Summary: We must open ourselves to God’s love and grace, fully, and let His light illuminate the dark corners of our lives and bring healing and grace to our wounded places and reconciliation to our broken relationships.
“Drawing from a Deeper Well” – John 4:5-42
We began our Lenten journey with our Adam & Eve covered in fig leaves setting out from the Garden of Eden into the world of the unknown. Last week we saw Abraham answering the call to leave everything behind and set his heart toward the far country of Canaan. Other Lenten texts take us through the wilderness with Moses & the Israelites trying to find the Promised Land and of course Jesus’ wilderness journey for 40 days and nights where he was tempted.
Today’s text follows the journey of Jesus through Samaria. It begins with the interesting statement that Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” We need to understand the tension between Jews and Samaritans to appreciate the irony of that statement. First of all the Samaritans were a mixed race of people and secondly their religion was a splinter of Judaism that was not recognized by Jews. I think because of the parable of the Good Samaritan we Westerners assume a Samaritan is someone who does good things for others. While I’m sure many Samaritans did good things for others, we don’t understand the parable at all. If it were a Samaritan hurt on the side of the road, and Jesus said a Jew went down and helped him, all the Jewish listeners in the crowd would think, “Oh, what a compassionate and merciful man he was.” And they would feel even more above the Samaritans, but in Jesus parable it’s the Jew who is hurt in the ditch that no one would help except for the Samaritan who had been looked down on, mistreated, and shamed by Jews all his life. It would be as if a Nazi storm trooper was laying on the side of the road critically injured during WWII and a Polish Jew stopped to help his oppressor.
So the irony is that while the shortest route from Judea to Galilee was through Samaria. Jews in Jesus’ day literally went out of their way around Samaria to the east through Perea crossing the Jordan River twice to get to Galilee because they despised Samaritans so much. Sometimes the shortest route can be the longest route, because it causes us to confront things in ourselves that are uncomfortable or even painful. The shortest route through Lent is to avoid it altogether, because it’s a harder journey if we take the time to do the inner work of reflection, confession, repentance, and forgiveness. It’s always easier to avoid pain in our lives, but it doesn’t make pain go away.
Jesus being very human was tired and thirsty. He sat down by the well at noon and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink. Besides being a Samaritan, she was a woman, and they were alone, because the disciples had gone to buy supplies. We may not understand how socially unacceptable this conversation was in his day. But Jesus initiates the conversation by asking her for a drink, because she would have never spoken to him first. She immediately realized the tension of the moment. “How can you ask me for a drink?” What kind of Jew is this that asks for her help? Why should she help him after all? In life we are confronted by experiences and people that reveal our shortcomings, our pride, our prejudice, especially if we allow the Holy Spirit to do its work in us, searching, trying, & proving us. Sometimes things may come up that are uncomfortable and difficult to deal with. But those moments are opportunities to go forward and allow God to bring healing in us and shape us into the person He has called us to be.
Jesus responded with an offer of living water that would quench her deepest thirsts.
Jesus could draw water from the well because he had no bucket. He really was at her mercy for a drink. There was no telling how many times a day she had to make the trip from her home to the well to draw water for her family and her animals. Surely she was interested when Jesus offered living water. Obviously, she didn’t initially understand the kind of water that He was offering to her until he explained in v. 13.
It’s always easier to stay above the surface and not deal with the deeper spiritual issues that we struggle with or emotional and relationship issues that we may have. If we don’t go deeper and allow God to help us work through those, we cannot be healed nor give and receive forgiveness. Healing and reconciliation comes through being honest with ourselves and one another, admitting our mistakes, asking forgiveness, and being reconciled to God and one another. If we run away from the pain in our lives, we cannot be healed of it. But Jesus had a way of getting right to the heart of the matter.