The story of Jesus meeting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well doesn’t stop where we left off yesterday. This woman doesn’t just accept Jesus’ word, but she immediately starts to evangelize. She goes back into the town, where many people probably don’t normally speak to her because of her lifestyle, and speaks to everyone she meets to let them know that the Messiah is at the well! These are not the right people, and they are not in the right place!
Jacob’s well, the scene of our story, is at the entrance to the valley between Mt. Gerazim and Ebal. The source of much of the division between the Samaritans and the Jews was that the Samaritans built an alternative temple on Mt. Gerazim. In Jesus’ talk with the woman, when the discussion of which place was correct to worship God, the mountain where Samaritans worshiped or the temple in Jerusalem where the Jews worshiped, he makes it clear that it won’t be long before the issue of place will not matter. The huge divide between the Samaritans and Jews will not matter anymore because everyone will worship in spirit and in truth wherever they are.
Why is it that the wrong people are so able to see Jesus as Messiah and to accept this? Why were the Samaritans who followed this woman out of the city able to see and accept what the disciples were not? Is it because they have no vested interest? After-all, if you aren’t in a position to deserve anything and it is offered anyway wouldn’t you jump at it?
Whatever else might be said of the disciples, they were Jews, the chosen people, they worshiped God and followed the customs and rules of the temple. They would have firmly believed that the temple in Jerusalem was the proper place to worship, that the Samaritans were not people in God’s favour, and that Messiah was coming for them alone. The Samaritans, on the other hand, did not even expect Jews to talk to them, especially after some Samaritans had scattered bones in the temple in Jerusalem, and after the Maccabean uprising was put down, allowed their temple to be dedicated to Zeus. They had nothing to expect of Jesus, so when he offered them the living water they were happy to accept.
So, are we thirsty? I know I am. As thirsty people, are we more like the Jews who are sure of our position and right to the water, or are we more like the Samaritans unsure that we deserve anything?
With potable drinking water at risk all over the world, and especially in Japan and other places which have had recent natural disasters, this seems like a good time for this question of thirst. We in Canada don’t have much to worry about in terms of water. We have lots for us, so much so that we are careless with it and just expect that it will remain this way. Physically we are more like the Jews in this story, sure we will have the water while others may struggle. Spiritually, though, I think our thirst is a bigger problem for us than those in the developing world. As Christians we are lucky to have found the rock from whom the living water springs, even if we stray and find ourselves thirsting again we know that through prayer Jesus is still there for us.
There are so many people out there who don’t even know for what they thirst. They will try anything to fill that need, but it won’t work in the long-term. They remain thirsty. Like the woman at the well we need to go back to town and tell people what we have learned and offer to lead them to the man at the well. If you meet a thirsty person do you not offer them a drink?