“The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.” John 4:19-26 (KJV)
O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the Light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
After our Lord’s Ascension, He did not leave us without the Presence of the Holy spirit to comfort, lead, direct, and enlighten our understanding of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. As the Prayer of Collect stipulates, the Holy Spirit is our Light in present times. The right judgment we seek to have is that proper understanding of God’s Word and its application in judging right and wrong. The Holy Spirit is a gift from our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven.
We have hitherto observed the Church Season from Advent to Whitsunday (today) of the present year. The entire church year is like the budding of a beautiful rose in revealing the completed works of Christ for us.
The stronger part of today’s lectionary text is not in complete context, so I have added to the introductory verses for further clarification. The Bread and Water of the Lord is sourced at a far more exalted Fountain than our wells and tables of earth. Even earlier in this passage from John 4, the Lord asked the woman to give Him water. This was not only intended to establish a friendly rapport, but to introduce a mild covenant.
In the custom of the East, to partake of the courtesy of a drink from the enemy, the recipient cannot be treated otherwise than as an honored guest.
In today’s text, Jesus had begun his ministry on Jordan Banks at His baptism, performed His first Miracle at a Wedding Feast at Cana of Galilee, and then determines that “He must needs go through Samaria.” This is more than a quaint phrase from Shakespearean English. Why did Jesus NEED to go through Samaria when this would have been a diversion to the normal course of travel to Galilee? Perhaps we might posit that question much earlier: why did Jesus find it necessary to come to Bethlehem as a babe, or to be baptized like unto us, or to do so many marvelous works and wonders among us, or to readily go to the cross and die in our stead? The answer, of course, is that He must satisfy the foreordained purpose and grace of God the Father in saving us…..and, as well, a poor and sinful woman at Jacob’s Well, and at an insignificant city in Samaria. Christ must needs go through Samaria because He knew of a woman whose heart was pierced with many wounds that sin had caused in that heart. And He came not only for that particular woman, but all of the other men and women of Samaria who would be drawn to Him through the testimony of that woman whom no one would have believed prior to her coming to know Christ. Is this not marvelous to know – that He came, two thousand years ago, to a manger in Bethlehem to save multitudes of that land, but also you and me in particular!
Christ had a rendezvous with an unsuspecting woman whom He had watched many times, through the eyes of the Holy Ghost, come to draw water at an inopportune time of noon to the Well. She thirsted for water, but she knew not that Water which would satisfy not only her thirst but her soul. She brings an empty bucket to be filled, but she also brings an empty heart that needed filling more.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is foremost a gentleman. The Spanish say: “Jesus es el Senor” He will not impolitely impose upon our hearts without a proper opening. The Lord insightfully engages the woman with a marvelous exchange of wisdom and insight into her character and present circumstance. Doesn’t He engage us in the same manner? Have we ever gone through the usual exercise of the day when, suddenly, we meet someone, or have an experience, that is totally unplanned but which changes our whole day? The woman got out of bed as usual that day. She avoided the women of the city and their gossip by going to the Well at the unusual hour of greatest heat – Noon. But there she met someone whom she considered to be a Stranger. Perhaps He had been to her, but she had been no stranger to Him for He knew of every secret of her heart. He knows the secrets of our hearts as well and nothing is hidden from His understanding.
As the two discuss the matter of water, the poor woman’s heart is focused on water that lies fifty feet or so beneath the surface in the bottom of a Well; but Christ makes reference to that Water which comes down from Heaven – the Water of Life which He freely offers. An empty heart can hold much of this Water once it opens to the Giver. Our hearts are also made to be receptacles of that Water of Life if we open them to the Giver.
The woman claims not to have a husband, and Jesus confirms that she does not have, for the five she has had before are not her husbands, and the one with whom she lives now is not her husband. The woman is mystified by this Stranger whom she can not deceive. He knows too much of her to be one of those kinds of men she has known in her past. That is one of the characteristics of Jesus – He mystifies us with His grace, His love, and His Wisdom towards us.
The woman recognizes that none other than a great prophet could utter such words of understanding. Her sin-dimmed mind is beginning to receive a small and glowing light that leads to an even greater suspicion of who this Figure might be. She says that Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Now her mind is turned from earthly water to that which Christ offers. She is curious to know more.
“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Has that hour yet come for the moslem-infested land of Samaria? Truly it has. We, too, can know what and Whom we worship for Christ has taken upon His perfect Person the flesh of men such as we are. Being sinless, He suffered every pain and temptation that we are heir to. There is not longer any geographic limitation to the worship of God; however, we must worship in Spirit and, at the same time, in Truth. If we have great spirit, but depart from truth, we are not worshipping the True God. If we worship rigidly in Truth but lack the attendant Spirit of Love, we are amiss in our worship. Truth and Spirit combine to the glory of God in worship.
So the lesson of today’s Gospel text reminds us of the fullness of the ministry and Person of Christ. He came in the flesh to minister to us and to be Light unto our path. He died for us sealing the redemption promised to Abraham and his Seed. He was, in fact, that Promised Seed. He rose on the Third Day, according to the Scriptures, and then what? He ascended into Heaven where He sits on the right hand of God to be our constant Advocate and Intercessor. Having physically departed, Christ promised not to leave us comfortless (Greek meaning: orphaned). He must send the Spirit to be our Comforter and Guide in leading us into an understanding of all the truth of Christ revealed in Scripture. A Spirit is not limited in physical properties. The Holy Spirit has the nature to be in a billion hearts at once and leading all in the particular way the Spirit determines. Christ went away in bodily form and sent the Spirit to be a comfort to all of God’s people regardless the distance and time that separates them from one another. This is the Glory of Pentecost and Whitsunday! Do you have that Water of Life poured out in your heart by that Holy Spirit of God in Christ today?