Some reflections on the Gospel for today: John 4.5-42

What a story this is! It moves from the heat and exhaustion of the day and the aridity of its setting to “living water,” a refreshing, cleansing and inexhaustible source of joy (v. 14). It begins with an individual encounter with Jesus and ends with the creation of a new worshipping congregation that acknowledged Jesus as the Saviour of the world (v. 42).  

“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.”(vv.13-14)

We may be finding that our environment, without many of the activities which we anticipate so pleasurably, is rather dull and featureless. Our circumstances may even have made the background of our lives seem fearsome and harsh. What, we may wonder, had made the woman of Sychar in Samaria come out. solitary, in the noonday heat, when most women drew water in the cool of the morning? I’m afraid that in our world of advertising and “feel-good” entertainment the picture of spring-water bubbling up endlessly could seem a cynical call to escapism from the reality of life.

Jesus’ offer to the woman is precisely the opposite. Water is not only for refreshment, but for the very sustenance of life and, as we are currently only too aware, for cleansing. The woman’s eager, almost desperate response, of “Give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water,” is met with an uncompromising challenge to open up about her life and to be changed. The discussion about water had an inescapable subtext concerning repentance and healing, an understanding that infuses the whole Bible.

The encounter is life-changing. She leaves her enormous water-jar, on which so much had depended, unable to wait before telling the world what had happened: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!”

Dramatically, we find ourselves looking forward to Pentecost and to consider how spiritual life is to be sustained, grow and flourish. The unnamed woman at the well seems to become aware that her life, and indeed her religion, were stagnating and, drawn by the Holy Spirit, responds to Jesus as the one who offers life and healing.

The startling acceptance by the Samaritans of Sychar, hitherto separated from their Jewish brethren, that Jesus was none other than “the Saviour of the world” becomes a foretaste. It was based initially on the woman’s testimony but then they started listening to Jesus for themselves and “many more believed because of his word” (v.41).  

“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him” (v 23)

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