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John 4:1-26

Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’— although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— 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.’

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 worshipped 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 worshippers 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.’ 

Jesus has now decided to leave Judea and return to  Galilee because the Pharisees have heard that Jesus and his disciples are baptizing more people than John. It seems as if Jesus wants to avoid an unwelcome competition with John and his followers, fuelled by the Pharisees hoping perhaps to divide and rule the movements breaking out among the people.

On his way back Jesus goes through Samaria and starts a conversation with a Samaritan woman he meets at the well. As we mentioned on Tuesday, this woman has several disadvantages compared to Nicodemus. She is certainly not a teacher of Israel and she is a woman, a Samaritan and a sinner; all problems that are highlighted by the author in these verses and the next.

While the conversation with Nicodemus happened at night, this conversation happens at noon. The author is not just noting the time but seems to be adding a theological significance to these conversations. The darkness and light act as a metaphor for each of the character’s ability to be enlightened by Jesus’ message.

The conversation is not exactly straightforward and it is not as if the woman instantly understands, but she does seem to get there in the end. Who else does Jesus entrust with the straightforward statement that he is the messiah? He certainly doesn’t say this to Nicodemus.

As well as the time of day, the author also notes the place where this happened, namely Jacob’s well that he then gave to Joseph.  Geography is also important in the discussion between the woman and Jesus. Where is the correct place to worship God? But it seems that geography or ancestry no longer matter, it is those who worship in spirit and in truth who are the true worshippers.

Blessings as we pray that we might continue to worship “in spirit and in the truth” especially during this pandemic.  Be safe!  Be well!  The Spirit has come!

 To Ponder: 

  • At the time of writing the COVID-19 pandemic means that churches are closed. What has it meant to worship in spirit and in truth during this time?
  • What does the social status of the Samaritan woman teach you about your attitudes to others?
  • Jesus left Judea because his success was fuelling rivalry with John the Baptist. What do you learn from this?

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