Jesus arrives at the well in today’s gospel (John 4:5-42) tired, thirsty, aware that he’s among Samaritans who have a long history of conflict with his people.
He immediately breaks a social taboo since a good Jewish boy never spoke to a woman (even his mother, wife or sister) in public. So the Samaritan woman is surprised–and intrigued. Jesus refused to categorize her by gender or nationality. He begins by expressing poignant human need, the same thirst he named from the cross. Then he engages in conversation with her, just as he did with Martha, Peter, or the other disciples.
His conversational style is important: some believe that the Trinity itself is a marvelous conversation or dance among the three persons of God. In contrast, the one-sided lecture form seems stale and lifeless. Jesus’ conversation liberates the woman from enshrined prejudices and irrelevant beliefs. Where we worship is secondary, he says. How we worship is primary.
Since Jesus has invited the woman’s participation from the beginning, it’s natural for her to become involved in spreading the good news. She leaves behind her water jar, symbol of exhausted systems and drudgery, in her eagerness to tell her village about Jesus.
The Samaritan woman got more than she bargained for when she went to draw water. She got a life-giving spring, gushing up to eternal life. And we, working at the old tasks, the same routines or the endless chores, we too might be surprised by a stranger…