Monday, April 11, 2011

John 4: 4-7, 10, 16-18 –Woman at the Well

Scripture John 4: 4-7, 10, 16-18 –Woman at the Well

He (Jesus) had to pass through Samar'ia. So he came to a city of Samar'ia, called Sy'char, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samar'ia to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."

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."

Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, `I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly."


Every detail matters.

Jesus is passing through Samaria. That itself is strange. Samaritans were a half breed and weren’t respected. A pious Jew avoided Samaria and would go around it but Jesus passes right through it. Why? He likes sinners. That’s where Jesus goes. Through the land of sin and He comes to a well and there He sits down.

Now, if you were a Biblically minded person of the first century reading this book and you read the word ‘well’ – you know what you’d be thinking? Marriage!

Wells were always associated with in the Old Testament with marriage. Isaac was looking for a wife so his father Abraham send his servant and he sits down by a well and he spies the woman to become Isaac’s wife. Moses sits down by a well and there are the daughters of Jethro, one of who will become his wife. And most famously here, Jacob sits down by a well and he spies Rachel who becomes his wife. Wells were associated with marriage.

Jesus, in his own person, is the marriage of heaven and earth. In His own person , He is the coming together of divinity and humanity and He has come among us as a bridegroom looking for a bride. We are His bride – the Church. Jesus wants to marry us.

This is how the story commences.

Furthermore, John tells us it was about noon. Hmm, just a coincidental comment? Nothing in John is incidental, especially when it comes to times of the day. Noon! Jesus says I am the light of the world. When Judas leaves the cenacle after betraying the Lord, it says he went out and it was night. Nicodemus came at night so he wouldn’t be seen by men. Night symbolizes lack of vision – they don’t get it. Light – that is the illumination of revelation. This story commences at high noon. There is a lot of light going on – a lot of illumination and brilliance.

Then we read a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Here comes the bride. The bridegroom is there waiting by the well. The Samaritan woman stands for us – she stands for the church. The one who Jesus wants to marry. What does He say to her? He says ‘Give me a drink’

Oh, there is a revolution in that little line. Throughout the Old Testament the theme of our thirst for God is common “Like a deer that yearns for running streams so my soul is yearning for you O Lord’ Psalm 42. We are thirsting for God of course, but here is a great reversal. God in one sense is also thirsting for us, because God in Christ is thirsty for our faith, thirsty for our response, thirsty to be married to us.

Boy, does she respond negatively to this question. How come? Well, because this woman is a triple outsider.

Firstly, she is a woman. In Jesus time, for a man to speak to a woman was unheard of so she is taken aback by that. Secondly, she is a Samaritan – for a Jew a Samaritan was no good, a half breed. Thirdly and more subtly –she is a woman coming alone to a well at high noon. Women didn’t do that. Women came together at better times of the day. If you are in the desert country, the better times of the is either early morning or evening when the sun wasn’t so hot and you’d be with your friends to make the work easier and more pleasant. There is a single woman coming at noon. How come? She is an outcast. She is seen as a shady questionable figure and you’ll find out later why. She is a triple outsider, meaning just the kind of person Jesus loves. Whenever we feel like triple or quadruple outsiders, ok, Jesus loves us. He wants to marry us. We are the ones He is after. There is some good news here.

So He says ‘Give me a drink’, when she responds Jesus follows up with: "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."

There is the whole Gospel in that line. If you knew the gift of God – that is the best description of Jesus in the Bible. Who is God? God is the one who gives. Does God need this world? No. God is God. God is perfect needing nothing outside of Himself. Therefore the very fact that the world exists is a sign that it is a gift. It was given to us in love. What is the greatest gift God has given us? His own Son. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. If you knew the gift of God – that is who Jesus is. What would you have done? You would have asked Him for living water and He would have given you living water bubbling up to eternal life.

Saint Augustine wrote the well that she goes to symbolizes concupiscence desire – that is a fancy way of saying errant desire – skewed desire. All of us are made for God. Augustine wrote “You made us for your self O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”. We are wired for God. We are made for God. We have an infinite desire. What goes wrong for us? We hook that infinite desire into something less than God – money, power, pleasure and glory. Any worldly thing and we seek it. And we get a little buzz the way you would from any drug but then it wears off. That is not meant to satisfy me. It can’t satisfy me. What am I going to do? I’m going to get more of it. I need more money, sex, power. You pick your poison.

You go to the well. You drink from it and you get thirsty again. And we find ourselves caught in this rhythm of errant addictive desire. Why has Christ come? To break us from this.

I know you came to this well every day and you are unsatisfied. I have come that you might have water bubbling up in you that you might have eternal life.

Jesus says, ‘Go call your husband and come back’ She says I have no husband and He says “You are right in saying, `I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband.

Aah, this Rabbi is clever. Why is this important spiritually? We have to crack the symbolism a little bit. I know it is a little bit sexist but I know it can speak to us. In Jesus time, your husband is one who governed your life – the leader and governor of your life. What is Jesus saying? Tell me who it is that is running your life? Call your husband. I don’t have a husband. Yeah you have had five and the one you are with now is not your husband. You have been looking around in a lot of bad places for the governor of your life.

Jesus is proposing marriage here at the well. I want to be the Lord of your life. That is what He is saying to her. You have been around with lots of different husbands, you’ve tried to find joy by following all kinds of different inspirations. I want to be the governor of your life. And in this sense, brothers and sisters, this applies to all of us. I want to be your husband. I want to be the Lord of your life. That is what He is telling the woman and telling us.

This is how it ends.

The woman left her water jar and went away into the city, and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?"
First of all – that water jar that she lugged every day at high noon to that well. Drinking from it and getting thirsty again and having to go back to it. Money, power, esteem, glory – whatever it is – whatever our addiction is. What we think will fill up our lives when we go back to that well every day and then we drink and we are unsatisfied and we gotta go back. Now that she has accepted a marriage proposal from Jesus Christ, now that she has water bubbling up in her to eternal life, she is finally able to set that jar down.

Aah, conversion. That is what conversion means.

What is the water jar in your life? That is a good spiritual question.
What is the jar we have been lugging around all our lives?
Jesus allows us to set it down. The woman becomes the first evangelist in the Gospel of John. She goes into the town “Listen, listen everybody”.

When you see something beautiful, you don’t keep it to yourself do you? You want everyone to know about it. So when she meets Jesus Christ, she has found Him now as the marriage partner of her life. Of course, she wants to tells the world about Him. Evangelism begins with conversion. When we fall in love with Jesus Christ, we learn to adore Him, then we want all the world to know about him.

Source: Conversion – Following The Call of Christ
Father Robert Barron

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