07 January Devotion
Readings: John 4: 7-26
Today’s reading contains the well-known story of the Samaritan Woman. This incident is amazing in all fronts. By initiating a conversation with the Samaritan Woman, Jesus crossed two Jewish boundaries: speaking with a Samaritan and speaking with a woman. Both were prohibited for a Jewish man, let alone a Jewish rabbi. It was also unusual for a woman to visit a well alone. She might have chosen this hour (noon time) to avoid being seen by others who might know her background.
Jesus initiated the conversation by asking the Samaritan Woman for water, to which she replied in amazement “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (v. 9). Jesus would now direct the conversation towards revealing his identity. It is as if Jesus wanted to say, “I am not just ‘a Jewish man,’ I am more than that.”
“You have nothing to draw with, and whoever you are, you cannot be greater than Jacob.” Afterwards, he told her about the living water, and she asked him to give her some. He asked her to bring her husband to which she only revealed half the truth: “I don’t have a husband.” After Jesus revealed her sinful situation, she was willing to promote Jesus to “a prophet.” Despite her acknowledgement of Jesus as a prophet, she still argued back that he was a prophet on the wrong mountain (from the wrong camp). It was only when Jesus revealed his identity as Messiah that she was drawn to him and then like her, many were drawn to him thereafter.
The crossing of cultural and religious boundaries in this story is amazing. It shows how salvation is not confined to one racial group only but is offered to all the world, even those who we would despise (just like the Jews despised the Samaritans). However, what is striking about this story is how the Samaritan woman appeared to be so religious and well versed in her “bible.” It seems that she hid her secret sinful life behind a facade of religiosity. This woman was the Samaritan version of the pharisees whom Jesus likened to “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23: 27).
Are we hiding our deepest challenges (the full truth) behind our doctrinal orthodoxy? Can the pride of being in the “right camp” be concealing the death within us? It is certainly possible. However, there is good news: Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman was not coincidental; “he had to go through Samaria” (v. 4) not for geographical but salvific reasons. Jesus takes the same journey and arrives at our prideful and unclean hearts. He still has the double task of unveiling sin (painful) and pronouncing forgiveness (joyful). Praise be to God!
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.