Thank you for joining me once again as we continue our look at the Gospel of John. Today we will be looking at Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well. But, before I go there I was just thinking about yesterday's lesson where we heard Jesus tell Nicodemus, "You must be born again." I can just picture poor Nicodemus' mother overhearing Jesus' words. In my mind (a scary place sometimes) this would open up the possibility of many cartoonish captions. One, yesterday's title, would have Nic's mother declaring "There are not enough epidurals in the world." Another, taken from what my wife has said to me, "Umm...I tell you what...try taking a bowling ball and...(too painful to go any further.) Or, perhaps at the thought of having her son go back into the womb to be born again, she simply begged; "Kill me now!" Oh well, good thing for her Jesus did not mean being born again in that way.
Today, Jesus encounters another interesting figure. "Now he had gone through Samaria. 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 the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?'" (John 4:4-9)
There are several things that are interesting in this passage already. First of all, Jesus went to Samaria. John tells us that he had to go. Why he had to go we are not told. While there he meets a Samaritan woman and begins a conversation with her. *Him asking for a drink was his way of opening up a conversation. She is taken back by the fact he is even conversing with her because she is a Samaritan. If you recall Jews hated Samaritans. The Samaritans were, for lack of better term, "half breeds" in the eyes of the Jews. The origin of the Samaritans was back in the time of exile into Assyria. Did you notice her words; "You are a Jew...?" Why is that important? If you recall from a previous lesson we learned that John uses the term "The Jews" (plural) sixty three times in his gospel. He uses it in the singular only three times. This is one of the three. The term "the Jews" is not necessarily a positive thing in John's gospel.
In this passage John also tells us that this encounter took place at about the sixth hour. The sixth hour is noon. If you recall from yesterday Nicodemus came to Jesus "at night." (In the darkness) Jesus and this lady meet at high noon. Nicodemus was a true Jew (and leader), while she was "one of those Samaritans."
And then there is something else very important about this passage. It tells us where exactly in Samaria that this meeting took place. It took place at a well. Oh, but not just any well...it was Jacob's well. Why is this significant? Do you remember what took place at Jacob's well in the Old Testament. Jacob met Rachel at this well. Oh, but there is more. In another passage found in Exodus Moses met a group of young ladies and before it was over he was their hero. In fact, he ended up married to one. But, where did they meet? Yep, a well. (Exodus 2:15-17) Hmm...maybe the well was more than the local watering hole in ancient times. Then this gets even more interesting. Why? Because we find out that this lady has been married five times and is now living with another. See the irony? This lady's problem has seemingly been with men. Now, another man shows up at the well. Now, let's dig deeper. We know from the work that we have done that in the Levirate marriage system if a husband died without having a son, then his oldest brother would marry the widow and impregnate her to carry on the brother's name. There is no indication that this is why this woman had been married so many times. Plus, she is a Samaritan. This law may not even apply. The fact that Jesus says to her, "The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband" (John 4:18) seems to imply that these were simply five failed marriages. I wonder how this lady was viewed within the community?
Well, this passage centers around this lady's failed relationships. Jesus meets her at the well and asks her for a drink of water. Jesus then says to 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." (John 4:10) Just like in the story of Nicodemus this lady is thinking in natural terms. Nicodemus thought that being born again meant that somehow he was going to have to re-enter his mother's womb and be born a second time. (I can just see his poor mother fainting to the ground) The lady at the well is thinking that Jesus is referring to the water from the well: "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep..."(John 4:11) So, again, we have earthly people (in the flesh) meeting with the one who is from above. Jesus then responds: "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst." (John 4:13)) Jesus is perhaps speaking about more than just drinking water here. Perhaps he is making a statement about the fact that this woman keeps looking for love in all the wrong places...(wait, that's a country song, sorry) she keeps coming to the well looking, finding, but then is left high and dry. *Isn't it interesting that it is in John's gospel where Jesus talks about giving living water, and it is only in John where from the cross Jesus cries out "I thirst?"
Jesus and the lady go from discussing her failed love life to having a discussion about worship. She knows something about worship. This is interesting: "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, (Mt. Gerizim) but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." (John 4:20) Did you notice she included Jesus in with "The Jews"? O.K., well Jesus ends the conversation by revealing to her that he is the messiah. "Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people," (John 4:28) Jesus told her that he had water that would cause her to never thirst again, therefore, her leaving her water jar is significant. She has chosen the living water. Then she goes back to town, and I'm sorry but I think the wording is hilarious. (I don't know if John intentionally worded it this way for a reason or not, but...) "and said to the people, 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did..." (John 4:29) I can just hear someone (there had to have been at least one) thinking: "Umm...I think she has had enough men!" Any how, she witnesses to the Christ and brings many Samaritans to him.
Well, that's enough for today. Join me tomorrow as we continue an in-depth look at the Gospel of John. -Pastor Rick