After a brief hiatus, weekly First Thoughts on the upcoming lectionary texts resumes.
This Sunday, March 19, the 3rd Sunday of Lent, gives us the well-known story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at a well in John 4:5-42.. I won't post the entire Scripture here, as it is quite lengthy; I invite you to read it on your own. Here are my initial takeaways:
1) The Kingdom of God disrupts boundaries. It would have been controversial — indeed, far outside the boundaries of proper social customs — for Jesus, a Jewish man, to associate in public with a Samaritan woman. Jews viewed Samaritans as the lowest of the low; Samaritans had intermarried with Gentiles long ago, and were thus regarded as unclean and dirty. Their worship rituals and customs also differed significantly from Jews. To speak with her alone, to accept water from her — all of this was so far outside the "norm." In doing all this, Jesus reveals that the Kingdom of God encompasses all and is for all. No one stands outside of the reign of God.
2) Jesus continues to be misheard and misunderstood. This is one of the hallmarks of St. John's gospel: Jesus posits something about a spiritual reality or the realm of God, and his listener or conversation partner mishears and misunderstands. We saw this last Sunday with Nicodemus. Jesus spoke to him of the necessity of the new birth, of being "born from above." Nicodemus doesn't get it: "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?" (John 4:3). The Samaritan woman also fails to grasp Jesus' spiritual teachings. They have an incredible discourse regarding water. Jesus talks about living water, of water which assuages all thirst. The Samaritan woman takes him to mean literal water, and, of course, desires that!
3) We can't keep a transformative encounter with Jesus to ourselves! After their interaction, the Samaritan woman told her townsfolk about Jesus: "He told me everything I have ever done." (4:39b). We see great numbers of Samaritans become disciples of Jesus because of that woman's testimony. Testimony is always the appropriate response to the personal realization of God's grace.
What are your First Thoughts on John 4:5-42? Feel free to comment below.