God-Soaked World Bible Guide – Day 31
April 5, 2017
Wednesday, April 5– John 4:7-26
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, the one who is speaking to you.”
Points of Interest:
- John’s memoirs indicate Jesus deliberately travelled through Samaria, even though Jews would usually travel around this region. Avoiding neighborhoods people we know think ill of is pretty familiar practice still. Not to Jesus, though, at least not in this case.
- There are multiple barriers of distance Jesus steps up to in this encounter. Men generally didn’t socially interact with non-related women in this kind of way and certainly didn’t engage in this kind of respectful, intellectual, and spiritual discourse like Jesus does here. As the passage points out, Jews also didn’t associate with Samaritans. Samaritans and Jews told different stories of Samaritans’ origins, but both groups acknowledge some shared culture and ancestry as well as significant differences. These differences had largely become points of tension and resentment over the years.
- To most of us, this feels like a split-level conversation. The woman is speaking on a more day-to-day, literal level, while Jesus is trying to take the conversation somewhere deeper. At first, she doesn’t quite catch his meaning, or at least doesn’t engage with it.
- The conversation takes a turn when Jesus asks for her husband. This, by the way, wouldn’t have been an unexpected or rude question. A man in Jesus’ culture wouldn’t have this kind of conversation with any woman, certainly not a stranger, and would at least expect her husband to be present if he were to continue.
Based on Jesus’ rather detailed knowledge of this woman’s personal life, he seems to have something else in mind. Typically, commentators – largely men – have read Jesus as exposing her shame, only to communicate that he accepts her despite her checkered past and sinful present. Much more likely is that Jesus is gently exposing her vulnerability. Women didn’t initiate divorces in this time and place and didn’t dictate the terms of their relationships with men in general. So this woman has had five husbands die or abandon her and another take her into his home without offering the dignity and protection of marriage. Whatever shame this woman has or hasn’t experienced, she has had a hard life.
- Jesus’ reaction to her life is to treat her as a desert, not a toxin. He sees the water being drawn from the well and offers her satisfaction and refreshment and life – all that water can do and more. Jesus says that he is her well, he is her reservoir.
- Jesus also offers this much-maligned Samaritan woman inclusion in a community of worship. This might sound technical or abstract to us, but it might be the most radical thing Jesus does. All women were ancillary to Jewish worship at best – they were not allowed in the more important areas of the temple in Jerusalem. And Jews also saw all Samaritans as terribly misguided in their religious views and worship practices.
When the woman steers Jesus toward this classically contentious topic – to change the subject? to provoke him? out of genuine curiosity? – Jesus takes the Jewish position in the debate, but says that in the end, God isn’t going to care. God wants people who can love and praise him in any culture, on any geography, in true and valid terms. This again is the New Covenant spirituality we’ve explored in this season. It’s personal and heartfelt connection – in this case worship: love, surrender, reverence – with the true and living God for all people, in all circumstances.
- Amongst Jews in Mark’s account, Jesus avoided this Messianic label, given all the misunderstandings with which it was fraught. Here in Samaria, he embraces it. He is the one who will continue to proclaim all things, just as he is doing now.
Prayer for our six – If any of your six have had particularly hard lives, pray that they will find a listening ear and acceptance for their story. If any of them have spiritual questions, pray that they will find answers from God and invitation to participate in this New Covenant spiritual worship.
Spiritual Exercise – This week our spiritual exercise will be a modified version of a spiritual practice called Immanuel Prayer. One of Jesus’ nicknames, or titles, is Immanuel – Hebrew for “God with us.” Immanuel prayer is a mode of praying in which we invite Jesus to help us perceive Jesus as with us in all things. Take a moment today to call to mind a place in your life where you are thirsty, unsatisfied, or unfulfilled. Call this area to mind, including how you might experience it this day. Then thank Jesus for being present and available to you in this, knowing everything about you. Ask Jesus to help you perceive how the water he can “give you will become in you a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” What is Jesus speaking to you in this promise?