I’m just going to cut right to the chase on this text: Jesus is undermining us and our priorities yet again, because he loves us too much to let us continue in our self-protective delusions.
Every time I think I’ve got him figured out, he knocks me over once again with his subversive and all-encompassing love.
The woman at the well is one of John’s most beloved stories.
We have a woman who is trapped in an unenviable social situation, the origins of which we do not clearly understand.
She has to come to well to draw water in the heat of the day rather than the cool of the early morning. This is a clue that she is ostracized from the company of the other women in town, respectable women, who would come as a group to draw water at dawn.
Why is she not respectable? We don’t know, but more than likely it is a result of gender-based shame imputed to her.
She may be penalized for exercising sexual autonomy, i.e. being a “loose woman.”
Or she may have been passed around from husband to husband to finally a man who doesn’t even bother to marry her because she is barren, unable to have children, the other major source of shame for women in her society.
Even without knowing her story and its shades of disgrace in the eyes of her culture, the gospel says the disciples are shocked to find Jesus talking with a woman, any woman.
Regardless of what she has been through, and we understand that it cannot have been pleasant, she has enough pluck in her to enter into conversation with an unaccompanied adult male whom she quickly discovers is a Jew.
This reality alone would have further diminished her already precarious position in society.
But there is a spark of curiosity in her that responds to Jesus and answers the invitation to go deeper with him.
She is thirsty for more than what she can find at the bottom of that well, and so she asks.
In fact, she more than asks, she requests, demands, even: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
How often do we share our need with Jesus so un-self-consciously?
And here is what fascinates me. The woman asks Jesus for the Living Water, and what does he give her?
One would expect him to give her comfort, understanding, affection, healing, assurance of salvation.
But he gives her none of these.
She asks Jesus for the Living Water, and he gives her truth. Continue reading