Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
For many reasons, I always love reading this familiar passage about Jesus talking to the woman at the well. Last year, while traveling to the Galilee from Jerusalem, I was reminded of this story. In John 4, Jesus and his disciples are making the same trip.
The Jews of that time did not like Samarians, as they followed a different god. In fact Jews would avoid traveling through Samaria. However, Jesus and his disciples, weary from constantly moving around in the desert, took the shortest path. Today, Samaria is in the West Bank, so I traveled to the Galilee via Nazareth, which is what most Jews would have done during Jesus’ time.
The story has all of the elements that make Christianity transformative. Jesus goes through an area many would avoid and talks to a woman who is an outcast of her own society. Having traveled through the Middle East, I now cherish the emphasized presence of women that is a unique trait to Christianity. The New Testament highlights Jesus’ interactions with women in a way that never happened—at least not as frequently, brazenly, or unhesitatingly—during that time. In other world religions, women did not (and still don’t) enjoy this luxury of humanitarian equality.
Stories of Jesus interacting with women, particularly sinful women, don’t surprise us. We live in a country where men and women freely intermingle, and the Bible is full of stories of Jesus being a radical. However that is not the case everywhere. Women in the Christian church are not only present, but elevated. They are subjects of beautiful stained glass windows and have sainthoods. However reading about Jesus offering this woman, now on her sixth male companion, the gift of “living water” does surprise me, even today. In context of the time and location, it’s almost unfathomable—as is Jesus’ infinite love for each of us.
Quin Woodward Pu