot be anything but that because that is his nature, his purpose, his desire. Which is why it is a problem, and normally our desire, for him to be something else, especially when he turns up where we don’t expect him.
Less than a year ago, my family and I were on a Disney Cruise in the Caribbean. I’ve said it before, that this is how my dad wishes to spend my inheritance. That’s how we roll for our family reunions – party hard with Cinderella and Captain Hook. On this last one, our first stop was in Key West. Never been before, thought – this should be cool. Go see President Truman’s winter White House there. Awesome. So Carry and I, one of my brothers and his wife and our kids, we went exploring. We made one turn and suddenly we were in the, dare I say, Red-Light District of Key West. Bars with various form of undergarments stapled to the ceiling. Shop windows that would make Hugh Hefner blush. “Ok kids, let’s look over here. Oh. Wait. Look over there…No. Umm. Let’s go for a jog.” If we were to describe it to anyone it would be the place we should not be. Especially with children. A place some would say was devoid of God.
Growing up we had similar places. The railroad tracks, for instance. Parts of that area of San Luis Obispo you could find spent needles and other paraphernalia. You could run into individuals of a less savory sort. So it was that at night especially, there were places you go, and places you don’t.
Each of you may have a similar story. Parts of towns or countries that are off limits. God abandoned areas. Places of no hope. No light. Lacking safety and comfort. Places where you feel you have to tell your daughter to never walk alone. And if these places are true, then they must not be for Jesus.
Now you know about Samaria, because all that I have just described was Samaria. It was the place of the Samaritans. A place that Jews did not go. It wasn’t as though it would be out of the way to skip, it was a place no self-respecting Jew would be caught because the Samaritans were not clean. They were the remnants of the fallen away Northern Tribes who went into exile under Assyria. Who manufactured a “new” religion where worship was moved from Mt. Zion to Mt. Gerizim. They didn’t have a Levitical priesthood. They appointed their own. They held only to the Five books of Moses as their Scriptures. Basically hated for being different. Lacking the true faith. Being idolaters, unclean.
It was the last place a Jewish rabbi would go. But, not for this rabbi. It says he had to go though Samaria. The Greek says – it was necessary for him to go through Samaria. Necessary. He had no choice. He must go through a place that he could easily avoid, he could have crossed the river and gone straight to Galilee. But instead he had to go through a place somewhat barren and out of the way. A place inhabited by a people despised, and who despise in turn. He had to go into the place of least expectation.
Why? The woman. There was this woman there, coming to a well. He had an appointment with her that she did not even know about. He had to be there. To speak to her. It was an issue of necessity for him.
He had a need, a desire to do this because he likes to break the mold. He likes to destroy the strawman we put in place all the time. Jesus is not there. He would never love her. He would never go to you unless…
He met her as she came to do a normal thing, but then they did a very abnormal thing. They were left alone to meet and talk. Men and woman were never supposed to be talking to one another alone unless they were accompanied by a relative or were married. Bad form Jesus. You are showing some impropriety and sullying a very important custom based on purity. How dare you Jesus.
Also, a Jew would never be caught dead talking to a Samaritan. That would be unthinkable. If you talk to them, you might actually recognize their humanity and worth. Jesus what are you doing. You’ve crossed the line now.
Now if men were not supposed to talk to women alone, and a Jew was never to talk or associate with a Samaritan, how big of a firestorm do you think Jesus caused here by being a Jewish man, a Jewish rabbi even, talking to a Samaritan woman? That’s like, bad to the third power. That’s many years in purgatory for you Jesus.
But Jesus doesn’t care about boundaries. He doesn’t care that we decide that this type of person is clean and this one is not. That this is where God shows up and this is where he does not. He doesn’t care if you think you are off limits. Jesus works his majesty in the least likely of places. The places where he hides from our expectations so that eventually he might be found. It was necessary for him to be at that well, with that woman, to make plain the works of God for the sake of the broken, the fallen, the outsider, and the least of these.
It was necessary for him to go through the desert spaces of Samaria to come to that well thirsty in order to ask his question – Will you give me something to drink? To open up for her the truths of God as proclaimed, as housed in this man Jesus, to a lost and thirsty world.
“Who are you to ask me for a drink, Jew?”
“If you only knew child…” If you only knew who I was. I asked because I know you thirst. You come to this well again and again, because no matter whether you be Jew or greek, slave or free, male or female, even a Samaritan, you drink, or you die. I stand as one who offers you life. But not just a pulse, but relief from this burden of being a Samaritan in the eyes of the world. Relief from seeing me as a Jew. I want to take the burden from you and give you forgiveness and freedom. That is why he had to go through Samaria.
“But how are you going to do this sir? You have no bucket. Nothing to physically draw water. Besides, we have our daddy Jacob to thank for this well and water. You can’t be bigger than Jacob.”
“Sweet child, if you only knew…” You think faith that you have is in some gift of a well and physical labor. That is no gift. A gift costs nothing. A gift is given to you freely. Of which I give. You thirst yes. And you will tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. But the thirst you truly need remedied is that which I give. A thirst for life outside of you. Water hidden in me, the infleshenated God. The God of Jacob whom you serve. To give you a water that cannot be denied because once God speaks to you, about you, what God thinks of you, nothing others might say, neither sin nor death, can change. That is living water.
We tend to tie down our God to all these things that we have to keep coming back to. A God we find in certain ceremonies, certain places, but a well doesn’t have a voice. A tree doesn’t speak to you to tell you of what it is that God says of you. The woman discovers that now and actually has the response we must give – Sir, give me this water. Even if she wants so she won’t be physically thirsty, thus comes the first response before we know truly this Christ – Give me this water, Jesus.
But this is enough for Christ to be content – Go get your husband, and come back. He gets to the heart of all things here. Because he goes away from the externals. He goes away from the boundaries of ethnicity, or family heritage. Go get your husband.
I have no husband.
What you say is true. You have had 5 husbands and the man now that you live with is not your husband.
Let me burst your bubble a little. This is not the story of some dirty tramp as some pastors have preached. This is not the story of a prostitute, or a shacking up couple. Those are interpretations of 19th century Victorian sensibilities plastered onto Biblical times that are…well…ridiculous.
The husbands more than likely could have been lost to death or divorce. The former for some, but then the latter for most, and for possibly one reason – she was barren. A woman unable to have children would have a hard time of taking care of herself in those days. She would have been ostracized as though God had abandoned her. As though she were broken. Cast aside. There Christ gets to do that work of his Kingdom. That speaking of the grace of God. Opening her eyes to who was before her.
I see that you are a prophet. Knowing him to be someone more than just a Jewish Rabbi. She knew something more stood before her. She tries to distract him. What’s your take on the whole worship war Jesus? Here or in Jerusalem, because you Jews say one thing and our tradition says another.
It doesn’t matter, my child, although salvation comes through the seed of Abraham, this promise of blessing through trusting a God who speaks to you.
Well I know the Messiah will come and show us all things.
Yes. The Messiah will come. Has come. Will tell of all things. Will explain all things. Will look into your heart, into your eyes to speak to you, more than in any other way than to tell you of what God thinks of you. Even while you are ostracized, an outsider, the worst of the worst. While you are yet a sinner, Christ died for you. Speaking to you now, this Jesus says to you – I, the one speaking to you, telling you of the grace that breaks down barriers, that goes where it is necessary to go, to speak to you now saying – I am he. That Jesus is yours today. Amen