Lent III – 19 March 2017
Lent in Year A of the three-year lectionary cycle is wonderful! The Gospel readings for each Sunday are amongst the richest passages in our Christian Scriptures.
This week, we hear the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. There are so many levels on which this can be understood! We can look at it from the woman’s perspective, and see Jesus honouring the pain of her past, and her failure in human relationships. We can ask, why has she had five husbands? Have they cast her off, for some reason? Have they died, perhaps, making her a widow over and over again? What about this one who is not her husband? The grammatical construction of the Greek, here, puts the emphasis on the fact that he isn’t her husband. Does that imply that he is someone else’s? Is she in an adulterous relationship, perhaps?
John gives us no answer to any of these questions. Rather, as the encounter continues, we find that Jesus gently tempts her – offering a little information at a time – suggesting this, and that, until, finally, he reveals himself to her, and she believes!
Jesus breaks all boundaries. The route he has taken to reach Sychar is not the most direct, nor is it considered safe for Jews. He arrives at the well at noon – in the heat of the day – without any food, nor means to draw water. Unexpectedly, a woman is there. Normally, they would probably have come in the cool of the morning.
There are many reasons for Jesus not to speak to her. Men did not normally speak to women they did not know – especially in public! She was also a Samaritan; those people whom Jews regarded as beneath contempt. They were the remnant – those who had remained in the area during the exile, and had married gentiles. Neither their race, not their ways of worship were considered legitimate. However, he does speak. He asks her for a drink. The exchange begins with his thirst. He offers this to her, if you like, as a temptation to engage with him.
However, soon it is not his thirst they are discussing, but the eternal human thirst for life. Even though he is the thirsty one, and she is the one with the water jar, and the means to draw water from the well – a well that her own ancestors provided – it is Jesus who offers her something infinitely precious: the answer to the unspoken question of eternal life! Living water.
By this time, the woman is fascinated. She is ready to engage in a deeper conversation with this very unusual Jew! They begin to speak about the differences between their traditions. She gives him the answer she has been taught – that when the Messiah comes, he will reveal all truth. Then Jesus drops the bombshell!
“I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
he uses the phrase; “I am” – the description of YHWH – the LORD.
She is convinced. She can’t wait to spread the news.
May we catch such enthusiasm this week. We are the ones who ought to be filled with the living water of life – ready to share with those around us who are so thirsty.
Blessings on your week!