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Today’s reading is one of the gospel stories that is easy to imagine and picture. It’s also one that has a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff going on.
Around the time of this story, a teaching by the Rabbi Yehuda ben Ilai entitled Tosefta Berakhot 6:18 teaches that every (Jewish) man is obligated to recite three blessings daily. These express gratitude for ones station in life through the negative statements. These prayers are: 1) “Thank you God that I am not a gentile: (or non-Jew). 2. “Thank you God that I am not a woman.” And 3. “Thank you God that I am not slave.”
Women were considered less than men. In fact women we’re supposed to talk to men in public who weren’t part of their family. So the woman at the well is not following the rules.
She comes to the well in the heat of the day. She’s not following the unspoken rules of society that would have women come to retrieve water from the public well for their house not at the hottest time of the day, but rather during the coolness of the early morning or evening.
And John tells us that Jews usually avoided all contact with Samaria and Samaritans. For although they claimed to worship the God of the Bible, they weren’t considered legit. The region of Samaria was a land that had been forcibly settled with foreigners during the time that the empires of Assyria and Babylon attempted to wipe out the Jewish people and culture through genocide and forced resettlement. And the Samaritans insisted that Mt Gerazim and the site of Bethel in their region, not Mount Sinai in Jerusalem, was the center of the Jewish religion and the ultimate place to seek God’s wisdom and revelation.
We’re told that Jesus is avoiding, or fleeing, the judgmental and critical eye of the religious authorities who seem jealous of his popularity. In doing so, Jesus chooses to go through this region that his brothers and sisters considered to be a no-zone zone of half-breeds and heretical dogs.
We see that even the disciples are irritated and disgusted by both this woman and the Samaritans. And yet Jesus encounters the woman and she is radically changed. She comes to the well at noon, to avoid all her neighbors, to fill up her jar with water. And then she leaves in such haste to go and talk to all her neighbors about Jesus that she abandons the empty jar. Jesus ends up staying for 48 hours with the people of this Samaritan village, the very ones that good Jews avoided by travel-ing around Samaria. There is talk of water to drink and food to eat; yet Jesus is talking about more than material things. He’s talking about the ways in which humans seem to be incapable of hearing and seeing God at work in the world.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION & EXAMEN:
• What engaged you, enraged you, or surprised you in the text?
• Is there a particular character(s) with whom you can relate or identify in the text? How so?…
• What invitation do you hear the Spirit of God speaking to you – or to us, as a church – to act, speak, be or change through this word of scripture?