Summary: Compare and contrast Jesus' dealings with Nicodemus a Jewish Rabbi and the woman at the well.
TSL/ WSMM 23-03-14
Jesus and the Samaritan woman -Jn 4:5-42
Story: A man was travelling on a train crossing the desert in Arizona.
Surprisingly, he was the only person in the car who had not pulled down the shades on the windows to keep the glare of the hot sun on the parched earth out.
In contrast to the other passengers, he kept looking out his window and seemed to actually enjoy the dismal scene.
After a while, a man seated across the aisle, asked him "Excuse me what do you see in that wasteland that makes you smile?"
"Oh," he replied," I'm in the irrigation business, and I was thinking - if we could only get water to this land - this desert will become a garden."
He was the only one who could not see the potential of the desert in Arizona
That's what Jesus is teaching His disciples in the Gospel reading today.
He was the only one who could see the potential in the desert of the Samaritan woman’s heart, once it is irrigated by the Holy Spirit.
And wants us to see people as He sees them.
For every one of them is precious in His sight.
By divine grace, they can become a new creation, made beautiful in holiness.
Yes - even an unnamed Samaritan woman.
For the orthodox Jews, she would have been beyond the pale for two reasons
1. She was a Samaritan (a half cast - Gentile)
2. She was a woman.
In the Sedur (the Jewish prayer book) we find this prayer.
"Blessed are you, God, King of the Universe, for not having made me a Gentile."
"Blessed are you, God, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave."
Blessed are you, God, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman."
This prayer is said every morning by millions of Jewish men around the world.
Jesus - in contrast was at home with the high and low in society.
In last Sunday’s lectionary reading, Jn 3: 1-21 we read of Jesus’ conversation with the Rabbi Nicodemus – someone from High Society.
This week, we read of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman – the woman at the well someone right at the other end of the social spectrum.
She was everything that Nicodemus was not.
As one Bible commentator put it:
“He was a Jew, she was a Samaritan
He was a man, she was a woman
He was learned, she was ignorant,
He was morally upright, she was of loose morals
He was wealthy and from the upper class, she was ignorant, probably an outcast
He recognised Jesus’ merits, she saw him only as a curious traveller.
Nicodemus was serious and dignified, she was flippant and possibly boisterous” (John: The Gospel of Belief - M.C.Tenney p.92)
Jesus treated people as individuals – and not as pew fodder.
And so we see Jesus presenting her with the Gospel in
a totally different way to the way he presented it to Nicodemus.
He brought the Gospel to Nicodemus by giving him an intellectual conundrum. “You must be born again” - and telling him to go away and think about it.
He brought the Gospel to the woman at the well, by telling her about things in her life - through his prophetic power - that no mere stranger could have known.
Jesus often defied convention, if it would give him an opportunity to share the Gospel.
Conventional wisdom said that this meeting should never have taken place.
There were at least three good reasons that I can think of why no self-respecting Rabbi would have talked to this Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar:
1. She was a Samaritan
2. A single man did not strike up a conversation with a lone woman and
3. She had a pretty loose moral history. She had been married five times and now was living with a man who wasn’t her husband.
Yet Jesus defied convention.
Why? Because he saw a person who needed the Gospel.
Jesus touched her at her point of need.
His courteous questions awakened her spiritual need.
As you follow the story, you get the feeling that Jesus is like an angler fishing for trout.
First, Jesus casts his bait by asking her for a drink and then follows it up by saying:
“If you knew …..who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10)
And before she realises it – she’s hooked into a religious conversation.
And then he reels her in slowly.
He invites her to drink from “a spring of water that will well up to eternal life.” (Jn 4:13) and she responds by asking Jesus to give her that water.