Transformed women at the well - recognizing Jesus
May only God’s word be spoken and only God’s word be heard - Amen
Here is a modern day parable that I hope will help shed light on our gospel today…
A few years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night's dinner. In their rush, with tickets and briefcases, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of apples. Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly missed boarding.
ALL BUT ONE!!!
He paused, took a deep breath, thought about what had happened and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned. He told his buddies to go on without him, asked one of them to call his wife when he arrived home and explain he’d be taking a later flight and waved good-bye. Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were all over the terminal floor.
He was glad he did. The 16 year old girl was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her, no one stopping and no one to care for her plight.
The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped organize her display. As he did this he noticed that many of them had become battered and bruised; these he set aside in another basket.
When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, "Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did. Are you okay?"
She nodded through her tears. He continued on with, "I hope we didn't spoil your day too badly."
As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind called out to him, "Mister...." He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. She continued, "Are you Jesus?"
He stopped in mid-stride and wondered what she’d meant. Then slowly he made his way to catch the later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his soul: "Are you Jesus?"
At first glance you might wonder what the connection of this story has to do with the Gospel today
Woman at the well - blind girl at an airport
First off - may I suggest that we examine our Gospel message a little further
It might surprise you to know, as it did - me, that the conversation which Jesus has with ‘the women at the well’ is longer then any other individual conversation recorded in the gospels
This fact alone poses one very big question - WHY
Let’s work through some of the details
We have Jesus and the disciples, traveling from Judea to Galilee
They are traveling there because - the heat has been turned up
The Pharisees, a powerful group of Jewish religious leaders, have had heard of the work of Jesus and the disciples and they were traveling to move away from the Judea to quiet back-waters Galilee
Traveling through Samaria and through Sychar is not necessarily the most direct route
However, our scripture tells us that “He had to pass through Samaria”
Maybe because of the pressure of the Pharisees, they took a route that respectable Jews would not look to find them
Maybe it was because Jesus had something more important in mind…
So Jesus and the disciples, reach the outskirts of the city Sychar and the disciples go ahead to buy food - Jesus is left at the well of Jacob - tired in the mid day heat and thirsty
A women - all by herself - came to draw water
In the desert, or any hot place, you don’t go out in the heat to do heavy work
Some of you might be familiar with the term ‘island time’
I know when I was in Fuji it was called ‘Fijian time” & I have heard that it is also called ‘Jamaican time’
In the heat - you move slowly and don’t look for hard work - like carrying heavy water
So this woman was out of touch with the other women of the city - who would have come in the cool of the morning or evening
We don’t know why she was coming at this wrong time of the day - it might have been because the other women didn’t want her with them
It might have been self-imposed, she might have not wanted to be with them
And we have possible reasons for this as Jesus reveals to her and us just what kind of woman she was
The conversation starts with Jesus asking her for water
She responds by telling us just how strange a request this is
You see Jews consider Samarians as half-breeds
Ever since Nehemiah helped lead the returning exiled Jews to build back the wall and temple in Jerusalem and challenged those with pagan wives to leave them, in a call for purity,
However the people that became the Samaritans refused and from that point on were regarded by the Jews as unclean and half-breeds
Jews and Samaritans had different centers of worship, different capital cities, and different Bibles. Jews believed the Scripture was composed on the Law and the Prophets. The Samaritans believed the Scripture was just composed of the Law. In Jewish eyes, Samaritans were ethnic traitors
Then there is the fact that she is a woman and Jesus a Rabbi
Men and women had nothing to do with each other in public - to give you an extreme example of this
One group of pious men was known as "the bruised and bleeding Pharisees" because they closed their eyes when they saw a woman coming down the street, even if it meant walking into a wall and breaking their noses.
On first glance she has three very big strikes against her
She is an outsider coming at the heat of the day by herself - a women in public - and a Samaritan
But it is to this person that Jesus has the longest recorded conversation with
The conversation is on two levels - the physical and the spiritual
Jesus’ request for water is meant with possibly with a cynical response
Here is another man talking to her even though he shouldn’t and she might be assuming he is like all the rest of the men she has come across
Jesus counters that with a subtle messianic claim and a counter-offer of ‘living waters’
The women’s understanding remains on the physical - questioning how Jesus could offer water without anything to draw water with
Again Jesus brings her back to the spiritual providing her with the offer of water springing up, coming up from the ground - so much that and that she would never be thirsty again, that it is the water eternal life
Again the women misses the true offer and again cynicism enters the conversation
She would like THIS water so that she might never be thirsty or work for water again
Seeing that she is not understanding what He is offering or especially who He is - Jesus tries another approach - “Go and get your husband!”
This question catches her off guard & she is forced to answer that she is without a husband
Jesus acknowledges that she has finally let down her guard and spoken truthfully to Him - He presses the point further and more personal - tells her that details about her life that no stranger would know - that she has had five husbands and is presently living an adulterous relationship
This is too personal for her and she changes the subject - asks him a theological question about the differences between their ethnic worship practices
This however has achieved what Jesus was trying to do - they are now both speaking on the spiritual level and Jesus teaches her some important truths
- where one worships is not important, but how - in spirit and in truth
- God seeks true worshippers of spirit and truth
- Salvation will come through the Jews (more specifically in Jesus the fulfillment of the prophets - remember that the Samaritans bible does not include the prophets)
At last - she is connecting spiritual and declares that she knows that messiah is coming and will declare all things
to which Jesus simply says to her “I who speak to you - am He”
The cat is fully out of the bag - Jesus has declared for the first time to anyone in John’s gospel that he is the messiah - and it is to an outcast, Samaritan, woman in public
The disciples return and she abandons her original water gathering purpose and goes back to the city to share the good new that the messiah is here
And a miracle occurs - the people believe her
This ‘woman of questionable background’ and mix-race heritage is God’s evangelist
It is into the hated Samaritan land that Jesus declares to His disciples
“see how the fields are ripe for harvesting”
Christ, leaving the proud Pharisees,
communicates the treasures of everlasting life with a poor sinful woman and stranger, defending the true service of God,
which was delivered to the Jews,
but yet in such a way that he here calls both Samaritans and Jews back to himself, (John Calvin – Geneva Notes)
In this powerful story the woman is transformed and many come to believe
Many of you may have heard of the WWJD approach - What would Jesus Do?
I would like to suggest that instead of guessing at what Jesus might do - like we can somehow enter his mind
We sometimes change that to - WDJD - What DID Jesus do
….and act like it
BE transformed - being Jesus’ agent in this world
And maybe, just maybe… one day someone that is ‘blind in worldly ways’ will ask you the question
Are you Jesus?
That's our destiny, is it not? - to be so much like Jesus that people cannot tell the difference as we live and interact with a world that is blind to His love, life and grace.
If we claim to know Him, might I suggest that we live, walk and act as He would.
Even if in some ways we might think that we are not worthy of the task
Remember it was to a three-strike - outcast, Samaritan, woman in public - whom Jesus chose to be His evangelist
Knowing Him is actually living the ‘Word’ as life unfolds day to day.
May the incarnate Word live in us and us in Him - Amen