March 21, 2014

Meet me at the well

By Abby Deaton, a junior communication major from Indianapolis
SCRIPTURE: John 4:5-42 (NRSV)

We can only live a few days without water. In a desert, where water is scarce, there wouldn’t be many options for finding water. You would have to go to the well.

When Jesus went to the well, tired and thirsty from his journey, he ended up meeting a Samaritan woman. Samaritan religion and Judaism were fairly similar, but they disagreed about a few key issues. Yet, those disagreements were big enough that when Jesus and the Samaritan woman met at the well, they both started to feel a little uncomfortable.

Jesus had three options in this situation:

1. He could tell the Samaritan woman to leave. He was a man and she was a woman. In this situation, he probably had the authority to do just that. He could deny this woman his company and access to life-giving water.

2. He could have left the well himself. If he didn’t want to tell her to leave or she refused to go, he could walk away from that well, leaving parched and tired.

3. He could stay. He could stay and talk to her. He could stay and preach to her. He could stay and learn from her. He could stay and create community, create fellowship, create a relationship. He could stay and she could stay and no one would have to leave thirsty.

As Christians, we thirst for the living water that Jesus offered the Samaritan woman. We meet at wells like churches, conventions and schools. When we meet, we often meet people who are different from us. We see our different opinions on key issues and we get uncomfortable. What we need to remember is why we came to the well in the first place: we were thirsty. God has granted us not only the gift of living water, but sharing that experience with a diverse group of people. So when we meet at the well, maybe we should stop thinking, “What should I do?” and start remembering what Jesus did.

SCRIPTURE: John 4:5-42 (NRSV)

The Samaritan woman at the well

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 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.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ 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 the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’




Comments (11)

  1. I SOOOOOO needed to read this! Thank you.

    Sandy wright March 21, 2014 |
  2. thoughtful and timely reflection. thanks

    mark March 21, 2014 |
  3. What a good devotional for the day before World Water Day!

    David Knight March 21, 2014 |
  4. Thanks for the devotion. I disagree with one small characterization though. Jesus wasn’t the situation. Jesus unlike us was never uncomfortable.

    Brian R March 21, 2014 |
  5. I love this message. next time I encounter someone different from me, I will think about trying to “meet them at the well.” Thank you.

    nanci Bockelie March 21, 2014 |
  6. Yes we need to remember Jesus is the real reason!!!!

    bob March 21, 2014 |
  7. Good work, Abby. When we look at the lack of water in the western states, it is a sign of hope that Goshen College has its “green” center. May we all work to keep water free for every living person!

    Norm Morford March 21, 2014 |
  8. A well that will never run dry…and we can drink of it each day.( As a child of our Heavenly Father, we are blessed with this gift) Thank you for this reminder.LU

    Alberta Deaton Snodgrass March 22, 2014 |
  9. I wrote this for the an Advent devotion. Your devotional was so powerful, What follows is, perhaps a “new” way that I saw John 4. Thank you for your moving thoughts.

    Meditation on John 4
    John Hofstetter

    In late winter, months before leaves arrive but in sync with the garlic chives, the fat, white flowers of our oriental magnolia open. Each year bold luxurious blooms dare the hard frost.
    Like the early blossoms, the early church was blessing the Middle East with the emerging kingdom of God. If we read the account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar in a new way, maybe this familiar story can be a scripture passage appropriate for reading, meditating on, and praying on during advent? And maybe timing it thus would challenge us to uncover some of the symbolism buried in this familiar story.
    What if the author of John meant when he wrote the word Jesus not Yeshua of 30 CE Palestine — who for aggravated assault in the Jerusalem temple around a Passover festival, was crucified by Rome? What if John uses “Jesus” to stand for the followers of Yeshua among John’s congregation.
    Some scholars guess that John, the Disciple, wrote this gospel around 100 CE. Three decades before, in retaliation for an armed rebellion, Rome obliterated the Jerusalem temple, Herod’s temple. On its site, Rome put an altar to the Emperor. To pander to patrons of the temple revelries, a pig sty was most likely nearby.
    John’s congregation considered themselves devout Jews. But they called themselves followers of “The Way.” Furthermore, by 100 CE “The Way” was too small to bring down Rome’s wrath. Rather Christians, as they would be called, fought for survival among various neighboring Jewish sects.
    “Jesus,” a la Jews of The Way, the body of Christ in that world, had to turn their backs on their former temple-centered faith. They sought a totally new way to understand and worship YWH. Furthermore, half a century earlier with the Disciples’ tepid blessing, Apostle Paul scattered his “new covenant” with YWH throughout the Roman world. Paul’s cadre went so far as to toss circumcision out as a sacred boundary-issue.
    I believe the chronology in this gospel is a clue for its symbolism in this passage. In John before we arrive at Chapter 4, “Jesus” first taught the Jewish ruling council in Jerusalem, Next it overwhelmed and supplanted the baptism by John – repentance for breaking Jewish law, which required the fresh waters of Galilee. Now “Jesus” had to move on – next stop Samaria.
    What might the woman at the well in Sychar (a place of drunkenness and debauchery), Samaria be about? For “Jesus” was this a picture of not only their new venue but their new brethren?
    Devout Jews had a three-layer universe. Heaven was a dome above a flat Earth. Below disc-like Earth was Hades, place of the dead. For nurture and survival “Jesus” needed water from the well – water from beneath the earth.
    Water in the Bible usually means refreshment, purity, prosperity, heaven. But “The Way” was growing and flowering not through the zeal of genetic Jews, but at the hands of women and by spirit-guided work of the unclean, impious, and deviant.
    And by 100 CE the disciples of Yeshua were gone. Most were martyred or far away, forming congregations throughout the world. Predictably, whenever the saints came back into the picture and start throwing their weight around – not liking what they see – they insist that all eat. But eat what? Communion? A Seder?
    “Jesus” says no, instead my food comes from a mysterious unspeakable spiritual source. “Open your eyes and look at the fields. They are ripe for the harvest.” Can that be translated, don’t waste time on the practices and the misguided ones still conforming to temple-centered worship?
    So away goes “Jesus,” into the market-place, amid drunkards, half breeds, and scum. There the difference God’s kingdom makes shines out with spectacular radiance.
    This Christmas as every Christmas, the buds of my magnolia out front are full, fuzzy, and green. They are poised expectantly for early flowering in springtime. At Christmastide, a celebration and expectation of new flowering, must we YWH’s chosen, return both to this story and to Sychar for living water – for new spiritual flowering?

    John Hofstetter March 23, 2014 |
  10. Abby, wish I had read this before preaching on this passage last Sunday. I like your image of our meeting places as wells.

    Jeni Hiett Umble March 24, 2014 |
  11. What insightful thoughts in option #3! I will think of what you wrote whenever I read that scripture. Thanks!

    Margie Keiser March 26, 2014 |