The Woman at the Well
3rd Sunday of Lent
March 12, 2023
Jesus has arrived at a very ancient well in central Israel (John 4:5-42). He and the disciples have been traveling slowly south toward Jerusalem, away from the relative safety of the north, where they had gone to avoid Herod and the Pharisees who want to kill him. The path that Jesus has chosen is more direct, but also goes through Samaritan territory. Since he was headed toward Jerusalem, he could expect hostility in any encounter with the locals.
Here we see Jesus at a very human level. It is a hot day to be traveling through a semi-desert area. Jesus, exhausted and thirsty, has sent the disciples into town for food. Perhaps Jesus wanted time alone to pray as well. At last, Jesus is alone at the well. But now a woman is approaching; she is not expecting to see Jesus. She is a woman with a history. She chooses the hottest time of the day so that she will not encounter others here. This well, founded by Jacob over 1000 years earlier, was 80-100 feet deep and required a bucket with a long rope. Jesus had neither. Jesus looks at the woman and says “Give me a drink.”
Jesus is really pushing the envelope here. A Jewish man of that century would not have initiated a conversation with a strange Samaritan woman who was alone. Add to this the fact that Samaritans and Jews had an ongoing political and theological battle that was over 400 years old, and they would not even speak to each other under these circumstances. Also, for Jesus to use this woman’s bucket to drink water would have rendered him ritually impure; but Jesus, as in other gospel stories, is willing to take on this woman’s impurity in order to move her toward faith. As a result of this conversation, Jesus wins her over and, after acknowledging her sins, she ends up witnessing to her whole town!
This encounter of the “Woman at the Well” is the story of our lives as well. At various times Jesus will arrange things so that he might be “sitting at the well”, waiting for us when we are going about our business. We will not know it is the Son of God and we will not be expecting to find Jesus there. Jesus waits for someone to speak to him honestly about their problems and sins and issues of the day, to engage the Lord in conversation and do a good deed for him. One of these ways we find him is in confession; another is prayer, personal or public (i.e., the Mass); a third would be an encounter with a stranger or acquaintance whose words or deeds bring Christ to us; a fourth would be when we do a good deed for another, only to find that it was really Christ.
The Woman at the Well teaches us that God makes himself available to us so that we might find him, even though he will usually be in disguise. He longs to help us wrestle with our issues and to forgive our sins. Jesus is sitting by the well in your own personal world waiting for you to approach him. Where is this place and will you speak to Jesus today when you find him there? What will he reveal to you?