So he 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. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 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.) 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.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 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.” 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.” 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. 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. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and 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.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
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?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. 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?”
In the scorching midday sun at Jacob’s well it was a “High Noon” confrontation with as much drama as the 1952 Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly classic. Unlike the movie, this vignette of Jesus’ life is not a violent confrontation between good and evil, it is rather a conflict of exclusivist, sexist and racist cultures, that is every bit as engaging as Carl Foreman’s screen play.
The theme song from “High Noon” , “Do Not Forsake Me O My Darling” could well have been the anthem of the Samaritan woman whom Jesus discerned had been married five times before. She had loved and lost enough to have earned a reputation which made the women of the village shun her from their communal water drawing circle at dawn and dusk, when the day was cool. Only mad dogs and shunned Samaritans go out in the midday sun.
Jesus the Jewish Rabbi, was out of his comfort zone too. In speaking to the woman he was breaking a whole scroll of religious and traditional taboos. John only references this by “ Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans”. An understatement if ever there was one! A product of Post- exilic puritanical xenophobia, the Jewish religion of Jesus day, had become extremely exclusive. Women bore the brunt of the exclusion (See Ezra 10)
In a verbal shoot-out under the scorching sun, the Samaritan woman ducks and weaves like a good defensive gunslinger. In keeping with the all too human way we defend ourselves from shame and blame, this shunned and failed woman goes on the attack. She fires from the hip with a hail of historical, theological, and sociological arguments in an attempt to hook Jesus into a messy cat fight and thereby mask the deep pain of her life that is exposed to his gaze and the blazing sunlight.
Jesus will not be drawn. Rather than attack or defend, Jesus simply holds her in a space where he acknowledges who she is and then declares who he is despite her ritual and religious “unworthiness” for such an epiphany.
Isn’t that all any of us need for our healing? A space,unbearably hot as it might be, where we can allow ourselves to acknowledge who we are, and in that moment be graced by a Saviour who does not turn away from our shame and failure, but who floods our failed lives with his quenching living water.
Watching this sun drenched scene, I notice how the woman leaves the redundant water jar. She didn’t ever draw Jacob’s water did she? But then she wasn’t thirsty anymore was she?
I also notice how she goes back to the very people of her village, who have judged and jostled her, and owns who she is in front of them, because despite her failures Jesus’ thirst quenching encounter has validated her as a human being.
There is something very “Resurrection morning” about the way this Samaritan woman leaves the deep gaping well, ( a symbol of her deep and dark wounding?) Like the women leave the empty tomb, she goes back to the city to proclaim having possibly seen the Messiah. Perhaps though her message is different. Could she not be calling out, “I have risen from the dead!”?
I suppose this event from Jesus’ life is different from the Western High Noon. This Middle-Eastern High Noon has life pouring from the desert sands, where most Westerns end with blood seeping into the sand. Is that because the “victim” is no longer the failed human woman, but the inclusive Jewish rabbi, who allows his blood to be spilt to end the shaming, and blaming as he gets caught in the Cross-fire?
Good Friday is just weeks away, time to saddle up and move on out.
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