LESSON AT THE WELL
BY DEACON TOM WESTERKAMP
THE WOMAN AT THE WELL
John’s Gospel today speaks to us about water and the Samaritan woman at the well. Water is the source of life. People in those days typically walked 20-25 miles a day, in the hot desert sun, to get from one town to another. Jesus was human, He got thirsty. There was no running water, no bottled water, no Gatorade in those days; Jesus seeks out water from a well in Samaria to refresh himself.
The Jewish people in those days hated the Samaritans. Samaritans did not follow the divine Law as laid out in the Torah as the Jews did, they did not keep kosher and were considered unclean. Samaritans, according to Jewish customs, were to be avoided. Samaria was located in between Jerusalem and the area around the Sea of Galilee, and most Jews would walk miles out of their way, even in the hot summer sun, to avoid Samaria and having to interact with a dreaded Samaritan.
Not Jesus; He was about to teach His disciples an important lesson.
Racism was present in those days, just as it is today; avoiding, ignoring and hating a group of people outright just because of who they are, where they live, how they speak, or what they look like. That’s not what Jesus believed.
Jesus wanted to show His disciples how to treat others; we are not supposed to go out of our way to avoid “undesirable” people. He marches His disciples into Samaria, directs them to seek out food, and He heads to the well for a drink of water.
Jesus asks for water from a person he was supposed to avoid (a non-Jewish woman, married 5 times) and supposed to hate (a Samaritan). This is a perfect person to interact with, so Jesus can teach His disciples, and all of us, a lesson about loving our neighbors, helping others, and being kind to strangers.
She is very surprised at His approach, but her surprise allows Jesus to turn the tables and offer her “living water”. She, understanding him literally, asks how He can give this water as He has no bucket. But the water that Jesus provides is different. Those who drink it will never be thirsty again; it gives eternal life. Again, literally, the woman wants this water that lasts forever. Then she will never have to trudge to the well again.
What is this water that Jesus speaks about? It is God’s Spirit which comes to us in Baptism. The Sacrament of Baptism provides the water to save our souls and directs us on our life journey.
Baptism is not just a ritual producing a magical cleansing. It’s not a spiritual, steam-cleaning event that simply removes original sin from our souls. It is the outward, symbolic sign of a deep reality, the coming of God as a force penetrating every aspect of a person’s life. Baptism fills us with the Holy Spirit and is the beginning, and the foundation, of our life in Christ.
The waters of baptism can save lives, just as water from a well in the desert can.
The Samaritan woman learned so much from Jesus; she listened to him, believed in Him, and likely turned her sinful life around. The apostles learned a lesson about how to treat strangers.
As we reach the midpoint of Lent on our journey towards Easter, maybe there is a lesson-to-learn here for us on how to treat others?