Podcast Reflections

Reflection on John 4.5-42 (Lent 3, Year A)

Listen to a reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent, 12 March 2023 (Year A), on John 4.5-42

John 4.5-42

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ 

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he the one who is speaking to you.’ 

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him. 

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’ 

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’ 


Jesus said: You worship what you do not know.

There are many ways in which Jesus’ words ring true in our daily lives. Whilst we may not use the word ‘worship’, we often idolise that which we do not know. Sport and music fans develop a level of devotion to teams, players and performers which would best be described as ‘worship’. Those who prefer to participate rather than spectate become just as devoted to that participation, even to the point of ‘worship’. In our younger years we often find ourselves creating an image of perfection around someone or some activity. Sadly, that sort of ‘worship’ often ends in tears as reality kicks in and we experience a profound level of disappointment. A similar level of disappointment is too often experienced in our spiritual lives. As we become associated with the life of the Church we feel a degree of excitement that is akin to that experienced by the football fan and the pop group devotee, but then comes the moment when reality dawns, the moment when we realise that blind devotion should not be at the heart of our spiritual lives but profound commitment and a profound honesty that is self-sacrificial in nature.

The ‘worship’ of the sport and music fan is based upon a sense of personal engagement that borders on intimacy. But that intimacy is an illusion. Despite the best endeavours of the media, we can and will never know the truth about our idols on the pitch or the stage. The ‘worship’ we are called to offer in our spiritual lives is very different. We are offered an opportunity to enter into an intimate and profound relationship with Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith. However, that relationship is not that of the adoring fan, but a two-way bond that is demanding, and that will result in the greatest prize of all.

In today’s reading the Samaritan woman was offered an unexpected and counter-cultural route into a relationship with God. Breaking all the taboos of his time and culture, Jesus stood by an open door and invited that woman to cross the threshold into a new world, a world that would reveal the truth of the ancient prophecies. Then, as she took her first steps into the life of faith, her excitement led her to adopt a similar role for others … we read: Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.

That, of course, is where our relationship with God often falls down and the disappointment of the disillusioned fan kicks in. We struggle with the call to worship the true and living God by becoming a committed and active evangelist of the Good News, the Gospel of Christ. Let us pray that we might come to know the joy of worshipping God. Let us pray that we might not worship the unknown and the superficial, but only the One who invites us into an intimate relationship with him, Jesus our Risen Lord and Saviour.