As Pastor Randy (Brown, from the Montesano Baptist Church) pointed out last Friday, he could only focus on a portion of the scripture passage in order to keep to our time schedule. The same is true today, so I will consider primarily the dialogue between Jesus and the amazing Samaritan woman.
Jesus is on a journey from Judaea to Galilee and he takes a short cut through Samaria. Jews often took the long way round since relationships between them and the Samaritans were strained over their understandings of scriptures and holy sites. The differences ran so deep the Samaritans were looked upon as enemies and outsiders. To the Jews the Samaritans were unclean, untouchable even.
So Jesus arrives at Sychar to the place of Jacob's well at the sixth hour or high noon. In the heat of the day Jesus is tired and thirsty. He sits down by the well. A Samaritan woman comes to draw water and Jesus said, "Will you give me a drink?"
Quickly the Samaritan woman points out the ethnic, religious and gender divide that separates the two of them. In those days men did not greet women in public and Jews would have no contact with any Samaritan. Jesus offers no response to the problem of long standing tradition instead, moves the conversation to deeper spiritual things, speaking of living water.
This forthright and courageous woman forges ahead with more practical concerns. "Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?" These two are on completely different levels of conversation, of course, the woman; worldly and pragmatic, Jesus; spiritual and life giving.
Have you ever taken part in a conversation like that? Perhaps with your children when they were young? They offered up a plan for an adventure that to them would be so very exciting with no thought of possibly problems or dangers. You, the wise parent immediately foresees any number of calamities along the way.
Or you might have a good friend whose political beliefs are way in the opposite direction of your views, which of course, are reasonable and correct. That's how far apart are the words of Jesus and this woman from Samaria.
Jesus tries again to draw the woman into his invitation to partake of a spring of abundant water welling up to eternal life. Here the woman begins to see the advantage of water that forever quenches thirst, then it suddenly dawns on her that she would never again have to make the daily trek to draw water for her household. What a welcome solution to a tiring task. Now she understands Jesus is offering not a mere cup of water but an unending gushing stream of water.
She says to Jesus, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty nor have to keep coming here again and again to draw water."
Conversation takes another twist as Jesus comments on her life style, knowing she has had five husbands and the man with whom she lives is not her husband. She has been truthful with him and Jesus does not judge her. Her marital history is of no concern to him. Jesus' insight into her words and life leads her to declare, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet." As this story ends, she comes to see the full truth of Jesus.
He is the Savior of the world.
This unique portion of scripture stands out for it is the longest recorded conversation between Jesus and another and particularly because that person is a woman. To the people of the day, Jesus is acting in the most radical, shocking and scandalous manner imaginable. He completely shatters long held traditions.
This meeting stands in dire contrast to the one with Nicodemus. He came to Jesus at night and left confused. The woman came at high noon and leaves caught up in Jesus' revelation. Excitedly, she proclaims him to the people of her village. It's as if the fountain within promised by Jesus has begun to well up, bringing life not only to her but to those around her. Jesus himself seems to be energized by the exchange. She leaves behind her water jar and he forgets his request for a drink.
Because Jesus breaks through the barriers which exclude so many that for so long have been the outsiders, now his life giving words reached the whole city of Sychar.
Don't you suppose that Jesus intentionally took this short cut to Galilee, not to save time but to minister to a region traditionally avoided by others? Did he choose this way less traveled for the purpose of ministering to the untouchables and outsiders?
Jesus waits for us at the well. Will his presence enrich and inspire our ministry? Do we fully embrace God's vision of all people worshiping together on the same mountain? Is our community and are our churches free of boundaries and obstacles? Are we truly inclusive?
Will our life of faith and discipleship be refreshed in spirit and in truth by Jesus, a treasure of living water?