Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Lent

‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 
but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.

Remember Nicodemus from last week.
A highly respected intelligent man, a Pharisee, a Jew.
He comes to see Jesus at night in the dark.

Today we have a woman by a well.
She is not respected at all, if anything she is ostracised by her own people.
She meets Jesus at noon, in the light.

John places these two dialogues next to each other to highlight and deepen Jesus’ teaching.  The central theme of Nicodemus was of being born of water and spirit to enter the kingdom of God.
The theme with the Samaritan woman is of living water will become in a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.
Both speak of the new life in a follower of Jesus.
But John uses the differences between the two protagonists to highlight different ways of coming to faith.

One of the main differences between the woman and Nicodemus is that is she is Samaritan.

The Samaritans had a different history, one which led them to accept only the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, as sacred.
They did not have the psalms, writings or prophets.
Neither did they worship at the temple in Jerusalem. They had their own temple.

The Jewish religious leaders regarded the Samaritans, indeed all Samaria as a no go area.
They weren’t even supposed to walk through the land, rather take the long way around.

Yet Jesus does go through there. Not only that, he rests there, at the well.

Another significant difference with Nicodemus is that she is a woman.

A man should not be seen or speak to an unaccompanied woman,
and in this case, Jesus would be no different.
Furthermore, this woman is a Samaritan,
so he most certainly shouldn’t be speaking to her, something she herself understands:
‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’

And it is noon, so, unlike with Nicodemus, where it was night and no one could see them, here this is out in the open, in the full light of day.

The fact that this woman is at the well at noon also tells us much about her.
It was women who fetched the water, but usually early in the morning, or early evening, to escape the heat.
Yet, she is there at noon, when the sun would be at its most ferocious.

From what we hear about this woman later in this dialogue, when Jesus tells her she has had five husbands, that it is likely that she an outsider within her own community.
She goes to the well at noon so she can do so alone,
away from the judging and abuse of the other women.

But the time of day also speaks of light, the opposite of night which spoke of darkness.
And as the darkness of night represented the Nicodemus not believing,
so here the light of noon represents believing.

Yet this light is not easily found for the woman.

Jesus asks her for a drink.
‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’
Her reply speaks of division in terms of religion, culture, and gender.
At this point, Jesus is just a Jewish man.

 ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ 

Jesus recognises her reacting out of her life experience, and brings up the idea of his identity, but not stating it.
He leaves it open, beckoning further enquiry. Further, he speaks of living water.

He is offering something better than what she can get from Jacob’s well.

‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ 

She is exasperated. First of all, he can’t even get the water that is there,
he doesn’t have the tools.
Secondly, the arrogance.
Jacob was the great ancestor for the Samaritans.
This well was not only practical, it would also have had a quasi sacred status.
You think you are greater than him?

‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,
but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.
The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 

As he did with Nicodemus, Jesus raises the bar.
He isn’t speaking about water. He is speaking about something much greater.

A spring of water gushing up in comparison to a well that is still.
The water needs to pulled out by a bucket.
Living water is like fountain.

‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

Jesus has convinced her.
It may be that she thinks of this living water as a pure convenience.
It may be that she thinks this living water is something that can get her out of her lonely life.
It may be that she thinks this living water can change her.
She wants this water.

The water that Jesus gives is life giving.
The water from Jacobs well is water.

The water that Jesus that Jesus offers is new life, vibrant, forgiving.
Later we hear that the woman goes back to her people, they listen to her, and they decide to come to Jesus, as she did.

As the water is life giving, it needs to be shared.
It cant be stored up, it massed be passed on. That is how it is life giving.
But the water in the well is hidden. It needs to be pulled out from the ground. Each person has their own jug to collect the water, and each person takes their own water home with them.
And for this woman, the well is a source of separation from her community.
Yet the water Jesus offers joins her back to her community.
With the water Jesus gives, the outsider of the outsiders is accepted and respected.

Where the dialogue with Nicodemus ended with a commentary by John, explaining and theologizing about what Jesus had been saying, in this dialogue, the events that happen afterward explain it for us.

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.

She let the living water live, a spring of water gushing up. She shared the water.
By her new life she was able to show her people new life.
They would get to meet Jesus themselves. They would then say:
‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.”

No comments: