|Retreat Association Icon – John Coleman – Ikon John|
Once again, Jesus is in the territory of ‘the other’, at Jacob’s Well, near Sychar. Tired from the journey, he is seated, alone, in the heat of noonday. He has an interesting encounter, with an unnamed Samaritan woman who comes to draw water. She has something that Jesus needed – a means to access a drink – and so, from this situation of need, He makes an approach…asks for help, strikes up a conversation. ‘Give me a drink of water’. How welcome was that? A stranger, a man, a Jew…such an approach unconventional, unexpected. There is much that makes this a risky encounter.
Jesus, a stranger, becomes for a time, a guest at the ‘table’ of the well. He is tired, vulnerable to the heat and to hunger – his disciples have gone to do the shopping to find sustenance. Jesus sustains himself in this ‘in-between’ time by making an approach to a woman who is also alone, who has the ability to help him, to give him water. The conversation touches some tricky subjects; the age-old conflict between Jews and Samaritans; the legitimate claim of the Samaritans to a relationship with Scripture proved by their common ancestry of Jacob.
Jesus barters for the woman’s actual water with an offer of his own – of ‘living water’ that springs up eternally, life-giving hope, a promise of cleansing and renewal. At the well-table, Jesus from being stranger, then guest, becomes host. Jesus lifts the discussion beyond territorial disputes, opening for this lady by God’s Holy Spirit, true worship, heart-worship. He declares himself to be the Messiah. There is a moment of transformation.
Knowing her own situation, and finding herself truly known by this stranger, this guest, this Messiah, she flees as the disapproving disciples return, bringing lunch and suspicious accusation. She carries the message of hope and spreads it within her own community… Come and see this man I met… and her friends are brought to Jesus. The harvest field has widened, into alien territory. A harvest is being reaped, amongst unexpected people, and the disciples are being taught a lesson, that none are beyond the approach and welcome of Jesus Christ. Jesus and the team stayed in Sychar for a couple of days, and opened the door of faith for many, who came to believe that Jesus really is the Saviour of the world.
So for us… strangers can become guests, guests bring gifts and can in turn become hosts, we can learn and grow in the most unexpected of circumstances when conversations about Jesus – and his living water – open up around a table.