Tag Archives: Samaritan woman

Being transformed

John 4.1–42


The courtship in John 4, however, is not a normal one. Jesus and the woman do not ‘marry’ literally, but symbolically, restoring the link between Samaria (the northern tribes of Israel) and Judea (the southern tribes of Israel) to bring all of Israel together again. The woman’s calling Jacob ‘our father’ in 4:12 points to their shared ancestry in Jacob/Israel, but Jesus is greater than Jacob and ‘shows the way’ to the Father of all. ― Alicia Myers, Reading John and 1, 2, 3 John: A Literary and Theological Commentary


Last week, we met Nicodemus. Remember him? He’s a theologian and a man with authority. A high-stays man, a man with qualifications, but he doesn’t get it. When Jesus says to him, 

Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.

Nicodemus takes him literally: 

How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?

Today, we meet a woman, who is unnamed. A village woman, a despised woman, a low-status woman, yet she manages to engage far better with Jesus than Nicodemus did. 

I also want to say that this wonderful episode reminds us of an ancient love story. We’ll come back to that. 

Why was this woman despised? 

The Jewish people despised her because she was a Samaritan. The Samaritans lived around what we call the West Bank today. Some do today; there is still a Samaritan community in Israel. 

Samaritans followed a form of the Jewish religion. They claimed theirs was the original version of the faith, while the Jewish people rejected their claim. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s a song that has been sung — often way off key — throughout history. People insist that God is on their side, not the other side. Even sophisticated residents of West End may fall for it. 

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The Samaritan Theologian

John 4.5–42

God, help me to see others not as my enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people. And give me the courage and compassion to go offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.—Henri Nouwen


When we read the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman, we should first remember and retain one thing: it follows straight on from his encounter with Nicodemus.

I was told I was a bit harsh on Nicodemus last week. So let me give you my opinion, rather than the various opinions of scholars; my opinion is that Nicodemus did come into the light by the end of John’s story of Jesus; I think he came in a series of steps through progressively lighter hues of grey. But like so many of us, he took his time. He listened to his fears, like the Israelites in the wilderness story. That’s not the way forward.

Yet here, today, when we meet the Samaritan woman, Nicodemus is still in the darkness. He hasn’t yet walked into the light. So here’s the thing: the Samaritan woman is a total contrast to Nicodemus. Walking from chapter 3 into chapter 4 of John is like stepping into another world.

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No room for shame in Christ (Lent 3A, 23 March 2014)

John 4.5–42

I think it was my first day at school. If not, it must have been the first week.

We had been asked to draw a picture. I drew a picture with my crayons, in blue, green and black. I did my best.

I looked at the boy sitting next to me, who also lived next door. Gary was drawing a nicely-ruled picture of houses. I could see it was very good, and so much better than mine. I had no idea he could draw like that. I looked from his picture to mine and back again. I had thought mine was ok, but I began to think maybe it wasn’t. My heart sunk.

Then the teacher announced that we had to line up and show her our pictures. I hadn’t known that would happen! My heart sank further still. I was behind Gary in the line. When he showed his picture, the teacher couldn’t praise him enough. It was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then with a bowed head, I showed her my picture. She was dismissive. She called it ‘scribble’, and asked why I couldn’t draw better at my age. I knew it wasn’t as good as Gary’s, but I also knew I had tried. I was ashamed; I was officially Bad At Drawing; Gary and I never talked about it.

This is what my picture looked like:  Continue reading

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Third Sunday in Lent (Year A, 27 March 2011)

I’m on an ill-deserved weekend away at Coolum with Karen. (Having a fabulous time, wish you were here etc etc.) Here is some evidential proof of just how fab it is here:



I am grateful to the Rev Dr David Pitman for preaching this weekend, and continuing our series on the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the pure in heart


Exodus 17.1-7
John 4.1-41


Jesus said, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God

(Matthew 5:8)

The phrase, a “pure heart”, occurs only 5 times in the Bible. We can read about having a “clean heart” on three other occasions. The various contexts in which these passages can be found suggest that the words “pure” and “clean” can be used interchangeably…..except for the time Jesus uses it in the Beatitudes.

This is very interesting because, as we might expect, the use of these words is linked in Scripture to those personal qualities and behaviour we associate with living lives pleasing to God…honesty, integrity, love for others, sincere faith, avoiding controversy and quarrels, obedience.

Jesus, however, makes no attempt in this particular beatitude to define the significance of “pure”, nor what it means in reality to “see God”. We have to look elsewhere for clues as to the message he wanted to convey.

To that end, we turn to the story in today’s reading from John’s Gospel…the encounter Jesus had with a Samaritan woman.

One of my teachers at University 45 years ago was a Professor of Philosophy. I attended his first lecture for the year as a raw and somewhat naïve 18-year-old, and hardly understood a thing that was said. I went away from that lecture with a poor opinion of philosophy and an even lower opinion of the lecturer.

The following Saturday I was playing cricket for Teacher’s College against Adelaide University, and guess who was playing for the Uni team?

In that totally different context I discovered that the Professor was a friendly and engaging person, and I went to the next philosophy lecture in a completely different frame of mind. The lecturer was now my friend. Meeting him as a person had made all the difference, though it still took me most of the year to come to terms with the language and content of the course.

This story from reminds me of that experience. In her meeting with Jesus at the well, the Samaritan woman hardly understood anything that Jesus said. The theology was a mystery to her. But her face-to-face encounter with Jesus changed her life. It was his response to her as a person that made the difference in the first instance. She may, in time, as I did with my introduction to philosophy, have come to understand the deeper meaning and significance of what she heard, but it was the way Jesus treated her and the manner in which he spoke to her that really mattered.

From our perspective, that is an important insight. When we read the gospel records it is abundantly clear that people mattered far more to Jesus than correct theology; relationship always had priority over orthodox doctrine. We need to remember that in the life of the church!

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Jesus, barrier-breaker

Sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent

John 4.5-42

(Before—and after—this sermon, we watched the video mentioned in the previous post.)

1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’—although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized—he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria.

Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria? And what’s the big deal anyway?

Even at this early stage of his ministry, the opposition to Jesus was beginning. The Pharisees were sensing that they had a new opponent; but it was not yet time for Jesus to encounter them. He wanted to get out of Judea in the south, up to the safety of Galilee in the north.
Normally a Jew would go the long way around Samaria, by crossing the Jordan River and then cutting north. Jesus needed to get away quickly. And he knew the Pharisees wouldn’t follow him through Samaria.

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Woman at the Well

Since the Woman at the Well (John 4) is the Gospel reading this Sunday, a friend pointed me to a great video on GodTube. I really like its take on the story! View it here.

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