Signpost for Sunday March 19, 2017: Exodus 17:1-6; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42.
John, the writer of the gospel, recorded some conversations between individuals and Jesus: Nathanael, Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. Nathanael was brought to Jesus; Nicodemus came to see him at night. The conversation with the Samaritan woman is the longest of these three and was the result of an apparently chance encounter. I do not know how John came to know the content of the second and third conversations: perhaps he was there, perhaps he found out by careful enquiry.
The well at which the encounter took place was, according to the woman, created by Jacob, and was deep. The modern traditional site has a deep well, and the water there is very good, cool and refreshing on a hot day: I was there about fifty years ago.
The place was a Samaritan town called Sychar. There is still a group of people who follow the Samaritan way of life: they may be the smallest cohesive religious group in the world. They still hold to the books of Moses as the only word of God, and still have an annual pilgrimage to Mount Gerizim, this mountain in the reading.
The conversation which took place between Jesus and the woman who came to draw water in the middle of the day seems to me to be very significant.
First: it crossed a number of boundaries: ethnic, religious and social. Eventually the early church recognised that faith in Christ breaks barriers.
Second: it contained a statement by Jesus that he was the Christ. The direct claim by Jesus to be the One who was to come was rare in the gospels.
Third: it led to the woman becoming an evangelist. She went back to the town and told the people about Jesus. Some believed her, asked Jesus to stay, and others believed because of what Jesus said. The gift of faith grew because of the experience of the living Christ.
Is this a pattern for the people of God: break barriers, introduce the Christ and expect faith to grow through the experience of the living Christ?