Monday, March 13, 2017

John 4:1-42 (woman at well)

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A, Lenten Cycle (most recently March 19, 2017); in the narrative Lectionary, Year 4, Lenten Cycle.
Summary:  Chapter 3 and 4 couldn't be more opposite:  man vs woman; Pharisee Jew vs sinful non-Jew (a dig at the Samaritan people, Jews intermixed with five other tribes); night vs day.  There is fertile ground here for many sermons.  What struck me this time was the continuity in both chapters regarding the notion of salvation, and life -- it is found in Christ; it begins now here on earth. 

A question this text leaves me pondering:  How does Jesus convert her?  He says to her brutal truth:  her religion isn't complete and she is a sinner.  What converts her?  What converts all of them?  Simply his word of promise?  Actually, he is only proclaimed as savior after he stays with her.  I suggest it is also his vulnerability, his admission that she can help him and finally, his willingness to be with them.  To evangelize entails meeting people where they are, but also staying where they are until they are ready to move ahead.

Low hanging fruit:
ωρα εκτη (sixth hour, 4:6)  This means noon.  Don't miss the obvious symbolism.  Nicodemus comes at night (chapter 3); the woman comes in the day (chapter 4).

γυνη Σαμαριας (Samaritan women, 4:7)  Again, don't miss the obvious symbolism.  Samaritan woman means total outsider; someone powerless in the whole system.  Obvious symbolism again:  Nicodemus gets a name; this woman doesn't.

Slightly more interesting:
εις τον αιωνα ("eternally," literally "into this age," 4:14)  This really struck me.  The word for forever or everlasting in Greek means "into this age," literally that which keeps going into this age.  In short, when we hear "forever" we assume this means "life after death," but nothing grammatically or even theologically in John's Gospel, certainly in this chapter, suggests this.  This is a continuing theme in John's Gospel:  life in Christ begins now and continues even through death.

σωτερια ("salvation" in the sense of saving, preserving, delivering, 4:22; σωτηρ 4:42)  Christians again assume that salvation means heaven, specifically life after death.  The word in Greek means saving, simply delivering, including if not primarily a very earthly sense.  John's Gospel includes resurrection and this is ultimate salvation, but this does not cover the entirety of Jesus' ministry.

μενω ("abide" 4:40) This is theme word in John's Gospel.  In this case, it was only after he abided with them that they declared him savior of the world.  This is a reminder that to me that the promise is truly incarnational.  In order for us to do better evangelism, we have to meet and STAY with people where they are.

κοσμος ("world" 4:42) A reminder that even though salvation comes FROM the Jews it is FOR the world...see last week's post --  The world doesn't love God!


lee woo said...

A Spiritual Samaritan lives knowing that if we were to leave this world tomorrow, we were the best humans we could be and we touched the lives of as many souls as possible. We are not asked to be perfect. We are asked to make a difference. See the link below for more info.


dominus.s said...

Thanks for giving so useful information! I appreciate youre posts a lot and wish you luck!

By the way, if you need to write essays online - please contact me:)

Silvia Jacinto said...

Reading your article is such a privilege. It does inspire me, I hope that you can share more positive thoughts. Visit my site too. The link is posted below.