Scripture

John 4:1-26

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

 

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Reflection

Many decades of research and thousands of years of recorded history demonstrate how critical groups are to human life. Groups help us organize and conserve resources like food and shelter and give meaning to our emotional selves. We have a deep need to belong. So we set up boundaries, both virtual and real, to help us organize into families, tribes, communities, and nations.

But we often end up using those boundaries or categories to set up an “us and them” mentality. In short, we “other” them. We define our own group as superior to the “other” group, and we exclude anyone not already in the group. Research tells us that we tend to share fewer resources, forgive less, and express less compassion to those outside our groups and those seen as different from us. Taken to an extreme, we shun others, avoid people who are different from us, or worse, we don’t define the other as human at all. So while groups or categories help us organize our life and our thinking, we can use those same boundaries to justify our exclusion of others. 

Jesus had his group of 12 disciples, an extended group of close followers, and his family. He was also Jewish, a male, relatively young, and well-learned in the scriptures. Jesus fit in all of these categories or groups, but he did not allow them to define him or exclude others. Jesus relied on his close companions and groups to ground him and walk the journey with him, but he spent much of his time in ministry outside of those defined groups. He was the first to reach out to people on the margins, those outside the acceptable groups, those people usually considered “unclean” or unworthy. The woman in this passage is excluded by society in every way. Jesus had lots of reasons not to talk with her. She was a female, a Samaritan, divorced, and in a relationship with a man who was not her husband. Yet Jesus included her. He did not condone her sinful behavior, but he loved her and offered her the same “living water" he offers you and me.

Who are the people on the margins today? Who is it that we see as less-than, unclean or unworthy? Who is the “other”?  As followers of Jesus, we are called to develop a practice of inclusion and fight the mindset that leads to harsh boundaries and exclusion. Today, be mindful of when you see someone who seems different from you, someone you might normally avoid, pray for that person, smile, and show him or her kindness.

Prayer

Holy One, we are grateful for the resurrection we celebrated this week. We live in awe of your goodness and your greatness. Help us not move on from this Holy season, but live instead as Easter people, driven by the love and grace of Christ. Shape our souls, feed our spirit, and guide us with your Holy Spirit. In the name of the risen Christ, Amen.