Third Sunday of Lent: Gospel Passage – Jesus is a “character” too!

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 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.) 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.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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.” 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.” (John 4:5 – 15)

The writer of the gospel of John liked to use spiritual metaphors. And this account of the Samaritan woman at the well is filled with them. I have often thought the conversation as it is recorded between the two of them is rather stilted. It seems rather pulled and stretched to encompass the spiritual motifs; water, thirst, and the quenching of the spirit and inner life of humanity. Not exactly casual conversation.

“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 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.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” (Verses 16 – 26)

And throughout much of the conversation the Samaritan woman is placed at a disadvantage, speaking plainly without allusions while Jesus is speaking in allusions, metaphors and analogies. It seems very uneven. And yet, it contains a good bit of theology and foundational Christian faith. And Jesus in so plain and direct in identifying who he is. I am not sure he was a direct with his disciples. It is at this point they return and effectively put a stop to this conversation.

“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?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.” (Verses 27 – 30)

While the people of the city were making their way to see Jesus, Jesus and his disciples are having some interesting conversation themselves.

“Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 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. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (Verses 31 – 38)

By now the disciples might have been completely bewildered. Jesus talking to a woman – a Samaritan woman at that! Refusing food! Talking about sowing and harvesting when they had never harrowed the ground to plant and had no seeds to plant into the earth. What did Jesus think they would harvest, they may have wondered. For the literal minded, it is an unusual passage. Yet the writer of John tells us . . .

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. 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.” (Verses 38 – 42)

Verse 42, I think, is the payoff verse. Jesus has been identified as the Savior of the world. Belief is spreading throughout the countryside. And not just among the Jews.

During this season of Lent we are journeying toward the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry on the earth. It is not enough that just one type of people belief. Believe in Jesus Christ is for all people. Those who are plain talkers, and those who talk in metaphor, analogy & allusions. This is one of the things I became aware of several years ago, that Jesus Christ and the Lord God have aspects and traits that call all to all sorts of people. We cannot nearly define what a Christian should be like. We can talk about authentic Christianity, but not about a narrow set of beliefs.

Every Christian journeys through Lent, whether they call it such or not. We all times of pondering and contemplating our faith. It is not done just in the weeks before Easter but at all times of the Christian year. Jesus comes to us in the form and aspect that we need the Divine in. These are some of the truths about Lent. Shalom!