Watershed at the Well

 

This day began like all other days in Sychar. The man that stayed with me last night left my side early, while it was still dark. I turn over and wait. I go out when the sun is highest over Mount Gerizim so as to not rankle the locals.

You see, I have a reputation in this town. It has to do with the men who have come and gone from my life. I keep going back to the well for a different man. Those I’ve been with have been dull, uninteresting and not satisfying at all. The one I’m with now: ehh! I could do better …

No matter. I am supremely self-reliant, like my people the Samaritans. We don’t need the Jew’s affirmation. We have our holy mountain, our Pentateuch and the true religion of Israel. And, I have my ways …

It is time for me to go for water. There is a spring way off in that direction, but I much prefer the water from the well of Jacob our patriarch. Come with me and I will tell you about my people. Cover your head, for the sun is scorching, and carry this water jar. We will fill two water jars today …

My people remained in the land of Israel and were not carried off to Babylon like those of Judah. We are the true remnant of Israel. We are guardians of Israel. We have preserved the true religion of our fathers. Our ways were not altered and distorted by the Babylonian captivity. When the Judahites returned to Israel, they presumed their ways to be true Israel. They presumed their own holy place …

Look at blessed Gerizim. Mount Gerizim is our holy mountain. It has been the true holy place for Israel since the time Joshua conquered Canaan … It is the mountain designated by Moses for our place of worship …

There, at its base is Bir Ya`qub, the well of Jacob our patriarch. That is where we are headed. It is near a crossroad for those traveling north or south … that well is where our father Abraham sent his servant to find the future wife for his son Isaac. The servant was to ask for water. If offered water by a woman there then that was the sign that she would be Isaac´s future wife …

Those who returned from Babylonian captivity despise us. According to the Jewish polemic Ben-Sira, we are “the foolish people that dwells in Shechem” and an enemy of Israel. Over one-hundred years ago a Jewish king, John Hyrcanus, destroyed our holy city of Shechem and our temple on Mount Gerizim. I suspect that the Jewish authorities didn’t like us trying to stop their rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem when they returned. They also don’t like that we married foreigners and took on their ways. They call us half-breeds! …As you can imagine, there has long been religious and ethnic enmity between us and the Jews …Why, they even have hatred against their own people and prophets. They kill them! … So, I want nothing to do with them …

The well is to the right of the road where it bends from the great plain of Makhneh into the pass of Shechem. The well is deep. The water is clear and pure. You must taste it ….

If you haven’t realized it yet, I am fiercely independent like my people, the Samaritans. I support myself. I own property, earned through my dealings with men. I am fiercely independent like my people, the Samaritans. And we are an open-minded people. We have welcomed criminals and refugees and the excommunicated – the violators of the severe Jewish laws. They have found safety with us from the Jewish authorities … I am comfortable living as I do among the rejected …

It is good that we go to the well now, while the sun is hot and the chatter cooled. The women of Sychar have all drawn water early this morning and have returned home. We will be left alone …

I am not only a Samaritan but also a woman of the world. When the Greeks came and conquered Samaria, we took on many Greek ways while keeping our traditional ways. We called our sanctuary Zeus Hellenios to honor God in the language we became familiar with. And, why shouldn’t we acknowledge their gods as being the same as our God. We are open-minded and not like those uppity Judeans who returned from exile with their Judaism. They refuse to associate with foreigners and us Samaritans. They keep their distance and we keep our distance. They have their land and we have ours. They have their ways and we have ours. And when the Messiah comes, he will put things right. The Messiah will show those Judeans that we were right all along …

Just a little further. I can almost taste that cool water …wait! Who’s that? A Jew? Why is he alone? Is he a running from the Jewish authorities? One doesn’t come through these parts alone for fear of being robbed and left to waste. Remember those men we passed earlier? Maybe he is with them. He must be passing through … Look! This ‘foreigner’ has nothing to draw water with. We will ignore him and pretend that he isn’t there in our space. Those Judeans have nothing to do with us Samaritans. They think we are all demon possessed. We will have nothing to do with them….

Give me your water jar. I will lower it into the well … there, water cool and clear.

“Give me a drink.”

(Whispering: This is odd. Why is he asking me for water? He is not my husband. Doesn’t he know that women and men don’t keep company? Doesn’t he know that Samaritans and Jews don’t associate? He is crossing a line. I’ll deal with him.)

“What! You, a Jew, asking for drink from me, a woman, and a Samaritan at that?”

“If only you’d known God’s gift and who it is that’s saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you’d have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

“But sir, you haven’t got a bucket! And the well is deep! So how were you thinking of getting living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, with his sons and his animals?”

“Everyone who drinks of this water will get thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I’ll give them won’t ever be thirsty again. No: the water I’ll give them will become a spring of water welling up to the life of God’s new age.”

“Sir, give me this water! Then I won’t be thirsty anymore, and I won’t have to come here and draw from the well.”

“Well then, go and call your husband and come here.”

“I haven’t got a husband.” (Whispering: Where is he going with this?)

“You’re telling me you haven’t got a husband! The fact is, you’ve had five husbands, and the one you’ve got now isn’t your husband. You were speaking the truth!”

(Whispering: Hmmm. This guy is perceptive. Let’s see what he does with this!)

“Well, ahem…Well, sir, I can see you’re a prophet …Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain. And you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

“Believe me woman, the time is coming when you won’t worship the father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You worship what you don’t know. We worship what we do know; salvation, you see, is indeed from the Jews. But the time is coming – indeed, it’s here already! – when true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and truth. Yes: that’s the kind of worship the father is looking for. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

(Whispering: OK, I’ll try this.)

“I know that Messiah is coming, the one they call ‘the anointed’. When he comes, he’ll tell us everything.”

“I’m the one – the one speaking to you right now.”

(Whispering: Did you hear that? Did you hear him tell me everything about my life? He told me what was true about me and did it without patronizing me. How can someone know me who doesn’t know me except if he is from God? Could he be the ‘anointed One’? …Now, who are these guys? Judean Jews? They must be with him. They are looking at us and whispering. C’mon let’s go back home. I want to tell everyone and bring them here …What’s that? The water jars? Leave them. They will draw water and refresh themselves. They will be here when we come back with everyone. C’mon. Let’s hurry! …I forgot to ask his name! I’ll call him Joshua. C’mon! Let’s run. My community will want to meet him! This man has a new way of looking at things! A new reality we need to hear more of! My people know me well enough to know that I am no fool! ….

… … …

“Everyone! Everyone! C’mon everyone! Come and see a man who told me everything I did! You don’t think he can be the Messiah, do you? …I hear what you’re saying …you’re saying that you already know everything I have done. But listen. He doesn’t know me and yet he told me everything about me. You don’t have to believe me. Come and see for yourselves! He has a different way of looking at things, things you need to hear for yourselves! Come! Hurry, before they leave the well!”

… … …

My friend, thank you for coming with me this day. This day began like all other days in Sychar but ended like no other. My people were amazed at Yeshua’s words. They believed in him, some based on what I had said and others on hearing him for themselves. Now they want to be baptized by his disciples in the Jordan river.

I must go. We have invited these Judean Jews, the ‘anointed One’ and his disciples, to stay with us before they head to Galilee. We created space for them in our homes. Yeshua has much to teach us … We are learning how to love God and our neighbor with “spirit and truth” righteousness. I thought I was clever, but I’ve had to rethink many relationships today …. I am abandoning my pluralistic and sectarian ways. I am embracing Yeshua and his ways. There is no one like Adonai among the gods. Those old ways now seem foolish and childish and full of carnality and resentment. I was like the Dead Sea, always taking and never giving. Now, I want “living water” to flow through me, to refresh and satisfy those who ask me for water.

Before today, my people had no use for the Jewish prophets. But now, because of the anointed One, I will quote his reciting of Isaiah the prophet:

“And the LORD will continually guide you,

And satisfy your desire in scorched places,

And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden,

And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

 

 

 

 

… adapted from the Gospel According to John, chapter 4

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