Saturday, March 18, 2017

Notes on the "The Strange Man at the Well and the Woman from Samaria" - John 4:5-42

A few notes on the text as I think through it this week. Sharing in case it might be of help! Peace. tom

Red text is my notes. Black text is the Bible! 

So Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. 
[Patrilineal inheritance of well—Jacob, Joseph, “son’s…”]
[Jesus was tired. And presumably thirsty as we will find. Jesus will also say “I thirst” on the cross.]
It was about noon. 
[Daylight, “out in the open,” and hot.]
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 
[An “inappropriate/promiscuous” interaction - we do not interact, we do not “blend.”] 
(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 
[Need of John to “apologize.” : He was only alone because…]
The 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.) 
[Not only do we not “mix,” but we do not share!—a long way from “holding all things in common” as in the community of Acts.] 
Jesus 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." 
[“We don’t know each other. You don’t know me. We can quench the thirsts that belong to each of us.”]
[Jesus: “I will share with you. We actually have a lot in common. And when we share we will have more in common.”] 
The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 
[“Sir” is certainly not “brother,” it is a title of separation. “You are not me.” Also, “I do have a thirst for some kind of life.”] 
Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" 
[The woman names one thing she holds in common with this strange man—an ancestor who gives water to each of them by way of having placed this well.]
Jesus said to her, "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." 
[This is sort of like “One does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”]
[“There is more that one kind of thirst, and I have another kind of water.”]
The 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." 
[“Give me some, please.” The man still remains “sir.” Also, Jesus is just “the strange man.” He never introduced himself.]
 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, "I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 
[The strange man at the well somehow knows about this woman’s marital and presumably sexual history. He tells it to her. Does not judge. Just reflects her story to her, lets her hear it. She agrees. “This is my story.”]
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But 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.  
[The woman names again a line of separation between her and the strange man. They are of different expressions of the faith “of Jacob.” They worship differently, name different pieces of land as “holy.” Jesus indulges this difference-naming. It is real. He names the rest of the distinction, names the condescending belief that “you don’t know but we know,” but then breaks out of that. Worshiping in “truth” turns out not to mean “believing the correct truth.” The Spirit and Truth seems to united across the named divides, not to make them more rigid.]
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."  
[The location of worship is no longer a mountain or a temple. The location becomes “inside of the Spirit” and inside of a truth.]
The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." 
[The messiah of the woman is a Christ who will “proclaim all things.” Perhaps her desire is someone who “tells it like it is.”]
Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you." 
[“I am not proclaiming to you. I am speaking with you. Also, that’s me!”]

Just 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?" 
[Shame and judgement are absent from the conversation until Jesus’ followers show up. They seem to be more struck by the gender divide than they are by the Samaritan/Jewish divide. They say nothing.]
Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. 
[She does not engage the judgmental disciples. Presumably she can read the judgement on their faces.]
She said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" 
[The strange messiah does not “proclaim all things,” but lets me see myself. He removes the veil of dishonesty and denial I have created—without shaming me.]
 They left the city and were on their way to him. 
[Sharing her story about the strange man made people want to uncover/recover their own stories.]

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." 32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." 
[LOL. And he just sent them far away to get some?!]
 So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 
[I am fed by the mission.]
Do 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. 
[The mission includes planing seeds for a harvest. I am anticipating a banquet, fed by the hope of the Feast to Come.]
The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 
[I am fed by the hunger of a place/event where everyone will eat.]
For here the saying holds true, "One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." 
[We’re all in this together. It’s the work of all of us that results in the Banquet.]

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." 
[Again this “revelation” is somehow the allowance of the woman to see herself in a new light—in the light of Love? In the light of the light of the world?? Why is some strange person telling her “facts” about her life such a big deal to her? Is it that they were free from judgement? They were secrets? Is it that they were told in the context of daylight, in what would be considered a shameful interaction? The intermingling here seemed not to produce shame in the noonday heat, but liberation, freedom—freedom to tell her story as the story of salvation and liberation, not as a story of shame and solitude.]
 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 
[Through what was once considered an “unholy mixture,” among people who “don’t mix,” we now find a mixture, a promiscuity, a profanation, a transgression, an interaction that leads to new life, to liberation, to salvation, to healing! In telling her story of God’s promiscuous act of revealing God’s love through the flesh of this strange man, in this strange encounter, others deemed “excluded” by pop religion become a new center, and create a new site of salvation in the ancient world.]
And many more believed because of his word. They 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." 
[The world is also us. The salve of salvation is one that has healed us.] 

- John 4:5-42

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