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Week Three Lent -Reconsidering the Samaritan Woman – John 4

20th March, 2017

Because the first dialogue in John 4 contains a single reference to the woman’s unlawful marital status (w. 16-18), most exegetes have restricted their understanding of this woman to this single clue. As a result, she has been evaluated in a less than positive light, with
commentators apparently ignoring numerous other hints included in the narrative regarding her character and allowing their interpretation to contradict these details.

A closer look at the details,however, reveals that Jesus himself did not regard the woman from a negative perspective.

While the Samaritan woman had been married five times, the text never informs the reader why the marriages were dissolved. Perhaps the woman was a five-time divorcee, as most commentators seem to believe, or perhaps there might be another explanation for her many marriages.
Perhaps some of the marriages may have ended with the death of a husband. Furthermore, it is generally acknowledged that divorce in that
era was the sole prerogative of the male.

What the narrative details of John 4 seem to portray is an intelligent woman with a keen mind, who has pondered the theological and political
realities of her day and culture. Furthermore, the progression in the dialogue reveals Jesus’ desire to bring this woman to faith. The narrative implies that he did so with the assurance that her mind could grasp theological verities.

Jesus did not regularly speak this directly regarding himself in Israel or even to his disciples.

This woman is not ignorant and base, nor is she the town prostitute. Rather, the Samaritan woman is a well-informed, politically savvy person to whom people listen when she speaks.

An entire village believed her testimony regarding the identity of the Jewish man at the well and went to find the one who revealed himself to be the promised Messiah.

The Gospel of John records that the Pharisees despised the simplicity of Jesus, ignoring his miracles and demanding a sign that he was the Son of God
(Jn 4:48). But the Samaritans, by contrast, did not ask for a sign, and Jesus performed no miracles among them, except in revealing to the woman the
secrets of her life (v. 41). Many in Samaria, however, believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah. In their newfound joy, they said to the woman: “Now we believe, not because of your saying; for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (v. 42).

Thus they gave unassailable confirmation of the influence of this woman’s testimony.

Wondering questions:

I wonder in my relationships with other people if I can think of a time when I looked past a person’s current situation to focus rather on what they may become?

I wonder how hard or easy is this to do?

I wonder if I, like the Samaritan woman, can take my enthusiasm of knowing Christ and share it with other people this Easter?

adapted from: Andrews University Seminary Studies, Vol. 43, No. 1, 159-168.  2005 Andrews University Press

lectio divina, Praying the Scripture in Lent 2017, Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay