Scripture: John 4:1-6
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. 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.
I’ve been in Texas for about three months, now. If the weather in Samaria is anything like that of a Texas summer, then I don’t want to be anywhere near the outdoors in the heat of the day. Yet, this detail is very important to the story that will unfold following this passage. These verses are an introduction to Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. This story is one I’ve heard all my life, but the whole thing is a bit lengthy, so I’ll take a few posts to work through it. This introduction, though, gives us some details that will shed light on some of the narrative that will follow.
First, I really like the phrase, “But he had to go through Samaria.” In reality, Jesus didn’t actually have to go through Samaria at all. There were different routes available that other Jewish travelers took all the time to avoid going through Samaria. These two groups, the Jews and the Samaritans, were pretty hostile towards each other and would go far out of their way to avoid contact. So really, Jesus chose this route specifically. He wants to be in Samaria. And I think he wants to be there in order to start tearing down the pointless walls that divide human from human. Jesus is about to prove that his grace can triumph over even the most hostile situations.
Second, that detail about it being noon really is important. And it’s important for two reasons, I think. The first is a concrete component of this one story. Jesus was there at noon because that’s when the Samaritan woman would be there. Nobody in their right minds would be fetching water at this time of day if they had any other option. It was just too hot. But as we’ll learn, the Samaritan woman didn’t have any other option because of the shame she faced from her community. She is an adulteress.
The second reason I think this detail about it being noon is important has to do with the larger narrative. I think it’s to contrast this coming encounter with the Samaritan woman with his visit with Nicodemus a few verses ago. If you’ll remember my post about that story, Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cover of night, thus calling into question his motives. Here, though, Jesus is seeking out the Samaritan woman in the middle of the day. Metaphorically, then, he’s doing this for all to see. Jesus wants everyone to know about this radical conversation he’s about to have. Jesus is about to use this interaction to teach us about his power to forgive, his capacity to love, and his desire to break down the artificial barriers that divide us.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story.
God of reconciliation, grant me the courage to find places where I can take the peace of Christ rather than waiting on peace to come to me. Amen.
Thought for the Day:
Be proactive in spreading peace, joy, and love.