Christ Reveals Himself to You: the Woman at the Well Reply

This post is part of a series on the scrutinies, which began earlier this week. I recommend reading the first post in the series, “What are the scrutinies?” before reading this one.

Meditation for the Third Sunday of Lent: the First Scrutiny

The shortest sentence in the Gospel is a solitary word our Lord uttered from the Cross: “Sitio,” in Latin, which translates into English as “I thirst.” (John 19:28)

With this word Jesus reveals how he, as God, longs to be in an intimate relationship with us. He thirsts for our souls. As a man, he shares in our sufferings, aches, and pains. When it comes to yearnings, nothing compares to thirst, because when you’re thirsty there’s only one thing on your mind until you get it, one thing that will satisfy you. Water.

Just so, there is one thing only that will satisfy the deepest longing of your heart, even if you don’t know what it is. That one thing, that person, is God.

In the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus is already on the scene when she arrives. He initiates the conversation, revealing his thirst to her and inviting her to share with him, not just water, but to have a conversation. For he already knows she’s a lonely soul.

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”

The key to knowing what makes this woman tick is that she comes by herself to draw water in the middle of the day, not in the morning or evening when it’s cooler, when most other women would come to get water. Like everyone else, she has needs, so she must come to the well every day, but she goes alone. We will soon see that she is actually a very social person, but right now, she has no friends. She is an outcast. How hurt she must be!

Jesus knows this about her. He opens up to her first, inviting her to open up to him. She’s responds, a bit standoffish at first.

The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”

The undertone of the woman’s response is, “What do you want?” She notes the irony of the situation: a Jew asking a Samaritan for a drink? That’s unclean! Whereas most men, when they strike up a conversation with her, they’re only looking for one thing – such has been her experience. No wonder she’s a bit standoffish.

Sometimes the way we treat others has to do with the way we are used to being treated ourselves. We begin by questioning people’s motives and protecting ourselves from their possible ill intentions. When did we learn to behave this way? We naturally long for social interaction – to be liked and loved and love others in return. The truth is we’ve been hurt, and we’re afraid to be vulnerable.

The reality is that sin has affected our lives, not just our sin, but the sin of others. That’s why we’re hurt. Sin closes us off from relationships, because that is where sin most often enters in. The cynical cycle beings with sin. In this passage, we see Jesus – unafraid of sin – entering into the cycle in order to break it and restore us. He says, “If you only knew! – if you only knew who I am – you would have come to me first. Now here I am, to offer you the gift you’ve been longing for all your life.”

But she’s hasn’t caught on yet. Jesus takes it slowly.

The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman still perceives Jesus as a challenger, so she challenges him back, but now she plays on something they have in common. The Patriarch Jacob, a common and important ancestor, whose well they are allegedly talking over, makes a nice conversation piece (she’s naturally social).

Jesus won’t let her change the topic. He brings it back to why she and he are there, alone, in the first place. He is there to satisfy her deepest longing for everlasting happiness. But she still thinks he’s talking about water… How often in our conversation with God do we miss the point, because we are too focused on what we think we need, rather than what God wants to give us?

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The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not 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 and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”

Inadvertently, in her response, the woman notes what the real problem is. She has to keep coming back to this well, in the middle of the day, alone, without any friends… As she sees it (though she won’t admit it) her life is the problem. But that’s not what Christ sees. He sees a soul in need of healing. For this to happen, she needs to do the painful work of taking a closer look at her life. Gentle Jesus is able to draw it out of her, like Moses drawing water from a rock, that is to say, miraculously.

Nonchalantly, he asks her to go back to town and get her husband. In her answer, she conceals the truth, because she is ashamed of it. Married five times and now with another man who isn’t her husband? Throughout her life relationships have been a disaster. When did this all start? Who knows? But it has caused a ripple effect throughout her entire life. No one wants to be in a relationship with her (or so she thinks). That’s why she has to keep coming to this well in the middle of the day, alone. It’s shameful. And Jesus is right there, standing with her, affirming her in her pain and loneliness.

Can you relate? Is there someone in your life who needs reaching out to?

But Jesus touched a raw wound, so she responds by quickly covering it up again and changing the subject.

The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”

She begins to distance herself, this time by referring to the socio-political-religious differences between Jews and Samaritans instead of what they have in common. Jesus dissolves that barrier quickly, inferring on the one hand that the woman has a point, and on the other hand that he would be the one to know that, which segues nicely into the woman’s next point – which Jesus was leading up to all along.

The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

The woman left her water jar
and went into the town and said to the people,
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.

At the climax of the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, he reveals who he is to her at the point where she is able to accept it and embrace it. The process which began with Christ’s initiative has developed from her seeing him as a suspicious stranger to her proclaiming him to others and daring to ask, “Could he possibly be the Christ?” From “What do you want?” to “Where have you been all my life?”

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How did this occur? The beauty of it all is now she realizes how Christ was present with her all this time. Now, she’s shocked and amazed at how deeply he knows her – he must have been with her all her life. On her way home she continues to go over everything in her mind looking back on the conversation and her entire life.

Today, Jesus invites you to pause, take a look at your life and ask some questions, like these:

  • When, where, and how has Jesus Christ entered into your life?
  • Were you able to recognize his presence at the time?
  • How has he touched you and healed you?
  • Are you confident he can heal you now?
  • Is there anything you are covering up or hiding that’s hurting you now?
  • Where can you invite Jesus into your life today?
  • How has your life been transformed by Jesus?
  • Is Jesus calling you to reach out to anyone in particular, who may need the gift of
  • kindness and friendship?
  • Is Jesus calling you to bring others to him, like the Samaritan woman in today’s Gospel?
  • Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him

Because of the word of the woman who testified,
“He told me everything I have done.”
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Jesus Christ wants to transform us into the men and women we are meant to be, joyful people living fruitful and abundant lives. Once Christ enters our life and heals us, he transforms us, and others see the power of Christ working through us. Our mission is to be a sign to others, attracting them Christ’s living waters so they don’t have to keep going back to the same old wells, day, after day, after day.

But you can’t give what you don’t have. Today, spend a little more time in prayer, dialoguing with God. Examine your life and see him there with you in every moment, even the most difficult times. As you go over these moments with him, ask questions and let him do most of the talking. If you get distracted and want to change the topic, don’t worry, that’s a human thing. God can use those diversions and bring it back around to where he wants to lead you. Trust him. He Thirsts for you.

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