The Samaritan Woman (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

The story of the Samaritan woman is significant for a number of reasons. First, the Samaritan woman knows herself as a sinner and yet she is a seeker. She tells Jesus truthfully that, inspite of living with a man, she has no husband. Second, she is a witness to Jesus as he reveals himself as the awaited Messiah. Third, she is the first missionary in Johns Gospel. She goes to her village, speaks about Jesus to the villagers and brings them to Jesus.

Jesus and his disciples are going from Judaea from Galilee. There were two ways during Jesus time from Galilee in the north to Judaea in the South a distance of about 120 miles. Jesus took the shorter of the two routes via Samaria. But the Jews usually took the longer route crossing Jordan via Peraeo because of their traditional enmity with the Samaritans, who built their own temple at Mount Gerizim on the Samaritan territory.

When Jesus and his disciples reached Jacobs well outside Sychar town, Jesus tired of the journey, remained at the well while the disciples went to town to buy food. Then, a woman from the town came to draw water from the well. Breaking traditions and customs Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water. The woman recognized a Jew in Jesus and was surprised by the request.

John, the only evangelists who narrates the story, givies their telling dialogue, A Samaritan woman came to draw some water, and Jesus said to her, Give me a drink of water. (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.)

The woman answered, you are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan so how can you ask me for a drink? (Jews will not use the same cups and bowls that Samaritans use.)

Jesus answered, If only you knew what God gives and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would ask him, and he would give you life-giving water.

Sir the woman said, you havent got a bucket, and the well is deep. Where would you get that life-giving water? It was our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well; he and his sons and his flocks all drank from it. You dont claim to be greater than Jacob, do you?

Jesus answered, Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring which will provide him with life giving water and give him eternal life.

Sir, the woman said, give me that water! Then I will never be thirsty again, nor will I have to come here to draw water. (Jn. 4, 7-15).

We see in the dialogue that Jesus takes the initiative to start the dialogue. Then asking for help Jesus raises her curiosity and draws her to a deep reality.

Jesus by traveling through Samaria and now talking to a Samaritan woman breaks many barriers of nationality and orthodox Jewish customs. In the encounter of Jesus with the woman we see Jesus humanity manifested in his warmth and sympathy for the woman. In the process he reveals himself to the Samaritan woman and the entire humanity that he is the Messiah and that he has come to save not only the Jews but the whole community.

The conversation slowly reveals that the woman and Jesus have established a rapport with each other and Jesus tells her to call her husband before he reveals himself further. Jesus is not surprised when the woman tells him about her life and accepts her and compliments her that she has told him the truth. Then, the woman recognizes in Jesus a Prophet and wants to know more.

Let us follow Johns narration. Go and call your husband, Jesus told her, and come back.

I havent got a husband, she answered.

Jesus replied, You are right when you say you havent got a husband. You have been married to five men, and the man you live with now is not really your husband. You have told me the truth.

I see you are a prophet, sir the woman said. My Samaritan ancestors worshipped God on this mountain, but you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where we should worship God.

Jesus said to her, Believe me, woman, the time will come when people will not worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans do not really know whom you worship; but we Jews know whom we worship, because it is from the Jews that Salvation comes. But the time is coming and is already here, when by the power of Gods Spirit people will worship the Father as he really is, offering him the true worship that he wants. God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is (Jn. 4, 16-24).

At this stage of Jesus life we see that Jesus is cautious about revealing himself as the Messiah to people because as John says elsewhere he himself knew what was in their hearts (Jn. 2, 25). And yet he reveals himself to the Samaritan women as the Messiah. He also makes her a missionary. So we read further in Johns Gospel:

The woman said to him, I know that the Messiah will come, and when he comes, he will tell us everything.

Jesus answered, I am he, I who am talking with you. ( Jn. 4, 25-26).

Then the woman left her water jar, went back to the town, and said to the people there, Come and see the man who told me everything I have ever done could he be the Messiah? So they left the town and went to Jesus ( Jn. 4, 28-30).

The Samaritan woman was more that successful in her mission. The Samaritan people from her town came to meet Jesus sitting at Jacobs well which was half a kilometer away from the town. They are conquered and converted by Jesus. John continues his narration:

Many of the Samaritans in that town believed in Jesus because the woman had said, He told me everything I have ever done. So when the Samaritans came to him, they begged him to stay with them, and Jesus stayed there two days.

Many more believed because of his message, and they said to the woman, We believe now, not because of what you said, but because we ourselves have heard him, and we know that he really is the Saviour of the world (Jn. 4, 39-42).

The Samaritan woman invited the people of her town to come and meet Jesus whom she has discovered as a prophet and Messiah. They came to Jesus because they saw a new person in the woman. Earlier, they considered her a sinner who had five husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband.

The Samaritan people were happy to meet Jesus and recognize him as the Saviour. The woman and the town people must have invited Jesus that he and his disciples stayed two days at their town. John says, After spending two days there, Jesus left and went to Galilee (Jn 4, 43).

The encounter with Jesus and the response of the town people to Jesus must have been a transforming experience for the Samaritan woman as she experienced Jesus love and forgiveness. (contact the author: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )

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