5So Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7A Samaritan woman came to draw water,
and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The 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.) 10Jesus 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." 11The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?"
13Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but 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." 15The 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." 16Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." 17The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, "I have no husband'; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!"
19The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem."
21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
25The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us."
26Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."
27Just 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?" 28Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29"Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?"
30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." 32But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." 33So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?"
34Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do 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. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, "One sows and another reaps.' 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."
39Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done."
40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word.
42They 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."
To maintain a sense of normalcy during the current Corona Virus global pandemic, I'm blogging my SS class notes to send to my usuals. Typically I do that Monday or Tuesday after our discussion so I can include ideas from others – or myself – that weren't in my original notes, so I can add interesting details I didn't get to share with the group, so I even can omit anything that feels semi-irrelevant this time around.
During most of this year of grace, from Advent through Reign of Christ, we'll hear from Matthew's gospel, but today we take an excursion for a story that's only in John and not in any of the synoptics. As we've learned, synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke view Jesus' life and ministry in a similar way: syn=coming together (synagogue, synthesis, synod, synopsis, etc.) + optic=about the eye (optician, optometrist, optimism, etc.). I often refer to John as the "rogue, outlier gospel that almost didn't make the canonical cut." Canon refers to a kind of gold standard or measurement.
John is the latest of the four gospels, most likely written down by a community gathered around John the Beloved Disciple, who probably was the youngest of the 12/13; tradition says John is the one without facial hair in Leonardo's Last Supper painting. The gospel according to John probably brings us the most realized eschatology—the right here and right now of the reign of heaven on earth.
Besides other unique literary material along with a few narratives common to all four gospel writers, John draws upon at least two written sources: Signs and I Am. The "I am" of verse 26 is the “I AM” of the sacred name of God revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14) and the first instance of I Am in John.
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at Jacob's Well
This encounter between Jesus and the unnamed woman demonstrates and embodies John 3:16, "God so loved [the entire] world," not solely one particular group. Jesus and the woman both know all the cultural, historical, and religious reasons they should not have anything to do with each other. Gender, ethnicity, cultural conditions, and religion all come together to forbid it; as John 4:9 informs us, "Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans." Pastor Eugene Peterson's The Message reads, "Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans." We know the cultural and social status of Samaritans in the Jewish world from Luke's parable of the Good Samaritan. From the perspective of most Jews, a "good Samaritan" would be a contradiction.
This incident happens during the midday desert heat, when the area probably would be isolated. Water is essential; water is life. The village well was a community gathering place where people went from necessity; a place where they well may have exchanged gossip and scuttlebutt.
For starters, this Samaritan woman is not a prostitute or a hooker or a harlot, not a street walker, a whore or a "lady of the night." She doesn't have a shady past. Jesus does not call her to repentance. We don't have the rest of her story, but she could be living with someone she had to depend on; she may have been in a succession of levirate marriages with a series of brothers after her first spouse died. In those situations, the woman was not always technically considered the brother's wife.
Although Jews and Samaritans shared the same founding history, they didn't share anything else. However, Jesus and the Samaritan woman meet at Jacob's well, a geographical icon of their common heritage. The woman claims kinship when she says to Jesus, "...our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it."
• Scripture often uses water as a code word and symbol for the Spirit of God flowing out toward us, with God choosing and embracing us first.
• In 4:6 Greek "well of Jacob," is Jacob's spring – a live spring fed the well with fresh running water.
• John 4:7 "Will you give me a drink?" Jesus didn't ask the Samaritan woman a literal question or directly command her; it was more of a rhetorical question, a polite exchange that recognized the other.
• 4:19 "I see you are a prophet" confesses trust in Jesus; John's gospel connects seeing or vision with faith, with believing. This outsider Samaritan woman is the first witness in John.
• 3:23-24 worshiping God in spirit and truth does away with the idea of a fixed, physical, institutional temple or other gated zone that might exclude individuals based on gender, ethnicity, or behavior. "Truth" here isn't about verifiable data or facts, but about a wide and broad sense of purpose and direction.
• 4:26 Jesus said to her, "I am [he], the one who is speaking to you." Jesus makes this first I Am statement in John not to insiders, but to an outsider: God so loved the world (including God's primal people Israel, of course).
• 4:28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city." Jesus never received the water he asked for, and the woman even leaves her water jar behind!
• John 4:29, "He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" carries the same rhetorical tone as Jesus' asking for a drink of water.
• 4:42 Only instance of the word Savior in John's gospel
• This year on the Day of Pentecost we'll hear a direct and highly resonant connection with today's gospel narrative:
37On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" 29Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Stay tuned! Stay safe!