We read in the Gospels how Jesus spoke to large crowds, to thousands of people, to multitudes. But He also spoke to individuals on a one-to-one basis. The very long gospel reading that we hear at this morning’s Divine Liturgy describes for us such an incident: the meeting and conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Did you know that Jesus talks more to this one woman than with any other individual conversation throughout the New Testament?
It’s actually an interesting choice that Jesus makes in speaking with this woman. After all, she’s an outsider, a Samaritan. Not to mention a woman. And the most shocking part of this meeting between Jesus and this woman was the subject matter of their discussion: they spoke about theology! Theology was something that rabbis do not discuss with woman – not even Jewish women, much less Samaritans. In the time of Jesus there was a huge wall that divided the people into two camps – the Jews on the one hand and the Samaritans on the other. In the Old Testament there were two kingdoms: the southern and northern one. King Saul was from the Northern Kingdom while David was from the Southern Kingdom. Eventually, King David succeeded in unifying it into one Kingdom. But then later, during the rule of this son, King Solomon, it fell apart. From that time on these two people considered each other heretics.
This morning’s gospel is filled with so much meaning and symbolism that we can go on and on about it, but there is one point of the story that I find very intriguing. And that is when Jesus tells this woman about her life. About how she had already had five husbands in the past and the man she is with now is not really her husband. Women of that time would usually go to the well to get water in the morning and then again in the evening. When it was nice and cool. These wells would served as places for social gatherings. When the women would see one another they’d able to talk, catch up on gossip and so on. But the gospel this morning says: “Jesus being wearied from his journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour”. The “sixth hour” is noontime. There’s nobody at the well at noontime! It’s too hot.
Perhaps she didn’t have time to go in the morning and that’s why she was at the well at a time when no one else was. But chances are the real reason she was there at that time was because she avoided the other women. Maybe it was her that they talked about. Perhaps she was a social outcast. It’s interesting to note that when Jesus tells her about her past, when He tells her that He knows everything about her she doesn’t seem to feel shame or humiliation. On the contrary, she seems to feel safe all of the sudden, being there with Jesus and she says, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.”
We don’t live our lives being transparent to others. In fact, in a way we even fear it. We have our secrets, we have opinions we share with others and then we have our own, private, personal thoughts that – for whatever reason – we don’t share with others. When the Samaritan woman speaks to Jesus for the first time she thinks He knows nothing about her. But God knows who we are and every single dark corner of our being and He still loves us. Even though God’s knowledge of us is total and complete, it’s not meant to condemn us but to call on us to – in a way – condemn ourselves, make us self-aware and and ultimately change.
A great deal of our faith in God is based on us believing not so much that God would know everything about us, but that despite everything He knows would still have such love for us. In fact, it is Christ who calls on us to prove our faith in Him, prove to Him that we really and actually believe in Him by having the same love He has for us for our neighbors. That we love them in the same non-judgmental way He loves us. That’s what we see in this morning’s gospel and why we read this Gospel during these days of Pascha, while we’re still celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection. Because just as Jesus spoke with a Samaritan and a woman at that, we see that He didn’t exclude anyone based on race or ethnicity, gender, social status.
Rather, He gives new life to all of those who turn to Him.