Who is Jesus? The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well gives us some answers. ( For the words of today’s Gospel, click here.) I will tell the story again and give some thoughts as we go through it.
Jesus and his followers go through Samaria. Samaria was not a very friendly place for Jews; it was even a little dangerous. But Jesus wants to reach out to all people. So we have Jesus alone in Samaria.
He comes to a town that has a famous well. It is 12:00 noon and he sits down because he is tired.
Notice, Jesus is tired; he is human. He knows what it is like to be human. He is hot and thirsty.
A woman comes to the well. (Why is a woman coming all alone to a well in the hottest part of the day?) Jesus is sitting there and he asks her to give him some water.
Notice, Jesus begins. He makes the first move; he reaches out in his human need to ask the woman for help.
The woman is surprised that a Jew is talking to her, a woman and a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans were enemies. Jesus says to her that she should ask Jesus for real life-giving water.
What is Jesus’s life-giving water? It is the truth that comes only from God. The fancy word for it is revelation. God shows His heart and asks us to accept His loving heart and let His heart change us to become the holy people He wants us to be.
The woman is confused and does not understand. She thinks he wants to take water from the deep well, and he does not have a bucket to get it. Jesus tells her that people who drink water from this well will be thirsty again. He wants to give life-water that will last forever. Jesus means life-water that will lead to eternal life. Eternal life is the answer to our deepest desires, our deepest wants. It is more joy than we can imagine. We will receive this full joy in heaven, but we can have some of this joy now when we live the way God wants us to live; how? With kindness, with generosity, with patience, with love.
The woman asks Jesus to give her this life-water. Jesus wants to give it to many more people, so he tells the woman to go and bring her husband. The woman says she does not have a husband. Jesus says she is right because she had five husbands, and the man she is with now is not her husband. Because Jesus knows so much about her life, the woman says Jesus is a prophet. A prophet speaks for God. The woman is learning in a deeper way who Jesus is.
People thought prophets knew much secret knowledge; this is the reason the woman says Jesus is a prophet. Notice something else. This woman must be very lonely. She comes to the well alone during the hottest time of the day. Why? Maybe all her other husbands died and people are afraid she will make other people die; people do not want to be close to her. Maybe she is very pretty and steals other women’s husbands, so the other women hate her. This is why she is alone. The woman may seem strong, but inside she is hurt, alone, suffering, feeling empty, wanting someone to tell her that her life is worthwhile. She meets this strange man; he does not reject her; he accepts her as she is; he reaches out to her; he sees she is a valuable person. Perhaps she thinks this prophet may be the answer to her hopes and dreams.
The woman asks a religious question. The Jews and Samaritans had different temples and they argued about which temple was the best place to worship God. Jesus says worshiping God does not depend on a place; it depends on a person’s heart. If a person truly gives the heart to God, that is worshiping God in the right way.
The woman is more and more impressed by this man and asks him to explain something that has bothered people for a very long time. She asks about the Messiah or the Christ.
“Messiah” is the Hebrew word; “Christ” is the Greek word; it means the same thing. In the Old Testament God promised He would send someone from heaven to save his people. All the people in Palestine were suffering because the Romans controlled the country and collected heavy taxes and were hard on the people. All the people were hoping God would send them a savior.
Jesus tells the woman, “I am” the person you are hoping for. “I am” is the name of God in the Bible before Jesus. Jesus is saying to the woman He is equal to God; He is God.
The woman is very excited; she leaves her water jar and runs back to her village to tell everyone there about the man she was talking with. They come back with the woman, and Jesus and his followers see them all coming and Jesus says there are so many people who are thirsty for the truth that Jesus can give.
There are so many people in our world who are looking for someone who can satisfy their deep thirst. They look for it in things, in money, in power, in pleasure but none of these things will truly take away the thirst. Only a relationship with God will take away the thirst.
The other people from the village ask Jesus to stay with them. Jesus stays for two days. The people learn to know Jesus and they make a strong declaration about him, “He is the savior of the world.”
This story is a story about growing in faith, knowing Jesus more deeply. The woman begins to see Jesus is a prophet, someone who speaks for God, then the Messiah/Christ, the person who comes from God, then the “I am” the Son of God, then the savior of the world. The woman is like all of us. We all grow in faith. We all learn to know Jesus more and more. We all can love Jesus more and more. All of us can be better, understand more, love more. We can never be satisfied and think we cannot grow any more.