A Gospel reading of contrasts
- “Chosen” people (the Jews) – “rejected” people (the Samaritans)
- Light and darkness: Jesus at the well at the sixth hour (about noon). Contrast with Nicodemus who came to Jesus at night! When Jesus was crucified, darkness came over the land from noon (sixth hour) to the ninth hour – 3 o’clock.
- “Living waters” – as opposed to the allegedly healing waters of Bethesda last Sunday. On Pentecost we will learn from John’s Gospel again that the “living waters” are Jesus way of referring to the Holy Spirit. In Jeremiah 2:13 God laments that his people have forsaken him, “the fountain of living waters.” Isaiah 12:3 envisions the joy with which people “will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
Jesus in John’s Gospel is identified as Creator and life-giver – The Logos: All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. In him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:1-5).
Jesus’ thirst was the incentive for the conversation! Was he only thirsty for water? Wasn’t he also thirsty for human interaction, conversation? Isn’t that God’s basic longing? Isn’t that part of why Jesus is the Logos? Why the Bible is the word of God, but also the word of man?
- Jesus speaks of spiritual thirst – the woman speaks of literal thirst. Another contrast? Or, rather just two sides of the same basic human craving. The well was a place of conversation in that part of the world – especially for women. Water is essential to life. So is conversation! And I don’t mean texting.
The woman switches the subject to religion. Who is right? We Samaritans or you Jews? Where is the proper place to worship God? Here on our mountain or in Jerusalem? Jesus’ answer is shocking: No place – not yours, not ours. We must worship God in spirit and truth.
The woman is not convinced – this is too advanced for her, too radical, so she finds a way out: “When Messiah comes, he will reveal all things to us.” Which draws a momentous self-revelation from Jesus: I AM, εγώ ειμι. Jesus habitually resisted identifying himself as Messiah – but he does to this Samaritan woman, a woman not of his own religion.
A story in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper told of two native-American teenagers signed up for a tour of Colorado State University. One mother called the police because they looked like “they don’t belong.” She said they were quiet and “creepy” and “really stand out.” “They don’t belong” – that’s what Jews thought of Samaritans, and vice versa. That’s what many Christians today think of people who don’t look like us.
What was that line by Rabbi Sacks last week? God asks us to see His image in one who is not in my image. If we worship God in spirit and truth, we don’t see differences. We see the image of God. We see the life-giver Christ, we see the Logos who gave life to all people.