Jesus and the Samaritan woman

Jesus left Judea and returned to Galilee when he learned that the Pharisees heard he was baptizing and making more disciples than John. Jesus himself did not baptize, only his disciples did. On his way he traveled to a town in Samaria called Sychar, which is near the piece of land that Jacob had bequeathed to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there and around 6 in the evening Jesus sat down near it because he was exhausted from his journey. A Samaritan woman came near to draw water from the well. Jesus asked her to give him a drink. His disciples had traveled ahead into town to buy food.

She replied “Why are you, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jews normally did not associate with Samaritans.

Jesus answered, “If you understood the gift of God, and who is asking you for a drink, you would be asking him, and he would give you living water.”

“Sir,” she said, “the well is deep and you don’t even have a bucket with you. How and where are you going to get this ‘living water’? You aren’t more powerful than Jacob, our father, are you? He is the one who gave us this well. He, his sons, and their livestock all drank from it.”

Jesus said “Anyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I offer will never ever become thirsty again! In fact, the water I offer will become like a spring of water, flowing from within that person for eternal life.”

“Sir,” she said, “let me have some of this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to come all this way to draw water here again.”

“Go get your husband and come back here” he told her.

“I am unmarried,” she replied.

“You are correct in saying ‘I am unmarried,’ because you’ve been divorced five times and the man you are with now is not your husband. You have spoken the truth,” Jesus countered.

“Sir, it is obvious to me that you are a prophet,” the woman replied. “The Samaritans worshipped here on this mountain in years past, yet you Jews believe that Jerusalem is where people should worship.”

Jesus said “Believe me, the time is coming when you won’t need to worship the Father here or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you don’t know, while we Jews know what we worship, because salvation comes into the world through us. However, it is now the time when true worshippers will worship God in spirit and truth. God wants this kind of worship from us. Since God is spirit, God should be worshipped in spirit and truth.”

The Samaritan woman said “I know that the time is coming when the Messiah will arrive” (the One who is called Christ). “He will explain everything to us when he comes.”

“I am the One who is speaking to you.” Jesus told her.

His disciples arrived at this point and they were surprised he was talking with a woman. But none of them asked him what he wanted or why he was talking to her.

Then the Samaritan woman got up, left her water jar there, and went back to town. She told the men “Come with me and see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done! Is it possible this is the Messiah?” They left the town and went straight to where Jesus was.

Meanwhile, the disciples kept urging him to eat something. But he said “I have food that you are unaware of.” The disciples began to wonder among themselves, saying “Could someone else have brought him something?”

Jesus told them “My food is to do God’s will and to finish God’s work. Isn’t it common to say ‘There are four more months before the time for the harvest’? Listen clearly – raise your eyes and look at the fields – they are ripe for the harvest! Right now the reaper is being paid and gathering the harvest for eternal life, so those who sow and those who reap can celebrate together. Here the saying is true – ‘One sows the seed and another reaps the harvest.’ I have sent you to harvest what you didn’t work for. Others have worked and you have benefitted from their work.”

Many people from the Samaritan town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony when she said “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” Because of this, they asked him to stay with them when they came out to see him at the well. Jesus stayed there for two days. Many more people came to believe because of his word. Then they told the woman “We don’t believe just because of your testimony. We have heard him for ourselves and we know that he truly is the Savior of the world.”

JN 4:1-42

Bucket at the well

I’m at a retreat, and the theme of it is the story of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. This is found here –

John 4:4-10 (the Message translation)
4-6 To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
7-8 A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
9 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

In the retreat, we were asked to put ourselves in the scene. Pick a person or an object, and see things from its perspective. The words we were given were the town, the field, the well, the disciples, the Samaritan woman, bucket, and living water.

The word that stuck out when I was reading that list was “bucket.” What a funny word! Who would ever think of the bucket? It isn’t a character, certainly. But it is. Everything matters. So even though it seemed silly, I worked with it.

We were to think about how we need to nourish ourselves too, and refill from the well that is Jesus.

I’m the bucket by the well. The water is on me, soaking into my wood, slowly rusting my iron bands. I’m glad that the cooper made me so well that I don’t spill a drop.

I’m constantly giving out water, and I’m never drinking it myself.

I love it when I get forgotten. I love it when I’m at the bottom of the well and I’m resting in the water. I love the safety of the rope, ready to pull me up to the bright sunlight again.

Yet I can’t stay in that water too long. My wood will swell. The iron bands that hold me together will corrode past a point of ignoring. In short, I’ll stop being a bucket. I’ll start being something other than useful, something other than needed.

Is that a problem?

What if I go too far, soaking up the water that is God?

I’d love to live in this world. I’d love to stop wading in the ocean that is God and just jump right in.

Well I say that and then I remember that I don’t swim very well. If I was confronted with a hypothetical lake I’d pray for an actual boat to cross it.

I forget that babies breathe liquid. They are liquid. The percentage of water in the human body is the same as the percentage of water on Earth.

There has to be a way to be a mystic in the world. If I retreat fully from the world my husband would have to take on the responsibility of the house all by himself. That isn’t fair.

Jesus didn’t call us to escape from the world. He called us to live in it, to be healers, teachers, repairers. Now, he spent a lot of time alone too. Maybe that is the secret. Do both. Schedule time away, to listen, to replenish, to revive.

How can you constantly give if you aren’t also constantly receiving? You’ll run dry.

In Jewish tradition, water is seen as Torah. Every time water is mentioned it really means Torah. Water is life.

Then I remember my favorite animal is a salamander. It was born in water, but lives on land. It has to stay near water to live. This symbol means more and more now. In order for me to be who I am, I have to stay close to the Water that is Jesus. I have to replenish my soul. Yet to immerse myself fully in that world isn’t healthy either. Salamanders drown. I’d drown.

Balance is key. Return to the well regularly. Remember my roots. Don’t fall in. I’m a little bit of both worlds, all mixed up. Accepting my difference is a good start. I can’t define myself by normal rules.

(Started on retreat, 1-17-14, around 8 p.m. Finished 1-20-14)