19 Mar 2017

The Samaritan Woman at the Well

Every time I read the Samaritan woman's story, something new catches my attention.   Not only is this dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman the longest theological debate that Jesus had with anyone, it is also a story where Jesus is challenged by a woman.  In Jesus' time it was believed that a woman's role was in the private sphere, where she was to look after the home and the rearing of the children.  However the Samaritan woman does not follow the accepted norms of her day.  If she had then there would never have been a theological discussion and she would never have become a disciple by spreading the word of God to those in the city.  If she had followed the cultural norms when Jesus had asked for a drink, she would have gone home and Jesus would never have revealed himself as the Messiah to her.     

It is an incredible story to think that it took her only a few hours to challenge Jesus, understand Jesus and accept that he was the Messiah.  The apostles had been with Jesus for a few years but they did not understand who he was.  She challenged Jesus by asking if he is 'greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it'.  She then begins to understand by saying  'I perceive that you are a prophet'.  And when the woman said 'I know that Messiah is coming; when he comes, he will show us all things, Jesus answers 'I who speak to you am he' she accepts that Jesus is the Messiah.  She gained a rich insight into who Jesus was by asking questions.  She was eager to learn.

Jesus said to her when they first meet 'Give me a drink'.  After Jesus spoke to her about water and eternal life, she said to Jesus 'Give me this water.'  She copies what he has said to her.  This shows her gradual understanding and acceptance of what Jesus is saying to her.  The Samaritan woman's story is a powerful story because it places her in the centre of the story with Jesus.  When the apostles return with food, Jesus tries to explain to them about food and eternal life but they did not understand him.  They did not say give me this food, unlike the Samaritan woman who asked for the water and by doing so engaged in a theological discussion with Jesus which resulted in her knowing that Jesus is the Messiah, not his apostles. 

I always marvel at why Jesus chose this Samaritan woman to reveal himself as the Messiah to.  Culturally and religiously speaking it would have been much easier and more appropriate to have revealed himself to his Jewish male apostles.  However Jesus did not do this.  Instead he chose a Samaritan woman, who was alone at the well without any other women and the man she was living with was not her husband.  Yet Jesus does not dwell on these facts as many male theologians have done so throughout the ages.  Instead he sees a woman who challenges, understands and accepts that he is the Messiah.  She brings people to listen to what Jesus has to say and they ask him to stay for two days.  This shows that he is a true disciple of Jesus, bringing people to hear the word of God.    

Just as the Samaritan woman left her water jar behind in order to become a disciple of Jesus, it is time for us to follow in her footsteps, leave our water jars behind and become disciples of Jesus.

E Sexton.

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