Samaritan Woman 2014
was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water.”
For a few years I travelled each year, sometimes twice, to Bombay as it
was then called. It was an awkward flight that arrived at 2.00 o’clock
in the morning local time. I was collected by car and taken to my usual
hotel near the airport where always being unable to sleep once the
bright humid Indian dawn had broken, I would throw open the curtains to
look at the view. From my upper storey I could see over the countryside.
Collected around the busy hub of the airport were several shanty towns
made from discarded corrugated sheeting, tarpaulins and other debris.
From these at that time of day along the raised dykes were lines
of women carrying water pots on their heads, sometimes with barely clad
children by the hand walking to collect water for their day. I could
watch them coming and going slowly and steadily. The pots were large,
the water heavy and they were taking advantage of the early morning
light and cool to do this absolutely essential task.
Samaria is a region in the hill country between Judea in the south and
Galilee in the north, most often Jesus and his disciples would skirt the
borders of this territory but on this occasion John tells us that “Jesus
and his disciples had to go through Samaria.” The Jews and the
Samaritans regarded each other with perfect hatred. The problem began
some 700 years before Jesus’ time when the king of Assyria having
conquered Samaria introduced colonists from other lands to his new
domain. The Jews believed the Samaritans to be descendants of these
incomers and so of mixed race. The Samaritans for their part claimed to
be of true Jewish ancestry, also that their copy of the book of the law,
the five books of Moses, was both older and more authoritative than that
used by the Jews and finally that Mount Gerazim in their
territory was a place of greater sanctity than Jerusalem. To emphasise
that they built a temple atop the summit to rival that in Jerusalem.
There was we might say no love lost.
So the readers of John’s Gospel would have been in no doubt that a
Samaritan was an outsider. Worse yet this Samaritan was a woman, so
further an outsider and now we see her coming in the heat of the day,
alone, to draw water marking her as an outsider even among her own
people. No-one collects water in the hot noonday sun and that was as
true in Bombay in the twentieth century as it was then.
As much as Nicodemus, last week, was an insider, a Pharisee, a member of
the ruling council, as inside as you can get so this woman is on the
very very edge; as much as Nicodemus came out of the darkness to see
Jesus by night this woman came out of the day into the light.
It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water.
“Give me a drink” says Jesus and a conversation begins, very like the
one with Nicodemus, where at first the two do not seem to be quite
“How is it that you, a Jew ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”
“Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep.”
But this outsider understood: “Sir give me this water” and Jesus reveals
himself more by speaking to her of her husbands and her sin which no
stranger could have known and that of course explains her isolation.
Excited, engaged, enthusiastic and now evangelistic the woman goes back
to the city, leaving her water jar you notice, where she tells everyone
she met what has happened. This city is the same one that the disciples
return from, a Samaritan city where they did not harvest, they did not
see the fruit or its ripeness. In demonstration of the point, based on
the woman’s testimony the city comes to Jesus and invites him to stay.
It was about noon. A Samaritan woman saw the light of Jesus, the
Messiah, she was not someone who was seen to be orthodox, accepted or
virtuous but this one encounter was enough, it was a single moment that
changed her life.
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