third week of lent
The noon-day sun shines brightly in Sychar warming the dusty ground on which I sit. I stretch and yawn as a woman approaches the well of Jacob with her bucket in hand ready to draw water. She is the one who is talked about by many because she is an adultress and has had five husbands. She comes to the well at this time of day since no one else will come out in the blistering heat. She is reclusive, not one to mingle with others, because of her shameful past. I make my way to her and offer friendship. She reaches down to pat my head and scratch behind my ears…I purr at her touch.
A man, tired from his journey, seeks the minimal shade of a small tree, near the well, where a bench sits. He looks as though he has come a long distance by the dust on his sandals. Wearily he settles down and asks the woman for a drink of the cool water she has just brought up from the well. This is most unusual since it is forbidden for a man to speak to an unattended woman. I have never seen a Jewish man ask a woman, a Samaritan woman at that, for anything, even a drink of water. I wonder if he knows that she is a public sinner? This man is not a typical man but one who is treating her with respect and great kindness.
In their short exchange of words, the man, Jesus, seems to be actively building a relationship with this outcast. He assures her that if she will give him water to quench his thirst, he promises to give her “living water” so she will never be thirsty again. She does not understand at first but as she listens to him tell her of her dark past without judgement, she begins to see that she is in the presence of someone special. The woman is astounded at his knowledge of her life choices. Is this the one for whom she has thirsted all of her life? I jump on the bench next to Jesus and receive his gentle touch as he invites the woman to change her life forever by accepting the water of eternal life that he offers her. Although the woman does not fully understand, something she has never felt before is happening. Jesus is offering her a new way of life. The invitation is to her heart, not her head and she begins to listen in a different way. The woman opens herself to Jesus and focuses on him and not on her past.
After the encounter with Jesus, I follow the woman into town, an entire town which has rejected her. Cradling me in her arms, she boldly calls people together to tell them about the good news of her new life. Many of the Samaritans begin to believe in Jesus because of her testimony of God’s endless love and forgiveness. The woman is no longer burdened by her past; her guilt and sin are not the focus anymore. Her new life of joy and happiness is trusting in Jesus to bring her to the true well of crystal-clear water of the Spirit. SSJ Associate Marti Michael