In the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel, an exhausted Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Under the relentless Palestinian sun he and this woman have a conversation. Not only is she a Samaritan, generally reviled by the Jews, but also a lowly woman and one of of ill repute at that. Nevertheless he proceeds to engage her in a theological discussion;
“Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
“I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
Reading this the other day I was (like his disciples) shocked by the implications of what Jesus was doing here. He was essentially flipping the bird to conventional wisdom and established customs by hanging out with someone who was pretty much a first century ‘untouchable’- you know – one of ‘those’ people. He was also telling her that in his eyes she was just as good as anyone else. OK, she might need to get her act together, but she had no reason to feel ashamed in front of anyone, not even the religious upper class. In fact, there was going to come a time when it didn’t matter how she even went about worshipping God just as long as she was honest, authentic and compassionate. Wow!
Are we there yet?