Saturday 05 July 2014

Bible Book:

“Jesus said, ‘Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty.’” (vv. 14-15)

John 4:1-26 Saturday 5 July 2014


John's Gospel is presenting Jesus as someone who overturned theold ways of Judaism and brought something new to God's people.Having talked about new life in Baptism (John3:22-36) the Gospel now speaks in general of the life-givingwater of Christ replacing the laws and purification rites ofJudaism.

The Gospel does this with the story of Jesus speaking with anunclean Samaritan woman! Jesus enters Samaria as a result ofopposition in its southern neighbour Judea, from those who claimedto lead the Jews in ritual purity - the Pharisees (verses 1-3). Hewould not have expected a welcome from Samaritans, traditionallyhostile to Jews (see Luke9:51-53).

No Jewish man, let alone a rabbi, would have spoken to a womanin public. Even less would they have accepted a drink from aritually-unclean Samaritan (verse 9) - they would not use the sameutensils or bucket, so the woman would not dream of offering hers(verse 11). And how could he possibly have a greater source ofwater than Jacob (verse 12)?

The true fountain of living water is God; human-dug wells cannever satisfy  (Jeremiah 2:13). Even those who find humanwisdom will thirst for more (Sirach24:21). Only the living water of Jesus (of Baptism?) giveseternal life. Even the temple, the earthly dwelling-place of God,will be superseded (verse 21). There will be no more rivalrybetween Jerusalem and Mount Gerizim for importance (verse 20).

The rabbis saw the Torah (the five books of Moses from Genesisto Deuteronomy) as cleansing, thirst-quenching and life-giving. Butas Moses brought the law, Jesus brings grace and truth (John1:17). "Spirit" and "truth" convey the same idea (v. 24) - thefaithfulness and truth of God sets people free from mere obedienceto the law (John 8:32). The "gift of God" (v. 10) is Jesus himself- and the water of life is offered first to a Samaritan, from thevery group that the rabbis accused of corrupting the truth of theTorah. And as a postscript, we note that in the first weeks of theearly Church the apostles were to find a better welcome in Samariathan in Jerusalem - see Acts8:1-25.

To Ponder

  • How is the rivalry of the Samaritans and Jews paralleledbetween Christian groups today?
  • How do we know the truth? Might it be possible that the truthof God is to be found outside the church as well as inside it? Ifso, where?
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