Third Sunday of Lent
In the National Rugby League’s (NRL) Footy Show, a slightly irreverent show about the players of the NRL, they have a segment called “Perfect Partners” where they ask the wives or girlfriends of the NRL players and try to match their answers for example, “What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?” or “Where did you first meet?” and the funny thing is that sometimes the answers don’t match at all. So it leads you to wonder how do they really know each other. But of course, it’s not that serious. It’s just for fun.
The gospel for this week, which is pretty long, is about knowing who Jesus is from the efforts of the woman at the well. And as we read along the gospel, we will learn that the woman at the well slowly discovered who Jesus was, from a Jew, to a prophet and then a Saviour.
“How can you, a Jew…”. The opening encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman started when Jesus, after a long walk with his disciples, who left him at the well to get something to eat, was already tired and thirsty. So naturally he wanted a drink. So Jesus asked this woman if she could draw water for him so that he could refresh himself. Now, during that time Samaritans and Jews were fierce enemies, because Samaritans accepted foreigners in their midst and started marrying them, while the Jews refused to do so for they believed that they must maintain their race and intermarriage was prohibited. That is why they had deep animosity against each other. At the same time, in both cultures men should not talk to unaccompanied women. So the sight of Jesus who was a very respectable man in society, talking to a woman at the well could be an awkward sight to those who saw them. And yet, this was the starting point of their conversation. It dwelt on their differences as Jews and Samaritans.
“I can see you are a prophet.” In the style of Jesus, whenever he preached, he wanted to use simple items to drive a point. And at this point, since the woman was drawing water Jesus talked about water, but not just about plain water but living water. What is living water? In the Mediterranean culture, living water is water that moves. So water that is flowing from a stream or river is living water but water from a well is not. That is why the woman got so interested about this living water. And not only that, but when Jesus asked for her husband, the woman replied the truth, that she had five husbands and the one that she was with at that moment was not her husband. In their culture, the women went to the well to get the water that their household needed for the whole day. They either went to the well early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it was not too hot. However, this woman went there every midday. She went there perhaps to avoid all the rumours and insults that she would hear because of her status of having five husbands and being with a man who was not her husband. In a very tight knit culture, any little irregular thing could easily be the talk of the town and this Samaritan woman got hurt from all those taunts, so she wanted to avoid all the women at all cost even if it meant braving the hot sun to get water for her house. So perhaps because Jesus didn’t condemn her and maybe had brought this fact to her with a sense of concern and love of what she was undergoing right now, that made her say that Jesus was a prophet.
“We know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.” Then, after talking about the personal life of the Samaritan woman, the discussion turned more serious talking about the differences in worship of the Jews and the Samaritans. However, Jesus emphasised that one day all of them would be worshiping the Father, not in the mountain or in Jerusalem, but everywhere. And the Samaritan woman admitted that she was waiting for the Messiah to proclaim all these things. And Jesus revealed himself to the woman - that he was the one on whom they were waiting. And with this, the Samaritan woman went to the marketplace and told all the people there that she might have found the Messiah, and all people poured to that place to hear Jesus and Jesus stayed for two days to preach to the Samaritans and all believed that he was truly the Saviour of the world.
This long gospel for this week tells us of the stages that all of us have to undergo to be able to know the person of Jesus Christ. And for most of us, it will take our whole lifetime to achieve this. But what is important is to make that first step. Like the Samaritan woman, it is Jesus who made the first move. He is the one who approached her first, even if it was so unthinkable according to the cultural norms of the time. Then Jesus presented the unpleasant realities of the flaws of the woman’s life not with condemnation but with love. Then Jesus presented himself - that he was the Messiah that they were waiting for.
And Jesus is doing the same to us at this very moment. And we can know Jesus deeper with a relationship with him. True that he will present to us our flaws and sins, but not with condemnation but with love. And then he will show us the way to be able to get healing and receive salvation.
So why not start right now. Let us pick up our Bibles and know Jesus more. Let us pray to him in a more personal way and he will show us the way so that we may be able to know him better and be closer to him.