Today’s reading: John 4:1-42
Mother God, thank you for raising the woman at Jacob’s well in power and joy. Please delight in us as we drink of the living water.
The moral of John 4 in many sermons has been something like this, “No matter how horrendous a person you are, Jesus will still come and rescue you.” This passage so often seems to have been the tale of a bad woman dealing with a particularly egregious sin to whom the Messiah was revealed.
But in Jesus’ day, to be married was not a woman’s choice. It was a familial decision restricted by the societal rules of marriage, with the power of choice in marriage delegated solely to men. It was more likely than not that this woman could not even invite men into her home without a man’s consent, let alone decide to be married to five different men. Therefore, it was more likely that she had been taken by a man that either subsequently died or discarded her, and this happened to her five times in succession. This Samaritan woman was a woman that had likely endured great suffering.
The status of her clean state, however, is not the most significant piece of her story, but rather it is the fact that the two had a profound conversation in the light of day. The Christ sits with her and speaks to her as would a friend, on a meandering myriad of topics that range between her personal life to a multicultural theology. Specifically, they discuss her intimate relationships and move on to discuss the tenets of the worship of their differing ethnoreligious groups. The questions and answers are filled with a hunger for wisdom and knowledge. It is in this conversation that Jesus first reveals himself as the Messiah.
And at the close of their encounter, unlike in other interactions of spiritual and physical healing, Jesus doesn’t tell her to stay quiet or to sin no more. The disciples think that after his long walk and over these long hours, Jesus must be hungry and so they ask him to eat. But he responds, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” There is a saying in Korean that means: Watching you eat makes me full. It’s an expression that captures the very specific delight of witnessing a loved one eat to her heart’s content. Upon the conclusion of this profound conversation at Jacob’s well, the woman leaps up and runs back to town to tell everyone what she’s just experienced. In these moments, Jesus delights in her.
What is more is that the epilogue of this story isn’t about Jesus and an unfortunate woman. This story ends with the Samaritan woman guiding her townspeople to Jesus. And do you know what Jesus said about being a prophet in your own home?
The Samaritan woman was misunderstood in her day and is still misunderstood in many circles today. In what ways do you think your community misunderstands you? Do you believe that God understands, that you bring Jesus joy?
Created by: Charlene Choi
About the author: Charlene is a voracious reader and creative storyteller. She is the Director of Strategy at one of Orange County’s largest Asian American nonprofits, Korean Community Services. KCS is home to KCS Health Center, KC Services, 복지 센터, and Korean American Center.
Image by: Sheri Park
About the artist: Sheri Park is an interdisciplinary visual artist, with a focus on video & performance. She completed her undergraduate degree from Union College in 2013, and her Certificate in Theology and Art from Fuller Seminary in 2015. When she’s not making art or at her graphic design job, she enjoys making breakfast, reading, and watching ducks by the lake with her husband in Fremont, California.
About the image:
Touch (In the Image)
48″ x 58″
oil on canvas