Social Distancing: Woman at the Well

I previously shared that Lent is a beloved season, in part because Jesus’ humanity is more apparent.

Jesus and his recently called disciples are traveling through Samaria.

Jesus is hungry, perhaps hangry, and exhausted.
He sends the disciples into town for food.

Jesus essentially clasps at the well in exhaustion without the energy to draw a drink of water.

BUT, a Samaritan woman comes to the well during the mid-day heat and alone, because of social distancing.

The historical and cultural nuances are essential to this scripture.

Jesus is a man, Jewish in ethnicity and religious adherence, and a Rabbi (teacher).

Jesus’ disciples are men, Jewish in ethnicity and religious adherence, but considered ‘sinners’ by the religious elite.

She is an unnamed woman. She is a Samaritan.
She is not socially accepted among Samaritan ‘polite society’.

The Samaritans were an ethnic and religious community, similar to the Jews.
The Samaritans were also descended from the tribes of Israel.

However, the Jews and Samaritans disagreed on the central place and practices of worship while recognizing their shared monotheistic God. Perhaps a modern correlation is witnessed among the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The Jews considered the Samaritans to not simply be their quirky, black sheep cousins but rather the illegitimate bastard children. While the Samaritans considered the Jews to be judgmental elitist.

Thus, we have an unnamed, illegitimate woman who is not received among her own “kind” and has been rejected and isolated from even the out-casts.

Jesus knows.

Jesus requests, perhaps demands, her to get him a drink from the well.

She responds with spunk.

‘Seriously? You want a woman to get you a drink of water?’
‘Seriously? You want a Samaritan to get you a drink of water?’
‘Seriously? You want one not received by polite society to get you a drink of water?’
‘Do you realize I can infect you with my sin?’

Sin tarnished a person.

Sin was an infectious disease transmittable through physical contact or even shared contact with the same object, including a bucket from a well.

Jesus, however, taught that sin was not an infectious disease to be avoided.
Jesus taught that it was not the external, but rather internal motives that infected a person. And all persons, with the expectation of himself, are infected.

Martin Luther understood sin infects all persons redefining is as ‘being curved on the self’, which manifests in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

This unnamed, Samaritan woman was infected with sin. Thus, she practiced social distancing to avoid infecting other persons. Perhaps, her feisty (that is spirited and courageous) dialogue with Jesus is rooted not in rebellious desire but rather it is defense system borne of necessity due to her imperfect, not-so-charmed past.

Jesus is not intimidated or detoured.
Jesus is not fearful and panicked about being infected.
Jesus does not socially distance himself, but rather engages her.

Jesus promises her better days ahead.
Jesus assures that social boundaries will be torn down.
Jesus proclaims a day when differences in worship will cease to matter.

She frankly speaks of one foretold.
And for the first time in John’s gospel, Jesus clearly says “I am he”.

Then, Jesus’ disciples return.

The disciples are disapproving of Jesus speaking to this unnamed, Samaritan woman.
However, the disciples keep their questioning of his actions to themselves.

This woman, similar to those at the tomb, runs to proclaim Christ and bear witness to all.

May we not socially distance ourselves,
especially from those isolated and rejected.

May we strive to tear down all walls and
reach across all boundaries that seek to divide us.

May we embrace difference, not only in worship, but in all its variety.

May we be confident in Jesus’ promise that better days are ahead.

Scripture was John 4: 5-42.
Originally preached on 15 March 2020 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

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