Summary: Jesus ministry to the Woman at the Well shows how to bring the message of God’s healing love to individuals; his efforts in Samaria changed a life, then Samaria, then Ephesus and resonates today in every nation where the Gospel is preached.
JOHN 4__1-42 THE WITNESS FROM THE SAMARITAN WELL
A cartoon pictures a medieval Crusader, standing in full armor and holding his shield. He also held his long sharp spear at the throat of a prisoner on the ground. The prisoner on the ground struggles to say, “Tell me more about your Christianity. I’m terribly interested!”
That’s the picture many in this country and around the world have of evangelism and evangelists. In view of Jesus’ teaching that we should love our enemies, and pray for those who use and abuse us, one can’t help but wonder why the picture of the Christian as a Crusader in armor, with sword, spear and dagger became such a popular image of an ideal Christian. We sing, Onward Christian Soldiers and Soldiers of Christ arise, put your armor on with much more gusto than we sing Bread of the World, in Mercy Broken. Why is that?
We Americans don’t want to impose our beliefs on other people. We don’t want to appear to be preachy or fanatic. It is easier to talk about a sports team or a new product than about a faith that changes our life. Why is that?
In the past 150 years, all Christian communions have increasingly attempted to hire professionals to tell the story of Jesus. Across all communion lines, Christians expect people to come to Church, instead of going to the people.
What did Jesus do? Jesus had 132 contacts with people. Six were in the Temple, four in the synagogues. All the others were out in life situations. One of the accusing comments the religious leaders threw at Jesus, was He connected with people they considered to be untouchables - outcasts - little people, rejects in their religious culture.
Who better to show us how to relate Christ’s message than Jesus Himself? As He encountered men and women, He defined for us gracious, personal interaction with needy people. The woman at the Well of Samaria 4 had deep needs. By every human standard, she’s didn’t matter to anyone. If she had dropped dead carrying water back from the well, people would barely have noticed. We don’t even know her name.
She lived in a culture that viewed women as less than fully human. They had few rights and were considered to be property. She was a Samaritan, a people despised, especially by the Jews. But, in His amazing way, Jesus transformed this woman’s life and used her as a model of personal witnessing to which He calls every Christian. What does He show us?
Think how John, the Disciple who wrote down this story saving it for us, used this story.
When Jesus talked to the Woman at the well, it likely was in Aramaic - a language similar to Hebrew. The version of the story we read today was written by John in Greek for it was most likely written a half century after the event in the City of Ephesus located on the Mediterranean Sea. The way Jesus taught the love of God to the Samaritan woman crossed many miles, 2 languages, 4 decades and a culture to bless the people at Ephesus. Jesus’ example and words still crosses cultures.
High on the hill above the city of Ephesus was a temple to a goddess the Greeks called Artemis and the Romans called Diana of the Ephesians. Paul , visiting the city 20 years after Jesus death, preached Jesus and was the cause of a riot. Demetrius, a silver merchant who made shrines to Diana stirred up the people of Ephesus saying, “Paul says that man made gods are no gods at all.” There was not only a great commercial interest at stake in the worship of the pagan gods, there was the political tie as well. Rome ruled. The Caesars were referred to as deities. Sacrifices and places of worship were erected in every European and Asian city where the local dieties and the Caesars were worshipped. The sacrifices at the altars provided a free meal for the locals who gathered there.
There was something special about the Ephesian worship of Artemis’Diana. Her image was not only of the huntress Diana, her imagery had merged with that of Cybele, the mother goddess of fertility. The worship of Diana of the Ephesians was made even more appealing as she was served by prositute priestesses at her temple. Ephesus was full of erotic imagery. Demetrius and his cohort knew that sex sells. Archaeologists have found many images of Diana-Artemis in Ephesus that date to the first century. Luke’s description of Paul’s visit to Ephesus rings true.
What has Paul’s visit to Ephesus and the worship of Diana-Artemis have do with the Gospel of John?
John the the Priest, John the Elder, the man who composed I, II, III John is the Son of Zebedee, the beloved Apostle and the person who wrote the Gospel according to John. John the Apostle, the Son of Zebedee, in obedience to Jesus’ command recorded in Matthew 28 to go to all the nations preaching the Gospel, went to Ephesus. He established a Church there and served as Priest-Bishop in that city until he was quite aged.