By Pamela Lewis
A Reading from John 4:27-42
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29”Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”
These verses follow immediately after the compelling exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, which began on the subject of the proper place to worship and ends with the distinction between water that quenches the body as opposed to the “living water,” which Jesus brings. Jesus reveals himself as the Christ at the end of his talk with the Samaritan woman, who leaves her water jar behind in her excited haste to share her experience with others. She no longer needs the well water, having now received the “living water.”
Jesus, having crossed the strictly-observed dividing line between Jews and Samaritans, inspires surprise in his disciples, who know that Jews and Samaritans don’t associate with each other. Attention then shifts from water to food, which the disciples want to get for Jesus, who is surely hungry. Jesus is nourished by heavenly water and heavenly food, derived from doing his heavenly Father’s will. The disciples still need to learn and understand this kind of nourishment.
Jesus goes on to tell about the spiritual harvest, where both reaper and sower will rejoice. But the need for sowers, those who will spread the seed of God’s Word, is continual.
The best sowers of all are those who have been marginalized, like the Samaritan woman, who, despite her checkered reputation, shares her encounter with Christ with her fellow Samaritans, who are immediately converted to believe in Christ because of her powerful witness. When we meet Christ, we will also be changed and leave our old water jugs behind.
Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.
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The Diocese of Armidale (Anglican Church of Australia)
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