Third Sunday of Lent
Many years ago, I was watching a TV show about newly wedded husband and wives. It was a fun show about how do you know your partner. They would have questions like, “What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?” “What’s your favourite footy team?” “What’s your kind of food that you like your wife to cook for you?” Sometimes, both partners would get the answer correct and sometimes they would get it awfully wrong and that’s the fun part.
The gospel for this week, which is pretty long, is about knowing who Jesus is from the efforts of the woman at the well. And as we read along the gospel, we will learn that the woman at the well slowly discovered who Jesus was - from a Jew, to a prophet and then a Saviour.
“How can you, a Jew…” The opening encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman started when Jesus, after a long walk with his disciples who left him at the well to get something to eat, was already tired and thirsty. So naturally he wanted a drink. So Jesus asked this woman if she could draw water for him so that he could refresh himself. Now, during that time Samaritans and Jews were fierce enemies. Somewhere in their history Samaritans accepted foreigners in their midst and started marrying them, while the Jews refused to do so for they believed that they must maintain their race and intermarriage was prohibited. That is why they had deep animosity against each other. At the same time, in both cultures men should not talk to unaccompanied women. So the sight of Jesus who was a very respectable man in society talking to a woman at the well could be an awkward sight to those who will see them. And yet, this is the starting point of their conversation. It dwelt on their differences as Jews and Samaritans.
“I can see you are a prophet.” In the style of Jesus, whenever he preached he wanted to use simple items to drive a point. And at this point, since the woman was drawing water Jesus talked about water – and not just about plain water but living water. What is living water? In the Mediterranean culture, living water is water that moves. So water that is flowing from a stream or river is living water but water from a well is not. That is why the woman got so interested about this living water. And not only that, when Jesus asked for her husband, the woman replied the truth that she had five husbands and the one that she is with at the moment is not her husband. In their culture, the women go to the well to get the water that their household needs for the whole day. They either go to the well early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it is not too hot. However, this woman goes there every midday. She goes there perhaps to avoid all the rumours and insults that she would hear because of her status of having five husbands and being with a man who is not her husband. In a very tight knit culture, any little irregular thing that they do could easily be the talk of the town and this Samaritan woman got hurt from all those so she wants to avoid all the women at all cost even if it means braving the hot sun to get water for her house. So perhaps because Jesus didn’t condemn her and maybe had brought this fact to her with a sense of concern and love of what she is undergoing right now and that made her say that Jesus is a prophet.
“We know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.” Then after talking about the personal life of the Samaritan woman, the discussion turned more serious talking about the differences in worship of the Jews and the Samaritans. However, Jesus emphasised that one day all of them will be worshiping the Father not in the mountain or in Jerusalem but everywhere. And the Samaritan woman admitted that she is waiting for the Messiah to proclaim all these things. And Jesus revealed himself to the woman that he is the one that they are waiting for. And with this the Samaritan woman went to the marketplace and told all the people there that she might have found the Messiah and all people poured to that place to hear Jesus and Jesus stayed for two days to preach to the Samaritans and all believed that he is truly the Saviour of the world.
This long gospel for this week tells us of the stages that all of us have to undergo to be able to know the person of Jesus Christ. And for most of us, it will take our whole lifetime to achieve this. But what is important is to make that first step. Like the Samaritan woman, it is Jesus who made the first move. He is the one who approached her first even though it was so unthinkable according to the cultural norms of the time. Then Jesus presented the unpleasant realities of the flaws of the woman’s life not with condemnation but with love. Then Jesus presented himself that - he is the Messiah that they were waiting for.
And Jesus is doing the same to us at this very moment. And we can know Jesus deeper with a relationship with him. True, he will present to us our flaws and sins but not with condemnation but with love. And then he will show us the way to be able to get healing and receive salvation.
So why not start right now? Let us pick up our bibles and know Jesus more. Let us pray to him in a more personal way and he will show us the way so that we may be able to know him better and be closer to him.