John 4:5–42 (NRSV)
Verse 5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Verse 6Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. Verse 7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." Verse 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) Verse 9The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Verse 10Jesus answered her, "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." Verse 11The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Verse 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" Verse 13Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, Verse 14but 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." Verse 15The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water." Verse 16Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." Verse 17The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; Verse 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" Verse 19The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Verse 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Verse 21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. Verse 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. Verse 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. Verse 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." Verse 25The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Verse 26Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."
Verse 27Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?" Verse 28Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, Verse 29"Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" Verse 30They left the city and were on their way to him. Verse 31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." Verse 32But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." Verse 33So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?" Verse 34Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Verse 35Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. Verse 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. Verse 37For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' Verse 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." Verse 39Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." Verse 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Verse 41And many more believed because of his word. Verse 42They said to the woman, "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 Savior of the world."
Australian New Testament scholar Leon Morris once compared the Gospel of John to a pool of water “in which a child may wade and an elephant can swim.” Our gospel reading for this week confronts us, perhaps overwhelmingly, with such a “simple and profound” story, with all the intricate and elaborate earthiness and messiness interwoven throughout all of our individual and social hurts and healings and hungers and thirsts.
Here we encounter the Jew, Jesus, a man with a fledgling following, compelled geographically to travel through Samaria, tired, thirsty, seeking water from his own long-deceased ancestor Jacob’s well. So he directly beseeches the woman, a Samaritan, an ancestor of Jacob’s son Joseph. Ethnically of two peoples bearing mutually suspicious sentiments toward one another, they are suddenly in conversation uncomfortably fraught with various smatterings of anxiety, ambiguity, perplexity, contingency, conditionality, testimony, secrecy, discovery, disclosure, astonishment, offerings, beliefs, and still more.
Such a narrative onslaught—and blessing—of overlapping plurality and ambiguity discloses the intersectionality of our finite, impure, and truthful realities. And somehow, by way of all this messy intersectionality, both then and now, we get faith on earth, transforming lives and the world.
Come, Holy Spirit, be our dwelling place in the midst of all of our messy and risky and earthy interactions, and help us share trustingly our hurts and healings with one another. Amen.