The woman at the well….. done

David’s sermon of 19 March…..

We are going to take a walk through this story about Jesus meeting the lady at the well. See what comes out to us.

Jesus was living and teaching around Jerusalem in the province of Judea. He had previously annoyed the religious establishment – the Pharisees – by upsetting the traders in the temple courts, upsetting the tables and chasing out the money lenders with a whip – a real demonstration of Jesus anger at the spiritual mess which the Jews had got into. It did not endear Him to the Pharisees.

Also, at the same time John the Baptist was preaching his message of repentance to the Jews and baptising hundreds of folk – again to the anger and frustration of the Pharisees – how could they lead the Jews towards God when people like John and Jesus were working against them. The Pharisees were trying to get the people back to God by teaching them to obey all God’s laws – to live religiously to the letter of the law. And here was John telling them they should repent of their sin and so prepare for God’s Kingdom, and there is Jesus preaching that He is the only way to reconnect with God, only in Him is there eternal life.    

So Jesus was stirring up a lot of trouble for Himself and the disciples in and around Jerusalem and He decides he should move away from the area and return north to nearer His homeland of Galilee. It is too soon in His time of ministry for His final showdown with the authorities.

Now Galilee is about 110 miles north of Judea – a good walk over several days. There were two possible routes – the hard way -straight north through the hill country and through Samaria, or – the comfortable way – go east to the coastlands, walk north up the low lying coastal area, and then go inland to Galilee.

The problem is Samaria. When the Assyrians invaded Israel several hundred years previously they settled a large number of foreigners into Samaria and they intermarried with the local Jews. In the eyes of the rest of the Jewish nation therefore they were a contaminated people, no longer worthy of the name Jews, no longer the pure “chosen people” of God. They were second class, rejected by their fellow Jews and treated as the “untouchables” in proper Jewish society. The feeling was mutual and basically Jews and Samaritans hated each other.    

Any self respecting Jew therefore would have chosen the second route north – they would have gone to the coast, skirted round Samaria and then gone inland to Galilee. Good Jews would not have entered Samaria – with some justification – it was not sensible – like a catholic walking through protestant areas of Belfast, or a Jew today having a stroll through Gaza. – not sensible, not safe.

So here we have the first important point in this story. Jesus chose to go through Samaria, it was not the expected route, it was not the respectable route, it was foolhardy, it was rebellious – it was countercultural. The Pharisees would have been appalled that he took this route – He was reinforcing once again that He was anti religion, anti establishment, He did not care about the rules of the Pharisees or the purity of the chosen people. We might say today – Jesus was really “mixing it” – thumbing His nose to the ruling and religious classes.

Jesus chose to go through Samaria – He did not have to go that way.  

So was He looking for, or expecting this altercation at the well? Did He choose to go this way in order to have this confrontation? We can’t answer that, it is part of the mystery of Jesus as man, and as God – knowing all yet living as a man? We can certainly be sure that nothing in Jesus life was ever just blind chance. This meeting with the woman is also full of demonstration by Jesus of how we should live and act. It is not just a passing anecdote.

Jesus, by choosing to go through Samaria has shown He has no place for man-made divisions, has no truck with separation of people into classes, and no sympathy for hatred based on history and prejudice.

So that is the route – what about this meeting at the well? A woman on her own coming for water at noon? – why alone, why noon? Why was she not there in the morning, when it was cooler, and when all her neighbours would be there to draw water. She was alone – unusual if not unheard of in society then. Was she shunned by her neighbours, was she ashamed herself to come at the same time as others? Did she want to avoid being snubbed, or insulted, what did her neighbours call her? – this woman living with a man, unmarried yet already going through five husbands – hardly a respectable history. Was she expecting a quick undisturbed visit to the well – no challenges, no insults, no cold shoulders.

But Jesus met her.

What was Jesus thinking! Talking to a woman on her own – respectable men don’t talk to unaccompanied woman – scandalous. And not only talk to her but ask her for something, – make Himself dependent on her, put her in a place above Him. “Give me a drink”. Jesus has once again overturned the expectations of respectable Jews. Talking with a woman, asking her for help.

This trip through Samaria is a massive demonstration of Jesus disdain for and refusal to submit to, man-made rules and religious legalism. He will not give them any place. God loves all His creation, God loves each person as they are, God will not recognise Man’s empty divisions and petty dogmatism. If he had paid them any attention He would not have been in Samaria talking to a broken and confused woman about drinking water, about life, about everlasting life and about worshipping God in Spirit and truth.

Wow, that is quite a conversation.    

He says, I ask you for water, but if you ask me – I will give you a drink of something so extraordinary that you will never need another drink – in fact it will bubble up inside you like a spring – unstoppable, everlasting – overflowing.      

He says – both Jews and Samaritans have got it wrong trying to worship God only in temples they have built. – God is Spirit, He isn’t confined to buildings, so the time is coming when worshippers will start to worship God truly in Spirit and truth – not confined to one place, or restrained by laws and rules, but worshipping because they have this living water bubbling up inside – their spirits joined with God’s Spirit – and flowing out from them – unstoppable.

And finally, the woman says “Oh I know that all this will happen sometime – the Messiah will come sometime, and he will tell us all things, all about worship, all about God, all about what we should be doing – sometime.”

And Jesus says to this woman, this socially rejected adulteress, this Samaritan despised by the Jews, this person right out on the edge of society –

“You are looking at Him – Look at me, I am the Messiah.”

Jesus chooses this poor classless rejected woman to reveal Himself to – first. Don’t try to tell me that there is anyone who Jesus will not reveal Himself to – no-one is beyond His love.

Where is our Samaria, where is your Samaria, where is my Samaria. Who do we not like to mix with, who do we judge to be out with our social circle? Who do we feel vulnerable and uncomfortable with? Where do we not like to go? Who would we not like to meet? Where would we walk round rather than go through?

If He can go into Samaria, surely He will come with us into our difficult places. If we take the comfortable route round the coast to avoid our Samaria, then Jesus will let us go – but He doesn’t need to be with us there? Does He? But we need Him to be with us in our Samaria.

But why should we bother – why disturb our comfort and disturb other people.

What was Jesus first message to well woman – “I will give you living water”

Water which will well up inside and overflow – a fountain springing into eternal life.    

Later on in Chapter 7, Jesus says:

“If anyone thirsts, let Him come to me and drink.

He who believes in me, as the scripture has said – out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”

We say we believe in Christ, we say we want to follow Jesus – so we can come to Him and drink this living water – and having drunk – so from us, from you and me, from hesitant, and sometimes doubting, from shy or overly confident, from social outcasts or pillars of the community, whoever we think we are – will flow living water – unstoppable, everlasting and life giving.

If we have drunk this water – so we have a well in us which we must share, must allow to flow to others, must go with into our Samarias to find women, men, children, whoever, coming to a well where they will find life – life in its fullness, much more than they expected.

We who have drunk must also allow this water to flow from us.

Jesus living water is too important not to share, it is too life giving to keep to ourselves, – Jesus says – love your neighbour as yourself

In what better way can we demonstrate that love than by sharing with them the living waters from Christ.  

The living water of eternal life.

The living water which shows us how to worship God in Spirit and in truth.    

The living water filling us to overflowing with the love of God. Our journey takes us through our Samaria.  


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