TITLE: An Unexpected Drink
By Douglas Sowers
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Jesus sits at the side of the well. It is a hot day and He has just sent the disciples into the village up on the hill to purchase some supplies. As He watches His disciples disappear behind the first row of houses, He wipes His brow of the sweat and waits patiently. The only thing seeming to stir are the village’s half feral watchdogs, but soon He sees a woman almost furtively creeping out of the town. Though it is noon and she is carrying a heavy rope, she is alone. She hears a noise behind her and cringes like she expected something was thrown at her but it was just one of the dogs knocking over a broken Jar. As she straightens up, her toe catches on her gaudy skirt and she stumbles for a few steps.
When she approaches Jesus, her eyes look hopeful until she spots that He is a Jew. Her face transforms into a hardened resigned look, ready for some jibe about her stumble. Finally, as she walks the last three steps to the well, she discerns that He was concentrating more on some prayer than her embarrassment, and her face settles into a more businesslike mode.
“Sir,” she almost demands while holding her eyes down as is proper womanly behavior, “Would it bother you if I drew some water from the well?” Then she laid her rope down with a sigh of relief. “Each year, that rope seems to get heavier,” she thought. Then she tied the rope to the pot handle, thinking I hope this pot doesn’t break like it did last week.
As she was lowering the pot into the well, Jesus spoke in a startlingly kind voice, “It is such a hot day, would you do me the honor of drawing a cup for me too?” She was so startled that she dropped the rope and only barely noticed the crash as the pot hit the water too fast and shattered.
She felt almost faint, her head was spinning so from such a crazy comment. Stalling for a little time to regain her composure, she forgot to look down and instead studied his face, looking for some sign of derision or a preparation for a crude joke. When all she could find was a friendly smile, she asked defensively, “Let’s get real. You are a Jewish man. Not only am I a Samaritan, but I am also a woman. By your law you shouldn’t talk to Samaritans or women. Even worse, any hospitality you receive from us contaminates you spiritually. How can you ask me for a drink?” This seemed to put her world back in order for she suddenly looked into the deep well in a faint hope that the pot survived.
A sense of joy seemed to light this stranger’s face as He replied, “If you knew the free gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, instead of taking refuge in these unnecessary barriers, you would have asked Him and He would have given you much fresher living water.”
“Where was this stranger coming from?” She pondered. Is he crazy? This is the second time he has said something that does not make sense. There are no creeks or springs anywhere near here to supply running water. There is only that horribly stale water in the town cistern and the cooler but still stale water in this more distant well. Well, even if he is crazy, maybe He’ll be some fun. I’ll just humor him.” With a slight, almost devilish smile she motioned to the rope and her broken pot and said, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and flocks and herds?” “There, any normal Jew would yell that Jacob is not the father of Samaritans. If he is crazy, I can run and yell.” She reasoned to herself.
Jesus gave another of those pauses that at first she assumed was prayer but now considered might be a sign of craziness. Then He replied, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Her face underwent another of those strange rubbery transformations as she listened. At first a small Triumph appeared as she thought “yes, he is changing the subject weirdly again, he must be a little crazy.” Then her face fell as she thought, “he is speaking of eternal life. He must not know about me. With my life, I will never have eternal life.” As she felt the tears about to well up, a quivering sort of hope appeared as she thought, “What if he is one of those miracle workers? Not one of those fake ones that we drove out last week for being greedy. I have never seen a real one, but people are claiming one has been walking around. Miracle workers even tend to sound crazy, but if I never have to run the gauntlet of people to get to this lousy well again, it would be a blessing. Though God will never give me eternal life, He may be willing to give me this small blessing.” So she asked. “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Her world came crashing down as Jesus replied, “Go call your husband and come back.”
“He knew after all,” she despaired, “no wait. He still thinks I am a reputable woman. What can I do? Micah may be living with me but he is still married to that cow. If I bring him and this man learns the truth, I may miss this miracle. Think, girl, think. I really want this blessing. Well it is sort of the truth that I have no husband. The last one may be dead, he just sort of disappeared two years ago.” So she replied “I have no husband.”
She watched Jesus face but it was sad, almost mournful yet still gentle as He responded, “That’s the truth. You have had five husbands and the man you are living with is not one of them. I’m glad you have decided to speak the truth.”
“He knows! Now there is no chance that I’ll get any blessing. In fact he must have known all along. Wait, he talked to me anyway! He still offered. Do I have to become a Jew to get the miracle? Is that what his game is? This is getting scary. You know, I saw our mayor start a religious argument when some Jews were confronting him about some shady dealings of his. Maybe that will work here.” With these thoughts, she replied almost impishly, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet to know I have been married five times. I was wondering, our fathers worshipped on this mountain where Abraham and Jacob built altars.” She points to Mt Gerazim. “But you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem, where David built an altar.”
“Again that pause. Could he really be praying to God about his conversation? Why would a Jewish Prophet think that a conversation with me is so important that he has to talk to God? The Jews have told me that in God’s eyes, I am worth less than the dirt between a pig’s toes. And what is with that look? I have seen men’s lust in many forms, but never that gentle caring. If all Jews treated me like that, I would become a Jew. Well, let’s see how he argues.”
But once again, she felt confounded as he replied with his longest speech yet, “Woman, truly you will soon worship the Father, not on this mountain,”
“Aha,” she thought, “Here come the argument.”
But He continued, “nor in Jerusalem.”
“What?” she pondered, “maybe I’m beginning to like what he has to say!”
The next words took her pleasant feelings down a notch temporarily, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”
“Huh? He mentioned eternal life and now he talks of salvation to me. Does he think that there is hope for me even with what he knows about me?” She thought
She paid a very hopeful attention to Jesus, who continued, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.”
“Hold on a moment. Did he say what I think I heard? If I am willing to worship in spirit, God not only will allow me in, but seeks me?”
Jesus finished, “God is spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.” He then looked at her rather expectantly, to her mind.
“This guy not only seems greater than a miracle worker, but even greater than a prophet. The Jews say that from Daniel’s prophesy, the Messiah should be coming soon. Oh, it would be such a blessing if I was talking to the Messiah. No, get a hold of yourself girl. God would never send the messiah to you. Oh, he has gotten my mind in such a tangle.” These musings prompted her to say, “I know that Messiah, the anointed one, is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything.”
With a smile that said welcome, He declared, “I who speak to you am He.”
She sat back, stunned. Then with tears she asked Him to teach her to worship in spirit and truth. As he told her, the Disciples returned surprised but not daring to question why he was talking to such a woman. She left without looking at the broken jar or the valuable rope and wandered up the hill. At first she looked at a world that seemed suddenly so fresh and clean. Then she thought, “I got to tell everyone who despised me that the messiah thought me worthy to talk to. Won’t they be surprised?” Then she paused, “No matter how they treated me, shouldn’t I tell them the Messiah is here and will talk to them? But how? They’ll just laugh at me. I know, I’ll tell them how He knew my history without me telling him. Still, they won’t want me telling them things like I am their teacher. I got it. I’ll just ask them if this is the anointed one!” With that, she lifted her head up high and proud and strode into town.
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