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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. Heís 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 doesnít come in the evening with the other women?
In any case sheís 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." Thereís nothing intimidating or threatening about the way he begins. In fact itís a very natural conversation starter isnít it?
Whatís more, although he knows something about her, as we discover later in the conversation, he doesnít 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 doesnít he? Heís asking her for a favour.
But heís doing more than that. Heís 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 weíre 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 thatís 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 thatís 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 donít know if heís thought this out beforehand. Itís 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 itís 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 other examples. In Jer 2, God accuses his people of two things. He says: "My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water." But then as the prophecies of salvation appear we get the other side: of God promising to give them living water again. Ezekielís great vision of the temple
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