Third Sunday in Lent Scrutiny (Year A) - The Woman at the Well
1. If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him and he would have given you living water (John 4:10). It would seem that going to the well to draw water for the day was an activity that would be best done in the cool of the morning. Such an activity would also have been a chance for social interaction with the other women of the village. So why did the woman come at noontime? Maybe there was an emergency in the house and she was delayed. Most likely she deliberately came to the well when she thought no one else would be there. Her multiple marriages and living with a man without being married to him would have met with disapproval in the community. To permit a man to treat her in such a way endangered all the women in the town, as well as the rest of society. So the woman came to draw her water in the heat of the day.
2. Little did she know that Jesus would be waiting for her. I do not think it was accidental that Jesus was waiting for her. If Jesus had gone into the town with the others, he would have missed her. Even if she had stayed in town, she would have never heard Him speak. But our Lord wanted to have an encounter with her, so that she could be healed. He did not approve of her sins, that was clear from His many teachings on the permanence of marriage and the evil of divorce. But Jesus did love her, as He loves all sinners. So in spite of the cultural custom of men not talking to women who were not their relatives and of Jews and Samaritans ignoring each other in most circumstances, Jesus asked her for a drink of water.
3. Really His plan all along was to give her the Living Water which He spoke of- the Water which would be a fountain within her always springing up to refresh her from inside. Such a fountain would have sounded very good to someone who lived in a time and place in which no one had running water. But we know that Jesus is not talking about regular water. And soon the woman would realize that also.
4. The Water which Jesus speaks of is the gift of the Holy Spirit which we receive in Holy Baptism. To receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit refreshes the individual so gifted because it is the Spirit of God who created us out of love and who has saved us from our sins. God alone can fulfill the deepest longings of the human heart. Other things, whether they are food or drink or clothes or sex or money or power or human comforts or even scientific knowledge and understanding, will not be able to fill our desires because we have been made for eternity with God. The woman at the well herself stated that they were looking forward to the Messiah who would guide them in the ways of God.
5. When the Samaritan woman expressed the desire to receive the living water, Jesus asked her to bring her husband. Jesus already knew that the woman was in an adulterous relationship, He knew everything about her. And yet He offered the gift of the Living Water. Of course, a gift is only ours to the extent that we are open to receiving it. The Holy Spirit is not going to dwell somewhere unwelcoming. Sin is incompatible with the presence of God. As Jesus has said you cannot serve two masters. You will end up hating one and loving the other. God will always love us, but He will not stay where He is not wanted. So although Jesus did not condemn her, His bringing up the problem with her life was a way of letting her know that it was time to change.
6. She brought up the differences between Jews and Samaritans- which among other things were the modes of worship. The Samaritans accepted the first five books of the Bible and they too were awaiting the Messiah. And Jesus told her that He is the one. He used the phrase I am he... That is, Jesus used the Divine Name to identify Himself as not only the Messiah, but God Himself.
7. Because of her encounter with Jesus, the woman’s heart was changed. She lost her fear of the other townspeople, proclaimed what He did for her, and invited them to meet Jesus aslo. They would have never listened if she had not changed her life. But they could see that she had been transformed and left sin behind.
8. This event in Jesus’ life is meant to instruct us in the reality of Baptism. In the living waters, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which is God Himself. The Spirit will transform us. It will destroy sin and enable us to live in accord with the will of God, if our hearts are committed to the Lord.
9. Someone who really encounters Jesus in this personal way in which He gives His Spirit as a gift will not be able to keep it to themselves. If God shows such love and mercy to you, you just have to tell others about it. But to bring them to the Lord also requires a radical change of heart away from sin and toward Jesus as Lord. Otherwise it will simply not convince. Of course, what really convinces is not our words, or even our actions, as holy as they may be. The convincing power is the Lord Himself. To know God, to Love God, to receive God’s Spirit within us is the way to fulfillment. And it comes from Jesus. If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him and he would have given you living water (John 4:10).