The woman at the well is one of the most amazing readings. It is so long and jam packed with less than obvious meaning that you don't know where to begin. So many angles that it can be looked at from. I am going to approach it from the angle of Jesus' style of evangelism. How does He go about touching other people with the good news?
- Jesus goes into neighborhoods where good religious people don't go. The gospel says He had to travel through Samaria. Most religious Jews did not do that. They avoided contact with Samaritans even though it made the journey longer. Jesus reaches out to those who many say are rejected by God. He goes where they live.
- Jesus talks when most would find it awkward to talk. He asks a Samaritan woman to get him a drink of water. You don't just strike up a conversation with women you don't know in this culture. Yet He asks for a drink. Related to that, He send the disciples into town to buy food. Remember they are going to be very uncomfortable talking to anyone because they are Jews in a Samaritan town.
- He turns the conversation to faith very quickly. When she wonders about His behavior He brings up God. He talks about living water. She does not get it at first so He makes the supernatural nature of what He is talking about more explicit. It is a powerful image. The water that I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. You wonder if she thinks he is crazy.
- He brings up her sin. He knows the topic of sex is going to be sensitive to her. He does not avoid it. He highlights it. There is something even deeper. There are 2 words for husband. One where you are a man's wife, another where you are his concubine. The second one sounds like the word "Baal" which was a reference to idolatry. Historically the Samaritans had 5 major episodes of idolatry. So He is saying I know the sin of your culture and I also know your personal sin. You have gone from one abusive man to the next and from one false religion to the next. Scott Hahn explains it. Anyway, we can't always use supernatural knowledge like Jesus seems to here. Still Jesus loves sinners but He does not ignore the sin. He brings it up in all its pain and ugliness.
- He does not let her change the subject. Her question of which mountain should we worship on was something much debated between Samaritans and Jews. It was the equivalent of bringing up a hot theological topic. Like asking about women priests or gay marriage. It is an important question but not a personal question. She agreed He was a prophet from God but wanted to keep God safely in the realm of theology and out of her love life.
- He does not sugar coat the truth. Jesus says, "You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews." This is true. The Jews are God's chosen people and salvation will come though them. Yet this is a pretty unpopular truth in Samaria. Why? For the same reason the special graces given to the Catholic church are a pretty unpopular truth with protestants. It leaves them on the outside and calls them to convert. Yet Jesus bluntly states this truth. No apologies. No waffling. This is it.
- He encourages the evangelized to immediately start evangelizing. This is actually an important principle of communities that grow fast. They take the new converts who have just said Yes to Jesus and immediately encourage them to invite their own friends to come to church. In this case she didn't stop at her friends. She invited everyone. She didn't need to know much. She just needed to know she had found Jesus and He seemed amazing. The recently convinced can be very convincing.
- He made time for followup. He was just passing through that town. Yet after this happens he stayed 2 more days. That is a big change in plans. How much are we willing to change plans to explain the faith properly to someone who is willing to listen right now?