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Give me a Drink

The Woman at the Well- Chris Cook Artist used with permission

We live in a time of power imbalances. Whether in society, the home, politics, even in sport. Power is debated on the basis of competing rights. Whether it is gender, race, nationality, class, sexual identity or other, the story of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman in John 4 opens the lid on a number of those issues.

Jesus is a man; she is a woman. Jesus is a Jew; she is a Samaritan. Jesus has a position of power; she has neither status nor might. Jesus was born to the royal family of King David; she has what is called a shameful and hidden past. However, the Samaritan woman is aware of her tradition and in touch somewhat with the Jewish tradition.

As you read through the key moments of dialogue, there is a gentle sparring between the two protagonists.

Jesus: Give me a drink. (Jn 4:7) Woman: You are a Jew. How can you ask me for a drink? (4:9)

Jesus: If only you recognised God’s gift and who it is asking you. (4:10) Woman: You don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. How are you going to get flowing water? You are not greater than Jacob. (4:11)

Jesus: Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never be thirsty. (4:13-14) Woman: Give me this water so I don’t have to keep coming here. (4:15)

Jesus: Go call your husband and come back here. (4:16) Woman: I have no husband. (4:17)

Jesus: Right you are in claiming to have no husband. You have had five. (4:18) Woman: I can see you are a prophet. (4:19)

Jesus: An hour is coming… when real worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. (4:21-25) Woman: I know there is a Messiah coming and whenever he comes, he will announce all things to us. (4:25)

Jesus: I who speak to you, I am he. (4:26) Woman: Come and see someone who told me everything. (4:29)

There are 7 sections to the dialogue moving from the impersonal to the personal. They also talk in the past, the future, and eventually to the present. As they speak there is an unveiling of who she is, and who Jesus is.

Intrigued by Jesus’ offer of ‘living water’, she asks to have some – gradually coming to realise that taking up the offer from Jesus of running, pure water, bubbling up inside of you will mean Jesus cleansing you of the stale, stagnant water you’ve been living off all this time. In her case it was her shameful past.

The setting and residence of the Woman is Sychar. The meaning of Sychar is end. Maybe she felt like she had come to her end. We don’t know if she was equally sinned against as sinning. She knew her life was in a mess, and she knew that Jesus knew. But when Jesus put his finger on a sore spot, she wanted to talk about something else. Maybe you can relate to that. When Jesus extends grace, it also meant loving others enough to have honest and hard conversations. When people bring their lives, their outer lives, and inner lives, into the light of Jesus the Messiah, things begin to come clear.

When we hear about the message of the grace of God, our thirsty souls see and eventually drink ‘living water’. He will change us, reshape us, and transform us. And if so, grace will also overflow out of us towards others as it did with the Samaritan Woman.

Matt Hall

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