4:5 [Jesus] came upon 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 [to Galilee], was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
4:7 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.) 4:9 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 for fear of being made ‘unclean’.)
4:10 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.”
4:11 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?” 4:13 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.”
4:15 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..” 4:16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 4:17 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!”
4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 4:20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 4:21 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.
4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship [God] in spirit and truth, for [God] seeks such as these to worship. God is spirit, and those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth.”
4:25 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.” 4:26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” 4:27 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?”
4:28 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?” 4:30 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.”
4:33 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. 4:35 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.
4:36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 4:37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’
4:38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 4:39 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.
4:42 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.”
Will you pray with me?
God of Love & Living Water, you see past the divisions we create and instead turn them into invitations to relate to one another, to pass on the love and life that you have literally breathed into us. Your Spirit of compassion moves among us. Help us not to get in the way of that. In fact, help us to follow Jesus’ example at the well so that the other world that is possible, might become real RIGHT now. The hour is coming. The harvest is ready. I pray the we are too, O God. In the name of the one who calls us to sow and reap, Jesus, we pray. Amen.
So, this is admittedly a long text, full of rich material that we could pick apart all day. However, I want us to focus on Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well, the woman from Samaria who has no name. But first, let’s back up a little to provide some context.
Jesus and his disciples are making their way from Judea to Galilee (partially because Jesus had been under surveillance by the Pharisees in Judea, so it was time to move). The fastest way to do this is to travel through Samaria, a region that many religious elites and strict Jews avoided for fear that merely passing through such a place would make them ritually “unclean.”
See, the Samaritans were a racially mixed group of partly Jewish and partly Gentile ancestry, who were disdained by both Jews and Gentiles alike. This kind of racism, if you will, goes all the way back to 722 BCE when the king of Assyria brought foreign people to settle in Samaria and the groups began intermingle (put hands together until it’s gross and weird).
Then overtime they had intermarried with some Jews, however many assimilated strongly into the non-Jewish culture by marrying many of the Mesopotamian colonists. (Probably WAY more than you needed to know, BUT, this is THEIR history of Racism)
So now it’s noon, hottest part of the day, and Jesus’ disciples have gone into town to buy some food. So he parks his tired body near a well where he meets this woman and asks her for a drink. Now, customarily, women would come to the well in the morning and evening leaving the noontime for travelers (mostly men). However, this woman is a rule-breaker (mayhap a “man-eater”). Either way, Jesus ain’t scared, he’s thirsty.
So he asks her for a drink. And the woman again, seems confused. “How is it that you, a Jew, asks me, a woman of Samaria, for a drink?” Imagine if you will an older Malala (our featured hero from last year’s eco-arts camp). Head covered. Culturally different from you, perhaps. Maybe Muslim, maybe not, but certainly from a Muslim country.
Because of this the woman is caught off guard. Remember, this harkens back to the long standing tradition of Jews and Samaritans (or the Other) DON’T mix. In fact, if they could BAN them from traveling to Galilee or build a WALL to keep them from crossing borders in Judea, they probably would. But not Jesus.
Jesus responds to the woman: “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.” (4:10)
That’s when the woman asks him for his cup; “sir you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.” (1:11)
Now, quick confession: I’ve read this text several times and never caught this part, nor did I understand why Jesus kept asking her for a drink. Why didn’t he just get it his damn self?
Because he didn’t have a water jar! But yet, he was willing and eager, it would seem, to share this Samaritan woman’s cup. (Another #BetheChurch theme: share earthly and spiritual resources)
So not only, is Jesus interacting with this Samaritan woman, who is supposedly forever “unclean,” he is also asking to drink from the same cup.
Verse 9 reads, “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.” Well, except air, water, the need for shelter, love, companionship, community…But seriously, remember the separate water fountains for whites and people of color?
Now try to imagine being trans and not knowing which bathroom will afford you the most safety? Or think of the refugees and asylum seekers who travel at great costs just to get to the states, only to be separated from their families, detained (sometimes indefinitely), and turned away because “this land is MY land, this land is MY land…”
But Don’t worry, that’s not all folks! Jesus is gonna continue to break (shit down) more social codes.
1. Men (especially religious teachers such as himself) shouldn’t be interacting with any woman alone. Very taboo. But who cares, DOWN WITH PATRIARCHY.
2. In addition to this, meeting up at the well was like driving down to lover’s lane. Many who met there, eventually developed relationships that often led to marriage. Heyooo….thank God Jesus ain’t about that life. “Marry if you HAVE to,” he says.
With these rules in place, the woman proceeds to get him a drink. But now she’s curious, “where do you get that living water?”
Now, true to form, Jesus speaks in code, employing this phrase to refer to two different, yet similar things. Soooo mysterious… Literally, the phrase refers to fresh spring water – none of that dingy, who knows how long it’s been sitting there—bugs, bodies, who-knows-whats-in-this-water.
No, we’re talking about FRESH SPRING WATER a concept that is fairly familiar in Judaism. In the book of Zechariah, living waters were said to one day flow from the temple of Jerusalem to cleanse all the people; it reads, “and every creature who drinks from this water will be made well.”
Jeremiah talks about cisterns that crack because they cannot hold the “living water” (Jer. 2:13); aside: I guess they did not pass the new wine skins test. (ha)
With that in mind, Jesus reassures the woman, that whoever drinks from this living water “will never be thirsty again.” He goes on to say, “The water that I will give [you] will become in [you] a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (4:14)
GIVE ME THIS WATER, she says.
How about you give ME this water? Resistance is exhausting, amiright?
But Jesus decides to be a bit playful at first and asks her to go retrieve her husband. The woman says, “I have no husband.” Jesus says, “Correct! You have five and you have one right now that’s not even yours.” Wait a minute, are we slut-shaming here? NO! Jesus is simply showing off.
In other words, he’s letting this woman from Samaria with no name know, I know things that other people don’t. To which she replies, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” Which, sure, yes, yes he is a prophet but I think something else might be going on here.
Remember, Jesus intentionally travels through a region that many of the religious elite wouldn’t be caught dead in. He then asks for water from an “unclean” (re: Black, Brown, etc.) Samaritan woman AND wants to drink from her DIRTY-ass cup. Then he calls her out for basically ‘getting around’ (PAUSE), but never ONCE does he try to make her feel bad about it. It’s like his way of saying, “I see you.”
I SEE YOU for who you are, I know all your flaws, and I wish to share this cup with you. #rejectracism
Now imagine that she had been Malala, an undocumented person, or even Syrian refugee? Or how about a transwoman? Someone with disabilities or mental illness (remember they were thought to be consumed by evil spirits) What if, what if, what if…
I believe Jesus would have still sat down and shared that cup. He would have rejected racism. Rejected xenophobia. Rejected patriarchy. Rejected the notion that our differences make us dangerous. Jesus would have rejected the notion that the Other is something or someone to be marginalized or kicked out entirely. Because Jesus had a vision from God, that another world, a world of new dimensions IS indeed possible.
And that is our call today (and every day), THAT is our Lenten Journey: to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and resist. That is, to show up when the travel bans are issued, to be a Sanctuary for those that need it, to not only reject racism but to be actively engaged in anti-racism before the water becomes undrinkable (re:Flint)—we are to be like Living Water for one (an)Other.
The kind that refreshes and renews; the kind that calls out and calls back in; the kind that liberates us from the sins of THIS world, such as racism.
So don’t tell me, “I don’t know what to do with this current administration,” or “I’m too old for this” or “to young for that.”
Jesus sat down at a well and had a conversation. He connected with someone VERY different from him and in that moment, the well became an altar in the world. And together, Jesus and the woman from Samaria became the Church.
Let it be so.