Scripture Readings: Exodus 17.3-7; Romans 5.1-2,5-8; John 4.5-42
The woman said to Jesus, “I know the messiah is coming, the one called the Christ who will announced all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am the one, who is speaking to you.” – John 4.35-36
On the strength of a Samaritan woman’s witness, her townspeople come to meet Jesus and believe in him. The Eastern Church gives her the name Photina (light bearer). In her conversation with Jesus, the woman recognizes he has come in spirit and truth to include her people in his community.
Centuries of estrangement stand between the Samaritan woman and Jesus. When Assyria conquers the Northern Kingdom in 722 BCE, the resettle the land with tribes who worship other gods. The Samaritan intermarry with these tribes and Samaria becomes the land of heretics in the eye of the Jews of the south. It is not the woman but Samaria that has had five husbands in the past—the false gods of the settlers. The story is in 2 Kings 17.
Like Peter, Andrew, James, and John who leave their fishing nets to follow Jesus, the Samaritan leaves her water jar that symbolizes her work and goes to tell her townspeople she has found the messiah. The strength of the Samaritan woman’s word and witness bring her people to hear Jesus for themselves. Her witness can inspire our own.
John’s gospel contrasts the noontime when Jesus woos the Samaritan woman, a supposed heretic, and the nighttime in the chapter preceding when Nicodemus, a strictly observant Jew, comes to visit Jesus. Jesus leads both through deliberate double meanings and misunderstandings. Jesus winds up in a monologue with an uncomprehending Nicodemus. The woman, however, questions, objects, and challenges Jesus until in the end she recognizes—aha! He must be the messiah. She models bringing one’s life story into dialogue with Jesus and struggling to break open the word he speaks.
What is your word and witness to others about Jesus? What difference does it make to recognize Jesus is talking to this woman as a representative Samaritan rather than a sinner?