So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as He was with His journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered Him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and You say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” Just then His disciples came. They marveled that He was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do You wish?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the city and were coming to Him. Meanwhile the disciples besought Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought Him food?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that city believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
John 4: 5-42 (Gospel of the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman)
Christ is Risen!
We’ve used the word “Exegesis” in previous reflections. An “exegesis” is a verse by verse breakdown of a scripture passage, exploring in detail the finer nuances of what we are reading. Today’s Gospel lesson on the Samaritan Woman provides a good opportunity for a detailed exegesis.
He came to a city of Samaria (John 4:5). Jesus was in hostile territory. He was Jewish. Samaritans and Jews were sworn enemies
Jesus, wearied as He was with His journey, sat down beside the well. (4:6) This shows the humanity of Jesus. Even though He was perfect God, He was also fully man, and He got thirsty because of His journey. He was shortly to ask a Samaritan woman to get him a drink from the well.
It was about the sixth hour. (4:6) The day was divided into “hours” according to the rising and setting of the sun. The “first hour” was sunrise. The “third hour” was midmorning. The “sixth hour” was midday. The “ninth hour” was midafternoon. And the “twelfth hour” was sunset. Time was kept this way. When we read about the crucifixion and that from the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness covered the earth and that at the ninth hour Christ gave up His Spirit, we can identify what time of day this took place at. In modern terms, the sixth hour is noon.
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. (4:9) Jesus asked the woman a material request, for water. He was thirsty. She was quick to point out in response that Jews and Samaritans did not deal well with one another.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” (4:10) This is one of the most powerful lines of Scripture in my opinion, as it has an application to our Christian lives for all time. If we KNEW the gift of God, and what we were actually doing in worship and in receiving Holy Communion, our lives would be so much different. If we really UNDERSTOOD that we are touching THE Body and THE Blood of Christ each time we receive Holy Communion, we would order our lives quite differently I’m sure. And we wouldn’t miss a service or come late or be unprepared because we’d be so humbled and joyful EVERY TIME to receive Christ.
The woman said to Him, “Sir give me this water, that I may not thirst nor come here to draw.” (4: 15) The dialogue with Jesus has gone back and forth about what is living water. Jesus tells the woman that “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (4:14) The woman’s response to this offer of “living water” is a material one. She asks “How can I get THIS water so I don’t have to come here and draw anymore?”
Jesus said to her “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands and he whom you now have is not your husband.” (4:17-18) Jesus jolts the woman from her material thoughts when He asks her to call her husband. She admits that she doesn’t have a husband. Jesus tells her that He knows that she has had five husbands. Now her antennas are up—she wonders “how could He know this about me?”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.” (4:19) This is an astounding admission, that Jesus could be a prophet. For a Samaritan to recognize a Jew as potentially a prophet is high praise indeed. The conversation has moved away from the material talk about thirsting for water and has moved to something much deeper.
“The hour is coming and now is, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (4: 23-24) This is an astronomical change in theology, for two reasons. First, up to this point, virtually everyone believed that God resided in the temple and the only place to connect with Him would be there. Jesus is now saying that God is everywhere and can be worshipped anywhere. Second, Jesus is opening the door to God not only to the Jews, God’s chosen people, but to everyone. Everyone who wishes to worship in spirit and truth is free to worship the Father.
The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will show us all things.” Again, it is astonishing that someone outside of the Jewish faith is speaking about the Messiah. The Samaritan woman has heard of the Messiah coming, just as she has heard of prophets. Her heart is really being moved now as she speaks with a Jew (a sworn enemy) about prophets and the Messiah. Christ is moving her heart, and she is allowing for her heart to be moved.
So the woman left her water jar and went away into the city and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (4:28-29) Jesus reveals Himself as the Messiah to the woman. Her reaction is not one of doubt but rather of some conviction. She doesn’t go and say “This is the Christ” after all, who in her Samaritan town would have believed her testimony. But she invites others to come and see this man, Jesus. And in doing so, she becomes the first “evangelist” the first person to invite others to Christ. The woman’s name is Photini, which means “the illumined one.” She later became a Christian and was martyred by being thrown down into a well. She has the title “equal to the Apostles” because she, like them, was among the first to spread the good news of Christ.
“I tell you, lift up your eyes and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For the saying holds true ‘One shows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” (4:35-38) The “others” who have labored are all those who came before Christ, the prophets and all those who came before Christ. It doesn’t matter in the eyes of Christ whether one has been a sower (prophet) or a reaper (Apostle). What matters to Christ is that we all take our role in spreading the Gospel, that we enter into the labor of those who came before us. As for the fields being “white for harvest”, there is a great need (even if people don’t recognize it) for Christ in our world—there is a great need for love, dignity, decency, hope, forgiveness and all the things that Christ is. It doesn’t matter is we are a priest, or a Sunday school teacher, or a parent or a faithful worshipper—all of us have a role to play in harvesting souls for Christ. And Christ doesn’t reward certain roles more than others. Rather He rewards all who play their role.
Many Samaritans from that city believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony. (4:39) Ironically, it is the Samaritans who are the first to believe in Christ. Christ’s own people rejected Him. The lesson here is that the Lord accepts everyone who believes in Him, no matter which religious or cultural group they come from.
“We know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (4:42) This is the ultimate statement of faith. This is a statement that we must each accept in our hearts. Once we accept this, then what we believe will change who we do. Once we believe, we will be eager to go and spread the message, to go into the fields and reap the harvest, bringing others to Christ.
As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish, as wax melts before the fire.
Come now from that sight, O you women and heralds of good news, and say to Zion, “Receive from us the joyful tidings of the Resurrection of Christ. O Jerusalem, be exultant, dance and leap for joy, for you have witnessed Christ the King coming forth as a Bridegroom from the sepulcher.” (Second Praise, Pascha, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
If we KNOW Christ, it changes everything for our lives. So, let us not approach the “Living Water” in a material way, but in a spiritual way, so that by partaking of Christ, our souls will never be thirsty!