samaritan at the well, lent third sunday (ramble)


Jesus and his gospel writers spoke a lot about Samaritans. Aside from this gospel about the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus also had His parable about the good Samaritan. A few facts about Samaritans in general. First, the Samaritans and the Jerusalem Jews did not get along. Second, these two groups did worship one God; though the Jews worshiped at the Jerusalem Temple and the Samaritans upon a mountain. The Samaritans and Jews did share a lineage as those Samaritan’s descended from the joint kingdom that was the result of the Jewish King (Ahab), and his Bahl worshiping wife (Jezebel.) The friction between these two groups is accurately mirrored in the conversation between the woman at the well and Jesus. They did not and would not associate in real life, though Jesus was the exception. Jesus did break through that barrier.(water takes the shape of its container, the living water that is the Christ has covered the globe)

In the discussion over water, Jesus promises this woman water that would quench her thirst, water that would forever quench that thirst, and living water. Living water is important because it is living water that cleanses sins according to Jewish custom. To be living water it must be free flowing according to the laws of the Torah. Water from a cistern is not living water because it does not flow.

The woman, and Jesus are at this well to get water because water is essential to life. That woman’s thirst being quenched is not an option but a necessity. What a parallel there is  between that woman’s thirst for water, and her thirst for truth. Just as her body has a real thirst, she too has a very real spiritual thirst. Just as the cistern can meet her need for water, Jesus draws her out to meet that spiritual longing. Hers is a life full of disappointments and compromises, and sins, and failures. Jesus, that living water, is her redemption. That living water has the power to clean, and the power to quench a thirst. Jesus, as living water, is the cleansing of that past, the forgiveness of sin: Jesus, as living water is the refreshing good news that revitalizes that woman at the well. Water does serve two purposes. It is a solvent that is ideal for cleaning, and it is a component that is a necessity to maintain life. In that woman’s story there was much that needed cleansing, the Samaritans pitfalls are mirrored in that woman’s failed marriages. There is the worship of false gods, the damages of failed kings, the divisions that stood between people, the hostilities, resentments and fears. There was much that needed repair. The problems of that woman not only are analogous to the Samaritans, but they describe the state of just about everyone. Jesus, as the living water that is His passion and Gospel message is what is needed to revitalize those damaged lives. His is the breaking down the barriers between two groups that supposedly worship the one God, and bring the back to that true God: first by cleansing them of their sins, and then with the nourishment of the Gospel. (That most essential living water, Jesus Christ, rejuvenates and sustains life.)

In thinking about water, it is good to think about folks today that are in desperate need of it. This gospel is told on World Water day. There are so many that thirst for clean water, just as so many thirst for truth. So many Christians bring these people that water to those in need, just as they bring Jesus message. Looking at Christ’s message in terms of water describes that message in uniquely understandable terms. It is water of baptism that cleanses, it is the cold flowing waters of a stream that rehydrate and refresh. It is the Gospel that quenches that spiritual thirst. It is that water that is turned into wine.

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