Lesson 7: Foreigner, Woman, Adulterer

Woman at the WellChapter 4 begins with a tired and thirsty Jesus. John obviously does not think the Incarnate God is a superman. Significantly, his gospel is the one in which Jesus cries, “I thirst!” from the cross.

When this Jewish rabbi finds himself alone with a Samaritan adulteress at a well, his conduct flies in the face of decent sexual and cultic behavior. His request for a cup of water could be taken as a sexual advance. There is no doubt it was regarded as a corrupting act on multiple levels. Jewish males did not associate with unknown women, Samaritans, or sinners. All three were perversions that would necessitate cleansing. This is John’s way to show Jesus associated with sinners.

The conversation follows John’s pattern. It moves from the ability of a simple cup of water to quench physical thirst to Jesus’ power to satisfy spiritual longing and craving; from the recipient’s believing he is a Jew, a prophet, the Messiah, and finally the Savior of the World; from a Jewish religion to a universal Church; from a relationship with God based on temple sacrifice to one founded on the Holy Spirit. We hear echoes of the Cana wedding when John claims Jesus offers wine compared to water, good wine compared to the cheap stuff, baptism compared to purification.

Again he makes the present moment critical by moving glorification and judgment from the Last Days. He can say, “is coming” in one sentence and “is coming and now is” in the next. He says there is no need to wait for reaping the harvest; reaping and sowing are already happening. When he speaks of the laborers being paid now, he makes clear we do not have to wait to enjoy living in the Spirit.

We hear again “Come and see”; this time from the woman calling her friends. When they see, they believe. And John makes clear that this involves Jesus taking time to speak with them. He remains in their village for two days.

This is John’s teaching method. He does not use Jesus’ parables but instead develops a story from the events in Jesus’ life. And his impact is just as powerful. We are left understanding that Jesus reached out to women. There is a reason that Christians baptize both sexes and Jews circumcise men. We see Jesus offer God’s Word to foreigners. There is a reason Christianity included the Gentile nations. We observe what forgiveness of sins means. It is not a quick, “Your sins are forgiven” thing, but a prolonged relationship that changes people’s hearts and minds. And some scholars believe we see a case for woman’s ordination. The Samaritan Woman is an evangelist.

My face-to-face classes observed this episode could almost be regarded as a healing. To have five husbands and to be living with another man is the picture of a damaged woman, an outcast who comes to the well after the good women have gone home. In spite of her sassy comments, this is a needy woman. And Jesus offers her new life.

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