Monday, March 3, 2014

Love On John's Terms (part 16)

Continuing to observe the potential connection that the author is making with the event with the woman at the well, it is worth re-considering that the Samaritan woman had replied to Jesus by saying “How can you---a Jew---ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink?” (John 4:9a)  How did Jesus respond to that questions?  He said “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (4:10).  The response of the woman at the well was “Sir…you have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do you get this living water?  Surely, you’re not greater than our ancestor Jacob, are you?  For he gave us this well and drank from it himself, along with his sons and his livestock” (4:11-12) 

Is this talk of Jacob and his “giving us this well” and its water not echoed by the people’s mentioning of Moses in the sixth chapter?  What was Jesus’ reply?  He said, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again.  But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (4:13-14).  What is it that Jesus says in the sixth chapter, after the bread-seeking response of the people to Jesus’ talk of bread from heaven and the connection to Moses (similar to Jacob and the well) implied by such words?  Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  The one who comes to Me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in Me will never go thirsty” (6:35).  The connection practically jumps off the page. 

The Samaritan woman’s response was “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (4:15).  With this, the comparison with the record of the sixth chapter does indeed become rather obvious.  A short while later, after Jesus is said to have told the woman something about herself that He could not possibly have known, the woman said “Sir, I see that you are a prophet” (4:19).  This again calls attention to the talk of Jesus as the Prophet like Moses that was to come, which seems to be an ongoing theme in this Gospel.  Jesus alluded to this in the encounter with the woman, as it closes with Him saying “I, the one speaking to you, am He” (4:26). 

In chapter six, Jesus speaks words that take much the same form, when He says “Everyone whom the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never send away” (6:37).  What happened in the fourth chapter?  The woman went and told people about Jesus, many came to see Him, and many believed in Him (4:39).  Continuing in the sixth chapter, Jesus said “For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of the One who sent Me…  For this is the will of My Father---for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (6:38,40). 

With the story of the Samaritan woman, it is a chorus of Samaritans (again, telling an observer something about the community for which this is written and the issue of Gentile inclusion in the church) that says “for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this one really is the Savior of the world” (4:42b).  Here, it is more than worth noting that this use of “Savior of the world” would not have been heard or even intended as a reference to people getting “saved” so that they might have the opportunity to go to heaven when they die, but is instead a subversive poke at Rome and its emperor, who carried the title, beginning with Augustus, of “savior of the world”.  Thus, the language here in use is intensely messianic/kingly.     

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