Lectionary Year A
March 3, 2002
John 4:5-42

Step II: Disposition

A. Genre

(JW)This passage contains two dialogues that take place between Jesus and other people. The first is a rather controversial dialogue that Jesus initiates with a Samaritan woman. By definition this is a very controversial conversation, because Jesus is crossing dangerous cultural boundaries that would be problematic to Jews and Samaritans. The woman's reaction to Jesus immediately demonstrates that this passage is dealing with sensitive topics of race, discrimination, and prejudice. The content of this dialogue is religious and prophetic in nature, where Jesus penetrates the surface and plunges into the personal life of the Samaritan woman.

The second dialogue that takes place is between Jesus and his disciples. The fact that he had been talking with a Samaritan woman creates immediate tension upon the arrival of his disciples on the scene. Jesus then challenges his disciples to "think outside the box" of their own cultural and religious upbringing, with the notion that the call to do God's work goes beyond the comfort zones of everyday life. Jesus implies that rewards of obedience to God's call to cross cultural boundaries will merit reward. After explaining this, the disciples see for themselves the harvest that this will yield.

This is a controversial narrative with dialogue and adequate background information to set up the necessary tension.

The Common Lectionary's pericope of John 4: 5 - 42 is subdivided by a number of translations. In the initial segment of the pericope we have narration, the author gives us some history and sets the scene for the conversation which follows. The conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, I will label narrative dialog. The dialog takes place on two levels. The Samaritan Woman speaks of material or natural water while Jesus speaks of spiritual things. In verse 27 and 28 plus 30 the lesson takes on a controversial questioning tone as Jesus' disciples find Jesus speaking to this Samaritan - this woman and they are in wonder or are amazed. They also wonder where did Jesus get food? Again Jesus' conversation is about spiritual things, as the disciples remain in the natural realm. In verse 29 and the final portion of the lesson, the narrator tells us of the Samaritan Woman's excitement in spreading the good news of the Messiah and the hordes which respond to her Good News.

B. Personal Interaction

(JW)One question that I have regarding this text has to do with what type of feelings would lie behind the question of the Samaritan woman's question, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" Would she have been offended by this, or were the Jews normally the one's who were repulsed by the Samaritans? Would she have been repulsed by Jesus being a Jew? Second, was the way that Jesus "asked" for a drink a polite way of doing it, or did he command her to do it?

The next issue is that Jesus very quickly began talking about the woman's personal life. Whatever the message this passage might have for readers, Jesus appeared to jump to the issue of compromised moral standards rather quickly. Was this just to show that he was a prophet, or was her lifestyle of primary importance to Jesus?

Moving on, when Jesus stayed with the Samaritans, can it be assumed that his disciples stayed there two? Would they have been received in such a community? Would that have caused chastisement from other Jews?

Is this an Historical Account?
1. Is this woman "down and out" or does she see herself as having control/power here?
2. How did Jesus know so much about this lady?
Had she told Him?
Was this a type of counseling session?
3. Why are the disciples buying food in Samaria?

Jesus' humanity comes through in this passage - He is tired - He is weary - He is thirsty - and He is hungry. Never the less, His divinity is ever present, speaking on a spiritual level to both the woman and the disciples. Jesus tries to make it plain to his disciples what he is here to do but they do not understand. However He goes on explaining, this is my life. Most remarkable in this text is Jesus identifying Himself as the Messiah - a conclusion Jesus leads his audience to - plainly telling them (us), I Am the Messiah - I can give you Living Water (LIFE).

Although we are made aware and should remain fully aware of the humanity of Jesus in this pericope, the profoundness of the text is it's full disclosure of the spiritual identity of Jesus. This identity is in complete agreement with the prolog of the Gospel of John; "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God .... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth." John 1:1...14

C. Organization

(JW)I think that the most important questions at this point have to do with the tension between Jews and Samaritans that would have existed at the time of this narrative taking place. If this is pursued, then many of the other questions will be answered. A deeper understanding of this relationship will also further explain the content of the Samaritan woman's questions for Jesus concerning where one ought to worship.

The questions and observations noted about primarily flowed from a new look at this passage provided in The Message; although question 3 could be viewed as a historical or religious question. As I read this account in The Message it reminded me of a personal encounter I had a few weeks ago which centered around an evangelical question of offering spiritual things to people who do not see their need for spiritual things.

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