JESUS’ ATTITUDE TOWARD UNWANTED PEOPLE
(A biblical reflection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A], 19 March 2017)
Gospel Reading: John 4:5-42
First Reading: Exodus 17:3-7; Psalms: Psalm 95:1-2,6-9; Second Reading: Romans 5:1-2,5-8
So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as He was with His journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into 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?” For Jews have no dealings 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 nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 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 he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” The woman said Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and You say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks 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 (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
Just then His disciples came. They marvelled that He was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do You wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the city and were coming to Him.
Meanwhile the disciples besought Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought Him food?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 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.”
Many Samaritans from that city believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His words. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:5-42 RSV)
In today’s Gospel reading, a Samaritan woman is surprised when Jesus asks her to give Him a drink of water from Jacob’s well. The reason for her surprise needs to be explained.
After King Solomon died, the land of the Jews divided into two separate kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south, with each kingdom having its own king, its own army, and its own capital. The capital in the northern kingdom was Samaria and the capital of the southern kingdom was Jerusalem, the city where the Jewish Temple was located. Citizens of both kingdoms visited the Temple because it was only place where the Jews could offer sacrifices to God.
In 721 B.C., the Assyrians attacked and conquered the Jews of the northern kingdom and took all able-bodied Jewish men, women, and children into exile. Assyrians immigrated to the northern kingdom and some of them converted to Judaism after marrying Jewish woman. Because these Assyrian/Jewish couples lived in Samaria, we call their children Samaritans.
Since the Samaritans were only half Jewish and were descendants of the Assyrians, the Jews in the southern kingdom despised them and even called them dogs.
Because of their mutual dislike, Jews and Samaritans normally did not talk to each other and some rabbis even went so far as to teach that Jews who passed through Samaritan territory should shake dust from their feet before entering Jewish lands so Jewish soil would not be contaminated with Samaritan dust.
Since the Jewish religious leaders did not allow them to offer sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim and claimed it was the only place sacrifices could be legitimately offered to God. Gerizim is the mountain the woman refers to in today’s reading (John 4:20).
Finally, because first-century Palestinian Judaism was a male-dominated religion, some Jewish men thanked God every morning they were not females, and the rabbis occasionally debated if women had souls. The social customs of the time even frowned on a Jewish man speaking to a woman in public. When you consider all of this, it’s easy to understand why the Samaritan woman was surprised Jesus talked to her.
(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels, San Jose, CA: Resource Publications, Inc., 1992, pages 24-25)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in our society there are also unwanted people, others don’t want to associate with. Thank you Lord Jesus for today’s Gospel. Here, You give us the example of the correct attitude toward these people. Jesus, today I invite You to be the Lord of my life. I will leave behind my old water jar, my old ways of seeking fulfilment. I seek You instead. Fill me with Your living water today so that I will never thirst again. Amen.
Jakarta, 19 March 2017
A Christian Pilgrim