19 March 2017

John 4:5-42

“Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’” (vv. 16-17a)

Psalm: Psalm 95


Much is made of the miracles that we're told Jesus performed - turning water into wine, feeding the 5,000, making the blind see - astonishing feats of transformation. These things stand out to us as the hallmarks of a truly extraordinary life. And it's very easy to overlook the less unusual elements of Jesus' ministry - the more humdrum features - like the fact that wherever Jesus went he spoke with people. When Jesus speaks with people, things change: their minds change, their hearts burn within them, healing comes through a word or a command - they walk away from the encounter transformed. These transformations were no less miraculous or significant than those that defied the laws of nature.

Today's passage is one such conversation. Jesus is travelling through Samaria and stops for refreshment at the well, where he meets a woman who, frankly, nobody wants to know or even be around - let alone speak with. And the thing I love about the exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is that it starts off really stroppy. There's animosity from the start - she says: "Who are you, to ask me for a drink?" (verse 9) and he effectively responds that if only she knew who he was, she would be seeking his help (verse 10). It goes from bad to worse - she begins to mock him: "Sir, you don't even have a bucket!" (verse 11).

And the banter continues in this manner until Jesus says "Go, call your husband," and she responds that she has no such thing. And it's at this point that things change - Jesus reveals to the woman that he sees her, he knows her and he understands who she is - why she's visiting this well when no one else is around, why she's an outcast from her own community. And that changes everything. She stops mucking about and asks the serious question of who is this man that's standing in front of her. She rushes away, calling to anyone that will hear, "Come and see! Come and see a man who told me everything I've ever done!" (v. 29). A transformational conversation - all arising from the simple request for a drink.

To Ponder

  • Can you recall a conversation in your life that has been transformative or significant? What made it so powerful?
  • Conversation is such an integral part of daily life that we don't often think about the role it plays in our formation as individuals and communities. How might you use the conversations you have today and throughout this week to build up those with whom you meet?
  • What words have power for you? Are they positive or negative? How do you use them in relation to yourself and others?

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.