Meditation on John 4:5-42
March 22, 2020
The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton, OH
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A 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.) 9 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.) 10 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.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.” 15 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.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 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.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he,[c] the one who is speaking to you.”
27 Just 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?” 28 Then 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?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do 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. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They 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.”
What have you been doing since the Coronavirus disrupted your life and changed your world? Have you been anxious? Me, too.
We have all heard reports about people panicking and hoarding. I read about a family in Australia who accidentally ordered 48 boxes of toilet paper, instead of 48 rolls, and ended up with a 12-year-supply. That’s what they say, anyway, that it was an accident. Hand sanitizer has been sold out for weeks, as is rubbing alcohol, after people learned they could make their own hand sanitizer with this key ingredient.
Some of us have been stress eating. Is that you? It’s me. I do have a few peanut M&M’s left from the large bag my husband bought me a few days ago. Not too many. I haven’t yet opened the Milano cookies, but it won’t be long.
I have been encouraged by all the positive Facebook messages, showing families doing crafts together, baking, homeschooling, playing games, jumping on a trampoline, watching movies. Just having family dinners every night at home is a good change for many of us.
Social distancing has been a challenge, though, hasn’t it? Isn’t it funny how those two words have entered our everyday language and will long be associated with reaction to the Coronavirus? It has forced us to look for creative ways to do ministry and stay connected with our church, at a time when we are not able to safely gather in person.
We thank God that none of our members or our families have fallen ill with the Coronavirus. We will continue to pray for the Lord’s wisdom and guidance for every day and for his protection and care for the world God so loves.
I urge you today to spend more time with the Lord in prayer, especially if you are anxious, and be comforted by His Word and Spirit. Drink deeply from the well that never runs dry.
When we meet Jesus in our gospel reading, he has left Judea because of a perceived threat. The Pharisees have heard that he is making and baptizing more disciples than John. This isn’t true; it’s his disciples who are baptizing. He begins to journey back to Galilee—a walk of maybe 3 days, if they go through Samaria. Going around it would add another 2 days.
But it isn’t cutting distance or saving time that leads Jesus to go through Samaria. God has a plan for the Samaritan city of Sychar, a short distance from the ancient city of Shechem.
The first capital of the Kingdom of Israel, Shechem is a sacred place where God confirms the covenant he had made with Abraham and where Joshua gathers the Israelites after their Exodus from Egypt and asks in Joshua 24, “Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
That Jesus is talking with a woman alone—Samaritan or otherwise—is scandalous. His disciples are “astonished” when they return from buying food in the city and find him speaking with her and at a well. Although women carried water from wells for their families each day, wells are also community meeting places and scenes of romantic encounters. Jacob meets and falls in love with his future wife, Rachel, in Gen. 29, at a well. When he sees her, he rolls away the stone and waters her father Laban’s flock. Then he kisses her and weeps aloud.
That it is noon and not early morning, when the other women gather, and that she is alone speaks to the Samaritan woman’s marginalized status. This unidentified woman has been rejected and divorced by 5 husbands, for whatever reasons—perhaps because she hasn’t given them children—and is now living with a man to whom she is not married, maybe because she has run away from an abusive relationship. She is practicing social distancing out of shame and fear, avoiding anyone who knew her.
She longs for her life to change, saying to Jesus, who offers a “spring of water gushing up to eternal life,” “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Christ speaks with a gentle but direct manner. She isn’t offended. She is impressed that this stranger, who is supposed to be her enemy, knows her story and treats her with kindness. She says that he is a prophet.
More shocking to the disciples than Jesus talking with a woman is that he has engaged in a theological discussion, as if she were an equal to and as important to God’s plan for salvation as the male disciples. She is!
His words, Spirit, and manner penetrate her heart. She leaves the heavy water jar as if it is an unnecessary burden and goes back to the city. Then, the one who avoided people for fear of rejection and humiliation approaches everyone with evangelical zeal, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
Once you experience God’s love and grace you want to share it with everyone.
Many Samaritans come to Jesus because of her testimony. They are moved by her faith, when she says, “He told me everything I have ever done.”
Jesus stays in Samaria for two days reaching out to those considered enemies of his people. This is no accidental stop on the way home. The Samaritans come to believe that Jesus “is truly the Savior of the world.” They are an example of faithfulness here, just as the Good Samaritan in the gospel of Luke is an example of love.
Christ has come to another marginalized, despised person, like he did when he healed a man blind since birth. He interrupted the routine of her day, broke into her brokenness, and responded to her spiritual longing.
He interrupts us now, in our brokenness.
Now is the time to remember the love, grace and mercy God has shown us by sending His Son to be the Savior for all people. May you be moved to share your testimonies and bring hope to the hopeless, light into darkness.
For if God can use one marginalized woman in ancient times—before phones, computers and Internet—just think what God can do with you and me.
Come, my friends. Drink deeply from the well that never runs dry, and you will have a spring gushing up inside you to eternal life. You’ll never thirst again.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Christ to offer us all Living Water, gushing up to eternal life with You. Fill us, Lord, to overflowing with the water of your Spirit, a well that will never run dry. We want to drink deeply so that we may grow in faith and love. Forgive us for our anxiety. Bring to mind all that you have done for us and stir us to grace and gratitude. Lord, please heal the world that you so love. Guide and protect us. Help us to share our testimonies and be hope for the hopeless and light in the darkness. We pray in the name of Your Son. Amen.