John chapter 4 is a complex theological passage. Because of its complexity, there is much to this episode that I simply cannot comment on. In it, Jesus describes himself as the source of living water. In it, Jesus speaks about worship in spirit and in truth. All important, but we cannot get to all of it in a couple brief paragraphs.
For today's purposes, I want us to focus exclusively on where Jesus is and to whom he speaks. Jesus is traveling in Samaria. And that alone is an important event. Jews did not travel in Samaria. Samaritans were both religiously and ethnically other. Jesus's presence in Samaria shows an active subversion of the human tendency to build walls between the other either to keep them out or to protect those of us in. While it is true that there is a diversity of humanity and we feel most comfortable with those like us, the unfortunate truth is that once we create in-groups and out-groups, we tend to diminish and disrespect whoever the out-group is. Jesus will have none of this. Jesus purposefully crosses the boundaries to abide with the outsiders.
While in Samaria Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman. This just further illustrates the point made above. Jesus purposefully challenges the social expectations of the time. A man is not supposed to talk to a woman publically without her husband present. A Jew is not supposed to speak to a Samaritan. But here is Jesus, speaking to her, having a very deep theological discussion with her. The fact that eventually, Jesus seems to confront the woman's sinfulness is important, not because her promiscuity is named, but because Jesus has been speaking to her regardless. This isn't to say that Jesus condones. It does illustrate that Jesus does not view the woman as a category, as an outsider, a Samaritan, a lowly woman, a promiscuous woman, a sinner. Jesus views her as a human being, a child of God. And this view is transformative. The story goes on to tell us that the woman tells many about the man Jesus she has met.
In this moment, all of the reasons that many would have had for immediately judging this woman as unworthy for serving Jesus or ministering Jesus are undone. Jesus loves her where she is and loves her into her potential to take her place as a partner in God's creating and redeeming plan. In short, to Jesus, the life of the outsider, the enemy, the sinner, matters. And this shapes us as it teaches us to view one another, to view the outsiders and others and less-than, as children of God. It teaches us how to look at one another as God looks at us all. With hope and belief and compassion. It reminds us of our calling, once we are baptized, to be reconcilers who are not satisfied to live in a world of walls but energized to journey into the outsider's world and make a welcome space for wholesome relationships.
If you would like to listen to the sermon that this reflection is connected to, return to our home page and listen to Hagar's Life Matters from September 25, 2016