To Know as I am Known

Today’s Gospel reading is from John 4:5-42 – the woman at the well. The Samaritan woman encounters Jesus at mid-day as she arrives to gather water. The timing of her arrival is unusual: it is the noon, and the hottest part of the day. She travels alone because water is usually gathered in the cool of the morning or evening. Jesus is there, however, waiting for her. He asks her for water.

Her conversation with Him at first is strained – He asks for water; she reminds Him that as a Jew, He should have nothing to do with her. In His response He does not challenge her theology or politics, but rather draws her attention to Him, “If you only knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink…’” She continues to engage Him on an intellectual level, but when He speaks to her need, to have her thirst quenched once and for all, she is hooked – now asking something from Him, “Sir, give me this water…”

It is in when Jesus directs her to go, to get her husband and to return, that we learn why she was at the well at noon. Jesus tells her that not only has she had 5 husbands, but also the man she lives with now is not her husband. This woman is an outcast from the town because of her lifestyle. She would likely be shunned and criticized were she to gather water at the same time as the other women of her village, who in turn would not want their children associating with her, so she waits until a time when no one will be there – noon, the hottest part of the day, and she travels alone. She pays the price for her lifestyle both socially and physically.

She knew that the Messiah, when He came, would tell them everything. What Jesus reveals to this Samaritan woman is not science or history or events, but rather everything about her. In that moment, in seeing her life through Him, she saw Him – “could he possibly be the Christ?” and whatever she was looking for in all those men she found in Him.

We know she was changed because whereas she previously avoided contact with others, she now went off into the town and told of meeting the man at the well. The outcast, the woman shunned, was now bringing others to know the the Messiah, the Anointed One!

For the Samaritan woman, the encounter with Jesus – the living water – the savior of the world – saved her from herself.

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