Well, I’m sure you’ve all heard a sermon on the woman at the well a number of times. I think I’ve probably preached on it here at least twice before, so what I want to do today is not to look at all the features of the story, but just two or three important things that come out that might be relevant to us.
The story begins with Jesus on his way to Galilee. He comes to a town called Sychar and decides to stop for a rest. He sits down for a rest beside a well. He’s probably wishing he had a bucket so he could draw some water to drink. The disciples have gone off into this Samaritan village to buy some food and then a woman arrives in the normal course of her day to fetch water. In other words, this is an everyday encounter.
There are problems though - the woman comes in the heat of the day - could there be some reason why she doesn’t come in the evening with the other women?
In any case she’s a Samaritan woman and Jesus is a Jewish man. They should, by all rights, ignore each other.
But what does Jesus do? He starts up a conversation. And there are couple of things about the way he does it. First of all he begins at a very down to earth, pragmatic level. "Give me a drink." There’s nothing intimidating or threatening about the way he begins. In fact it’s a very natural conversation starter isn’t it?
What’s more, although he knows something about her, as we discover later in the conversation, he doesn’t treat her as someone who might be despised by an upright Jew. In fact he puts her in a position of power relative to him doesn’t he? He’s asking her for a favour.
But he’s doing more than that. He’s taking the opportunity that God has given him to make a connection with this woman so he can tell her the gospel. Do you remember when we looked at the first of our series on the sermon on the mount where Jesus told us we were salt and light, how I said that if we’re to be salt in the world, then we need to season our conversations with salt. That is, our everyday conversations. Even ones as prosaic as asking someone for a drink. Because that’s what Jesus does here. He takes an ordinary situation, an ordinary conversation and he turns it around to a conversation about eternal life. And the conversation is with a very ordinary woman, someone you would never pick as a potential convert, let alone an evangelist herself. Yet that’s what she becomes.
Well, Jesus begins the conversation with a request for a drink of water, but he quickly moves on from his material needs to her spiritual needs. Now I don’t know if he’s thought this out beforehand. It’s the sort of thing that a modern day school of evangelism would probably school us in. Or if the request for water just triggers an idea in his mind. Mind you it’s an idea that springs from his knowledge of the Old Testament. Our Old Testament reading today recalls the time during the exodus when God provided living water for his people in the middle of the desert. But there are