March 3, 2002

John 4:5-42

... Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.

To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob's well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the sat down at the well. It was noon.

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, "Would you give me a drink of water?" (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, "How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?' (Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

Jesus answered, "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water."

The woman said, "Sir, you don't even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this 'living water'? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?"

Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst - not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life."

The woman said, "Sir, give me this water so I won't ever get thirsty, won't ever have to come back to this well again!'

He said, "Go call your husband and then come back."

"I have no husband," she said.

"That's nicely put: 'I have no husband.' You've had five husbands, and the man you're living with now isn't even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough."

"Oh, so you're a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?"

"Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day God's way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming - it has, in fact, come - when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself - Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."

The woman said, "I don't know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we'll get the whole story"

"I am he," said Jesus. "You don't have to wait any longer or look any further."

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn't believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.

The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, "Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?" And they went out to see for themselves.

In the meantime, the disciples pressed him, "Rabbi, eat. Aren't you going to eat?"

He told them, "I have food to eat you know nothing about."

The disciples were puzzled. "Who could have brought him food?

Jesus said, "The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started. As you look around right now, wouldn't you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I'm telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what's right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It's harvest time!

"The Harvester isn't waiting. He's taking his pay, gathering in this grain that's ripe for eternal life. Now the Sower is arm in arm with the Harvester, triumphant. That's the truth of the saying, 'This one sows, that one harvests.' I sent you to harvest a field you never worked. Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others."

Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman's witness: "He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!" They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days. A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. They said to the woman, "We're no longer taking this on your say-so. We've heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He's the Savior of the world!

<The Message >


1. << John 4:5-42 - Wow! This is a long reading. But I'm glad the lectionary folk put in the whole story rather than cutting it into pieces the way they so often do.
   The story is about two people who are ready to color outside of the lines. That Samaritan woman had a whole lot of spunk, because in talking to Jesus the way she did, she flew against the laws and customs of her people.
   And Jesus too. He talked to a foreign woman of dubious morality (three strikes right there) without anyone around to make sure there was no hanky-panky. Not only that, he talked theology with her. Not good form, chappies!
   Bev points out that the Samaritan woman was taking on the role of God and Moses recounted in the Hebrew scripture reading above. She was offering Jesus water in the wilderness. Her life was changed by the experience and so was Jesus.
   So Bev would like us to think back on experiences where we have been offered living water in the wilderness. Or did we notice? Did we have enough courage to drink it? >>

(Those who would like a more in-depth discussion of the lections might check the JoinHands web site, at Look for the periodical Aha!, and the online lectionary discussion called the Midrash.)

from Ralph Milton's RUMORS, a free Internet "e-zine" for active Christians with a sense of humor. To subscribe, send an e-mail to: Don't put anything else in that e-mail.

2. What food do you have that others might not know about? This sounds a lot like fasting while putting on a satisfied face. How are you able to be that secretive leaven in the midst of your world that makes ordinary life rise a bit higher? When you open your mouth will the little growing ones around you be able to feed from it, like birds?

3. Whose witness has led you to God? Have you told them lately that you value them for this gift in your life? If it has not been a community process to get you to the God gate, how do you know you're there and is it now a community process to keep you supported and corrected. I would posit that if there is no community involved with this the once upon high is beginning to fall.

Homepage | Sermon Prep