Sunday, March 15 – Third Sunday in Lent

Reader: “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us,” 

Response:but because we have heard him ourselves.”

Scripture: John 4:5-15; 19-26; 39-42

Eventually [Jesus] came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”

Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Reader: The Word of the Lord.

Response: Thanks be to God.

Some thoughts:
My guess is that you have read this particular passage many, many times and have listened to more than one sermon addressing this account of “Jesus and the Woman at the Well.” What more is there to say? I have found so often in Scripture that God has more things to tell me about himself that further alters the way I am to live and be, even from passages I’ve heard many times before. This pericope is another one of those conversations with God. The familiar part is that Jesus had walked a long way. It was noontime. He was tired. A “questionable” Samaritan woman came to the well for water. They were alone in a culturally improper situation. That is the general situation, now some context. Jesus had been in Judea and was traveling north back to Galilee. The main road from Jerusalem to the Galilee region ran straight through Samaria. Normally Jews avoided Samaria altogether and traveled on the east side of the Jordan River, the eastern boundary of Samaria, which was both a region and the name of the capital. Sychar was a little village just outside the city. The Samaritans were half-breed Jews, coming from the ten northern tribes, who had intermarried with various nations who had invaded their land in the past. Some scholars believe it was the Samaritan Sanballat, who had given Ezra and Nehemiah such grief in rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem, who built the Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim. In terms of religion, the Samaritans accepted the Pentateuch as their scripture and, like the Jews, were looking for a messiah. The Jews wanted nothing to do with Samaritans. They resented any blood relationship, which makes Jesus’ story of the “good Samaritan” all the more pointed. Into this setting Jesus asks the woman for a drink. She was surprised and asked why he would ask her. He commented about living water. (Cisterns and wells had “dead” water. “Living water” was fresh flowing water. Samaria had no rivers, no “living water,” hence her comment.) She gave a little dig at him in her comment if he thought he was greater than our (ouch) ancestor Jacob. Then came Jesus’ comment about the husbands. What strikes me is her immediate comment suggesting he must be a prophet for only a prophet could know hidden truth. There was no way a normal person could know about her past. I think she realized she was talking to a real prophet and so asked him a question about the ongoing controversy of the day between the Jews and Samaritans, worship at Gerizim or Jerusalem? Who’s right? (A true prophet would know.) Jesus’ response was salvation comes from the Jews, not the Samaritans. The doubting woman’s response was when the Messiah comes, he will explain everything to us. And then Jesus’ most powerful response, “I AM the Messiah.” She ran to town to tell everyone what had happened. Jesus went to the town for two days and many people became believers as a result.

Volumes have been written on Jesus’ words of worshiping the Father “in spirit and in truth.”  I’d like to make one minor observation. Biblical worship involves all five senses and is not just a head/heart/theological mental activity. Taste, touch, sight, sound and smell have always been a part of worship as the Holy Spirit empowers the people of God with Jesus as our High Priest before the Father.

Music: ““Jesus Messiah”    Gaither Vocal Band

O God, who wouldest not [will] the death of a sinner, but that he should be converted and live: forgive the sins of us who turn to thee with all our heart, and grant us the grace of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  ―Early Scottish Prayer