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Encounters with Jesus | The Woman of Samaria

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?’

John 4:4–6

The stained-glass window situated above the sanctuary in St Peter’s Church, Vere Street (now the headquarters for LICC) preserves a nineteenth-century depiction of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. At the time of day when no one was expected to be around, and as the woman is preparing to draw water for herself, Jesus is present and gesturing towards the water jar secure within her grasp.

According to the passage, the woman’s hesitancy to draw water is explained by the author’s note that ‘Jews do not associate with Samaritans’. Although this might appear ambiguous and even bizarre for modern readers, the NIV’s alternate rendering that Jews ‘do not use dishes Samaritans have used’ might provide some illumination in historical context. The importance of food laws and rites among various religious groups suggests they may have functioned as identity markers in the ancient world. Sharing resources among those outside a covenant community could result in making one ceremonially unclean.

Although religious obedience initially excuses the woman for her inhospitality, the act of withholding may be indicative of her felt disintegration. Not only is she set apart with respect to religious obligations, but she is also isolated from her own community. Cultural conventions would have provided a further dimension to her plight too, since it was socially unacceptable for men and woman to converse publicly.

Not only was Jesus breaking boundaries through initiating their conversation, he was also mending the rift between their respective communities. Despite their religious, racial, and gender differences, Jesus’ request functions as an invitation into a new life – one marked by reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins.

In asking for a drink of water Jesus invites the woman to become generous with her own resources, perhaps showing her that the path towards integration includes the release of one’s grip over material provisions: it is in giving away that the human person discovers real abundance since it is for communion that we have been made.

Despite living in a highly connected world, many people today still experience loneliness and isolation. Polarisations can have the same impact too, whenever used to identify groups or individuals. In what ways might you become generous this week on your frontline? How might you share your resources with others? How might you become a picture of the divine life?

 

Andrew Hutchinson
Events & Office Operations Manager, LICC

Join in the conversation in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Jesus also does not claim a right to receive the water (which of course He fundamentally has), rather His question is framed so that He does not dispute, but acknowledges her right to draw water, and makes a request for Mercy from her.

    By Nigel Sabell  -  6 Sep 2021
  2. Helpful reminder of how counterintuitive the Gospel really is. It’s so easy, when faced with someone who is different from us, to keep a firm grasp on our identity, and lose sight that being in Christ means being ready to give ourselves, including our resources, away to others, and in so doing, we flourish! Thank you Andrew.

    By Lesley Tate  -  6 Sep 2021
  3. Followers of Jesus can be praying for God to show them who are the lonely people around them.
    Pray for His eyes to see them and His heart to love them and reach out them.
    Ask Him to help us be generous with time and a listening ear on our frontlines – even with those who a very ‘other’

    By L-J  -  6 Sep 2021
    • … those who are very ‘other’

      By L-J  -  6 Sep 2021
  4. It sounds to me like, given the context, Jesus is also making her “valuable” above her own social status and step above her own perception of worthiness.

    By Pablo  -  6 Sep 2021
  5. “Although her accusers had fists of stones, it must’ve been the force of their words that she dreaded most.“

    Really? I get what you mean about the force of the words, but since the intent of the stones was to kill her, I don’t think you can justify this assertion at all.

    And please can there be another word than “frontline”. That’s a battle analogy. It seems odd to use that phrase as often as LICC does. Unless you wish to convey that every moment of every day is some kind of spiritual warfare – maybe it is, but I am not at all sure that’s what you are saying by using the term “frontline”. I think you’re talking about “everyday life where we have the opportunity to live in a Christlike fashion”. Using frontline here, an allusion to and image of war seems lazy.

    By Adrian P Beney  -  13 Sep 2021
  6. I was caught in the middle of my sin
    (John 8v1-11)
    I was caught in the middle of my sin
    Not worried about doing the wrong thing
    The door burst open and some men charged in
    Grabbed me and pushed me through the dust and the din

    Fingers pointing at me and accusing eyes
    In my shame and my sin; I had nowhere to hide
    Into the temple they drew me in front of the crowd
    Their shouts and their jeers echoing loud

    People crying ‘We found her in the very act
    Of adultery’, I was thinking ‘It takes two, that’s a fact’
    In front of me a man sat; another accuser
    Just what I needed – another abuser

    But this man seemed different; he just sat there in silence
    Bent over and started writing; would he stop the violence
    I was standing alone; I watched him and waited
    To see what he would do with breath that was bated

    He started to speak ; I strained to hear
    ‘Is there anyone who stands without sin here?’
    ‘Whoever is sinless let him cast the first stone
    In a very few moments my accusers were gone

    No-one now left to accuse me of sin
    All were now gone but me – and him!
    ‘Woman, where are they now the ones who condemned’
    It was clear to me he was not like them

    Words of wisdom indeed but there was something more
    ‘Go your way and sin no more’

    By Eddie Currie  -  13 Sep 2021

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