Summary: A sermon about light and darkness.
"Creatures of the Light"
Last week we talked about how the Gospel of John uses the metaphors of darkness and light over and over again in deeply symbolic ways.
For instance, in John Chapter 1 we are told that "the light (Who is Jesus) shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn't extinguish it."
Then it says that the world came into being through Jesus--"the light"-- but "the world didn't recognize the light."
"The light came to his own people, but his own people didn't welcome him.
But to those who did welcome him, to those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God's children, born not from blood or from human desire or passion, but born from God."
Then we went on to look at John Chapter 3 where Nicodemus, a Jewish leader came to Jesus under the cover of night to ask Jesus some questions.
And Jesus told Him that in order to enter the Kingdom of God he would have to be "born again," or "born anew," or "born from above."
For "Whatever is born of flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit."
But Nicodemus didn't understand Jesus' teaching.
And he ended his conversation with Jesus by asking: "How are these things possible?"
And then he faded back into the shadows of the night.
And night, in the Gospel of John, symbolizes separation from God.
It's not a mistake that John Chapter 4 brings us the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.
The contrast between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman is striking, and we are meant to notice this contrast.
Many have suggested that the story of Nicodemus and the story of the Woman and the Well are meant to be read together.
Think about it.
Nicodemus is a Jewish Religious Ruler who comes to Jesus at night, and then after a conversation with "The Light"--Who is Jesus--fades back into the night in fear, misunderstanding and unbelief.
The Samaritan Woman meets Jesus at noon, at the height of day--in the bright sunlight.
Nicodemus is an insider, a leader, a big-wig.
He is a man in a man's world.
The Woman at the Well is a hated Samaritan, and she's a woman, and women had no social status whatsoever in Jesus' day.
In the eyes of the Jews she is a nobody, a half-breed, hardly even human.
She, unlike Nicodemus, doesn't even have a name--we are never told her name, that is.
She is a religious, social, and political outsider, but she meets Jesus at noon, in full daylight.
And the contrast between the two conversations is even more extraordinary!!!
Whereas Nicodemus is unable to move beyond the confines of his religious system, the Samaritan woman moves outside of her religious expectations to engage Jesus in a theological debate.
And, whereas, John 3:17 indicates that Nicodemus is unable to believe that Jesus is God's Son, the Samaritan woman actually listens and hears Jesus say that He is God-Made-Flesh when He refers to Himself by the name of God in John 4:26 by saying, "I Am."
And while Nicodemus' last questioning words to Jesus expose his disbelief, the last words of the Samaritan Woman lead her to witness to her whole town!!!
What are we to make of this?
The traditional way of interpreting the Samaritan Woman at the Well is that she is an outcast, a shamed sinful woman, an adulterer who is forced to come to draw water in the heat of the day by herself--as opposed to when the rest of the women in the village would have drawn water--which would have been before the sun rose in the morning and then again at dusk.
Tradition has compelled us to judge this woman as an outcaste in her town.
And this may be true.
But, the text itself never says anything about any sin this woman has committed, nor does it ever say that Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more," as He does with other folks in other situations.
With this said, in verses 16-18 we have this dialogue, "Jesus said to her, "Go, get your husband, and come back here.
The woman replied, 'I don't have a husband.'"
To which Jesus replies, "You are right to say, 'I don't have a husband. You've had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn't your husband.
You've spoken the truth.'"
It is these verses which have given the most credence to those who say that the Woman at the Well was some sort of prostitute or reprobate.
But, back in the day we are talking about, again, women had no rights.
Women were considered to be the property of their husbands.
So, this woman would have had no control over the fact that she had had five husbands in the past.