One reading of this well-known story would claim that it
defies convention. A man, a Jew, in open conversation with
a woman who is a Samaritan sets up an unheard-of scene. It
would be easy to say that the story’s novelty comes solely in the
fact that Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman in public. Yet scholars
also point to the fact that it is unusual for a woman to come
to the well and draw water during the hottest portion of the day.
If Jesus had instead held a conversation with this woman
in a private place under dark of night as he had met with
Nicodemus, the story when heard would have led to a scandalous
buzz. How does the Gospel writer describe this daylight,
Jesus extends the grace of hearing and responding to the
truth of this woman’s life without recoil, and instead of passing
judgment, passes her fresh, living water. Some might hold to the
adage, “the truth hurts.” Others might hold to the adage, “the
truth will set you free.”
If interviewed, is it possible that the Samaritan woman
would acknowledge that both were true? She, unlike Nicodemus,
evidences some understanding as Jesus speaks of the new life
available to her. This is the longest recorded conversation with
Jesus contained in the Bible. The woman opens up as they
speak: her personal life, her spiritual life. And then she goes to
bear witness: “He told me everything I have ever done.” And
many come to believe.
We, like this woman, may discover that our admission of
truth’s painful reality can free us. Hers is not simply the story
of an open conversation with Jesus but of a life being opened
Lord Jesus, shine the light of your compassion and forgiveness in my life. May I thirst no more. Amen.
All the readings af rm God’s benevolent care of those who place their well-being in God’s hands. While imperishable, God’s love can be frustrated by human pride and faithlessness. Water is an important symbol of God’s sustaining grace. In Exodus 17 the Israelites’ dependence on water becomes a statement about their dependence on God. The manner in which they obtain their water stands as commentary on human pride and arrogance. The psalm recounts this episode as a means of warning the people against the kind of obstinacy that impedes grace. John 4 focuses on the full actualization of God’s love in Jesus Christ through the “living water.” Paul speaks of God’s love being “poured into our hearts,” a grace that comes in the death and life of Jesus Christ.
• Read Exodus 17:1-7. When have you complained to God about a situation, only to discover God had already begun to forge a way through?
• Read Psalm 95. How does weekly worship allow you to hear God’s voice? How do you testify to God’s goodness?
• Read Romans 5:1-11. Reflect on a time when your suffering produced endurance and ultimately character.
• Read John 4:5-42. How do the words of Paul to Timothy about a worker “who correctly handles the word of truth” serve as a bridge between the “truth hurts” and the “truth will set you free”?
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