John 4A The Bad Samaritan

Questions: How should we relate to our neighbors?Does Jesus care about our sex life? What is worth worshipping? Are all religions equally correct? Can they quench our deepest thirst?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.

John 4:1-26

When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee

While this passage implies quite a bit about Jesus’ desire to avoid a public rivalry with John, the key point for our story is that Jesus is merely passing through Samaria to get somewhere else:

And he must needs go through Samaria.Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with [his] journey, sat thus on the well: [and] it was about the sixth hour.

And given that he had no jar to draw water from the well, at first glance it seems only natural that he’d ask a passer-by for a drink:

There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)

Except, of course, for the fact that such things were never done, as the woman is quick to point out:

Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

Oops, two faux-pas in one: talking to an unescorted women, and crossing the Jewish-Samaritan boundary. What was Jesus thinking?

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

Whoa, where did that come from? One begins to suspect that Jesus may have had a motive greater than thirst which caused him to break the cultural gap and speak; though if so, it seems lost on her:

The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

To me, she sounds both mystified and offended; after all, Jacob’s well is no doubt the towns primary claim to fame, and who is he to one-up Jacob? In fact, the well is presumably a key part of their oft-disputed claim to being legitimate children of Israel, one of the sorest points in Jewish-Samaritan relations. Who is Jesus to dis that?

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Now, I can’t tell whether she is sincerely hopeful or scornfully mocking, but either way she decides to call his bluff:

The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

Then Jesus plays a wild card:

Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

Wham! Where did that come from? Where is he going?

The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

Now, a more cynical person might think Jesus is just trying to distract her from his inability to pull a perpetual geyser up out of the earth. Yet, given how artfully Jesus is managing the conversation, it seems as if this is in fact exactly what he wanted to get to. Why?

Well, the obvious answer would be that her sexual dysfunction is what lies at the root of her inability to receive Jesus’ living water. Or, at least that her “acting out” is the way she “self-medicates” herself to compensate for the lack of such water. And thus Jesus has to break the bone in order to reset it.

Ouch. In more ways than one.

The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.

Very quick of her. 🙂 And in fact, she has a quick retort:

Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

Now, some understandably see this as another distraction. However — especially if you accept that this is a condensed summary of an extended discussion– this does make a certain amount of logical sense. Jesus has already ripped away one veil of her shame, so maybe she’s hoping against hope he can help her deal with another.

If so (I suspect it is a little of both) then her hope is duly rewarded:

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.

Wow. Can you imagine how liberating that message would be? To someone who felt cursed by her birth (being a Samaritan, not a Jew), and then doubly cursed by her serial adultery — to be told that none of that mattered, and that God was willing to accept her if she’d simply just submit to him in truth?

Wow. Now wonder she dares to bring up the impossible hope of the Messiah:

The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.

They even she couldn’t possibly imagine his response:

Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am [he].

Dang! Let us pause a while to ponder that, and pick up here next time.


Dear God, I want to confess that I fail to look at people the way Jesus does. I am neither humble enough to admit my needs, nor loving enough to see theirs. Worse, I hide from you even more than the Samaritan women does, using religious discourse as a facade over my inner brokenness. Father, give me your living water, that quenches the deeper thirst of my soul. Grant me the courage to expose myself to you in spirit and in truth, that I may discover that you are the source of all I seek. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.