Encountering Jesus Lent 3 : Askrigg & Busk Jn.4 1-42
It’s interesting to note how ‘Fake News’ was causing challenges even in 1C Palestine. Pharisees were probably trying to create division between the followers of John and Jesus by creating some kind of league chart for baptisms. As far as scripture records Jesus did not partake in any baptisms but his disciples did.
We could spend many hours over today’s Gospel Reading – it has such depth and riches that we could be studying it for weeks and still discover something new within it but I would be so bold as to suggest that a key feature of it is the importance of ‘Encounter’ – encountering Jesus Christ and encountering God the Father through Jesus Christ. This encounter may be for the very first time or it may be an encounter in a new and dynamic way or a new and loving way. Whatever it is … Jesus makes it clear that ‘Encounter’ is crucial and that ‘Encounter’ is available.
We could describe Jesus’ ministry on earth as one of encounter. To ensure that we know that this is both possible and life transforming. To ensure that that this is always available and possible, Jesus is never controlled by the conventions of the day or by the agenda of others. It’s all about encountering the presence of the living God.
I’m going to focus on a series of questions that I would like us all to consider and we’ll have some time at the end to do so before the Lord.
- Jesus breaks conventions to break down barriers. Hidden to our modern understanding are a whole series of taboos that Jesus sets aside for the sake of reaching this one woman. Men didn’t ordinarily spend time with unaccompanied women, Jews didn’t spend time with Samaritans, Jews didn’t share drinking utensils let alone with a Samaritan, Rabbi’s didn’t meet with women, Rabbi’s didn’t meet with known ‘sinners’ as this woman was by the way that she is drawing water at the hottest part of the day and on her own. Strict Rabbi’s wouldn’t even greet their wives, daughters or sisters in public. Some Pharisees were known as the ‘bruised ones’ on account of them closing their eyes when passing women in public and walking straight into a wall!
Q1) What social conventions am I tied to that are hindering my opportunity to encounter the Lord fully?
- Jesus chose to travel through Samaria. Jews usually didn’t, unless they wanted to run the risk of being attacked by Bandits – they would instead walk around rather than through, crossing the River Jordan and travelling up the eastern side of the valley, taking the long route to Galilee. This journey would take 6 days instead of 3.
Q2) What areas of my life am I walking around rather than through? How is this affecting my encounter with the Lord? What am I avoiding?
- Jesus had sent his disciples away to buy provisions. He creates an opportunity to speak with the woman on her own. There are many examples of where Jesus retreats to be completely alone or removes others from his presence to enable him to focus on the task before him. There are occasions when we need to do the same – to remove distraction or objection in order that we can be concentrate fully.
Q3) What areas are there in my life where I would benefit from creating more space in order that I can concentrate on encountering the Lord?
- Jesus sat down beside the well because he was tired. Where or what do we turn to first to when we are tired? Which ‘Well’ do we approach and sit alongside to be replenished? Being weary need not make us weak if we choose the right place and the right resource. No amount of sleep, alcohol, treat food, Box sets on Netflix or any other body numbing practices will satisfy or ultimately help. Jesus speaks to the woman of the ‘living water’ that can be found by trusting in him and challenges her directly to respond. St Augustine said: “Our hearts are restless Lord until they find their rest in thee”
Q4) Where am I going to replenish my spirit? Am I sitting beside the right Well? How are these choices affecting my encounter with the Lord?
- Jacob’s Well was dug many generations earlier with an eye on blessing those who would need to use it in the future. There was sacrifice – physical and financial, in order that a legacy of blessing could be handed on to those not even born yet.
Q5) What are we ‘digging’ for the future? What future legacy are we as individuals and as a church planning on leaving for the benefit of those who will follow us?
- Finally: Jesus challenges the woman to consider what is ‘inside’ of her. Did Jesus sit with the woman because he was tired or because she was? What was he wanting to achieve in this encounter? Is it like Jesus is saying;
“Sit with me. Rest with me. You’re tired and so am I. I’m tired of the way people treat each other. I’m tired of prejudice, I’m tired of greed and envy. I’m tired of violence and sickness and sin. I’m here to make a difference. I’m here to pay a price for you – to sacrifice myself for you – to ransom you so that you might be set free from this bondage of striving and separation and have the opportunity to encounter God as you were created to do and live life to the full both now and for the expanse of time beyond now. I am here to die on a cross and to say ‘It’s enough’ – It’s finished.”
Q6) How might I be able to help someone today by asking them for help? Who might I be able to speak with and pray for that they might encounter the Lord’s love in their life?
Jesus’ love and compassion transforms this woman’s life. This encounter with Jesus changes her life and the life of her community – ‘Many more believed because of what they heard’
God desires that we know him more and know him more fully – True worship is when we desire to do precisely that.