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Living Water: A Dramatic Rendering of John 4:1-30, 39-42

March 23, 2014
John 4:1-30, 39-42

Narrator:  (from pulpit). Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee.  (Jesus gets up from front pew on lectern side, walks to stool beside the font and sits down).  But he had to go through Samaria.  So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

Preacher:  Let’s pause the action for a moment.  We just heard John tells us that Jesus had to go through Samaria.  Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria?  True, there’s a geographical reason, but John’s interested in more than geography. He’s interested in showing us that Jesus is fulfilling the claim, “For God so loved the world.” Jesus– this Jew, this human being with blisters on his feet and suffering from exhaustion after a long journey–is at the same time the incarnation of  God’s love, a spring of living water flowing beyond the boundary of his own people and into all the world. ”For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son into the world…”  And his first stop is a Samaritan village. There Jesus sits waiting by a well without the necessary container for drawing water, because he’s waiting for something other than water.  He’s waiting for a Samaritan.

Samaritan Woman walks from back of sanctuary down center aisle carrying a water jar.  As she nears the well/font, Jesus speaks to her.

Jesus:  “Give me a drink.”

SW:  How it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me a woman of Samaria?”

Jesus:  If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

SW:  “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”

Jesus:  “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of  the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.  The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

SW:  “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus and SW freeze their action.

Preacher:  Allow me to interrupt once again, because we may be as perplexed by Jesus’ words as the Samaritan is.  Jesus is talking about water in a whole new way.   This Samaritan woman is no stranger to water.  Her life revolves around the daily trek to collect water at the well. It’s what she needs for drinking, washing, cooking and bathing.  To her, water is the stuff you collect in buckets lowered into a well and drawn out with ropes.  Who is this Jew talking with her about living water that is like a spring gushing up to eternal life? These are strange words and difficult to understand.  Nonetheless, the woman is intrigued.  She wants this water even though she still don’t’ understand who it is that is talking with her, or what he means by “living water.”  Let’s listen, then, as Jesus continues the conversation.

Jesus:  “Go, call your husband, and come back.”

SW:  “I have no husband.”

Jesus: “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”

SW: “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus:   “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

SW:  “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 

Jesus: “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”  Jesus and SW freeze

Narrator:  It is at this point that Jesus’ disciples, who had gone into the city to buy food, came to the well. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city.

SW:  Sets her water jar down and goes to the first pew on pulpit side where several of the young adults (citizens of Sychar) are sitting and says to them:   “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

Preacher:  Before you go with the Samaritan woman to see Jesus, let me just say that if we had to pick one scene in the Gospels that shows us the most about who Jesus, it might  well be the one we’ve just watched.  It depicts God’s surprising, barrier-smashing love that Jesus brings to the world.  The very fact that Jesus accepts and relates to a Samaritan is shocking in its first century context.  Jews and Samaritans went to great lengths to avoid contact with one another.  They were neighbors with a long history of bitter enmity.  Yet Jesus intentionally goes into enemy territory, because he has come to offer God’s peace and to break down the dividing walls of hostility.

And not only does Jesus offer the fullness of God’s life and love to a Samaritan, a foreigner, but to a woman of Samaria.  In his day, a Jewish male did not speak to a woman in a public place.  Readers of this story have generally assumed that the woman in question had lived a morally objectionable life.  Yet this is not necessarily the case.  She very easily could have been widowed or have been abandoned or divorced.  Further, she could be living with a deceased husband’s brother, an arrangement that was common but not technically considered a marriage.

But whether the woman’s story was scandalous or just plain tragic, it didn’t matter to Jesus.  In him we see God’s love embracing all people with equal eagerness. That’s why Jesus speaks to her of worship in spirit and truth—not worship confined to an exclusionary zone based on gender, or ethnicity, or even geography, but worship that included her and people of every place and time. As I say, this scene in John is one of the Gospel’s best scenes to show us who Jesus is.  Or, put another way, in this scene Jesus shows us who God is:  An boundary-smashing love that changes lives, reconciles enemies, and creates community.  So now let’s see how this episode ends.

Samaritan Woman and townspeople get up and walk toward Jesus, greet him warmly, shake his hand, invite him to stay with them, and together they go back and all sit down on first pew.

Narrator: Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of his word.  They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Preacher:  Before we leave this scene, let’s pay a tribute this Samaritan woman.  She is a witness to the Good News of God in Jesus Christ, but as we’ve seen not a likely witness and not even a thorough one.  As Fred Craddock points out, her statement:  “’A man who told me all that I ever did’ is not exactly a recitation of the Apostles Creed.”  She is not even a totally convinced witness: “He cannot be the Christ, can he?”  But she’s a refreshingly honest witness. Without packaged answers or absolute certainty she nevertheless goes to her friends with the invitation:  “Come and see.”  She allows her hearers to arrive at their own affirmations about Jesus, and they do saying: “This is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Friends, let us go and do likewise. We don’t have to have all the answers to be witnesses.  We don’t even have to be totally convinced ourselves in order to witness to what we have seen and heard:  the sound of living water; the satisfying taste of  bread and wine.  This can’t be the food and drink that gives eternal life, can it?  Come and see.  It is the Savior of the world who invites us.