[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — see top menu for John 1:1-2].
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” 2 —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— 3 he left Judea and started back to Galilee. 4 But he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water.
Ὡς οὖν ἔγνω ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἤκουσαν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ὅτι Ἰησοῦς πλείονας μαθητὰς ποιεῖ καὶ βαπτίζει ἢ Ἰωάννης— 2 καίτοιγε Ἰησοῦς αὐτὸς οὐκ ἐβάπτιζεν ἀλλ’ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ— 3 ἀφῆκεν τὴν Ἰουδαίαν καὶ ἀπῆλθεν πάλιν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν. 4 ἔδει δὲ αὐτὸν διέρχεσθαι διὰ τῆς Σαμαρείας. 5 ἔρχεται οὖν εἰς πόλιν τῆς Σαμαρείας λεγομένην Συχὰρ πλησίον τοῦ χωρίου ὃ ἔδωκεν Ἰακὼβ τῷ Ἰωσὴφ τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ· 6 ἦν δὲ ἐκεῖ πηγὴ τοῦ Ἰακώβ. ὁ οὖν Ἰησοῦς κεκοπιακὼς ἐκ τῆς ὁδοιπορίας ἐκαθέζετο οὕτως ἐπὶ τῇ πηγῇ· ὥρα ἦν ὡς ἕκτη.
7 Ἔρχεται γυνὴ ἐκ τῆς Σαμαρείας ἀντλῆσαι ὕδωρ.
The Walk of Shame
Have you ever gone somewhere and you didn’t want to be recognized? Maybe you were having a bad hair day, or just didn’t want to deal with anyone. Get what you need at the store and get out! That was the goal. Maybe you, like me, went through a difficult time in life and tried your best to avoid people for a while. It was just too humiliating to be in public.
That’s the picture we get here. Jesus is now right dab in the middle of the Land of the Hostiles, sitting at a well, while his disciples went off to town to buy food. Thinking of last week’s exegesis on this same passage (Part One), Jesus may have been there waiting for what he sensed was the whole purpose of being there.
Along came the kind of person Jesus wasn’t supposed to associate with:
A woman (check),
A Samaritan (check),
A Samaritan Woman (check, check).
A Samaritan Woman coming to a well at noon because she is avoiding people. (check check, check).
But then again, this is Jesus! He plays be another set of rules, not ours.
So, why was she coming at noon, during the heat of the day? Usually it was women who went to the well to fetch water, and this normally happened in the early morning. It was (and is now in countries with such wells) a social time to get caught up on news and gossip.
But this woman was clearly not allowed into that social circle or too embarrassed to face them. We read later in the text that she has had five husbands and the man she was currently living with was not her husband.
Right away we are tempted to think she is a wayward woman, a temptress, a woman of ill repute, or a street walker perhaps. And perhaps some of this might stick.
But maybe not. In those days, men could divorce wives for something as simple as the equivalent of burning the toast. It was incredibly easy. It’s possible that she had had five husbands simply because they grew tired of her. And a divorced woman was in big trouble. Without a man, she had few choices of livelihood. A divorced woman was in dire straights, so the pressure was on to get married again.
Jewish law said a woman could not marry more than three times, and it is believed a similar law existed among the Samaritans. So, she would clearly be scandalized, even if her only crime was, well, burning the toast!
The walk to the well at noon, in the heat of the day, alone and rejected, was a Walk of Shame. Everyday she had to walk it, and everyday be reminded of her public disgrace and isolation.
But this day was different. Jesus was waiting for her, anticipating her, driven to meet with her. Her shame and guilt, fear and isolation was about to end!
Have you had a similar experience? I have. Walking the Walk of Shame and finding, at the end of it, Jesus, smiling, eagerly waiting for you.
And he brings relief! And more…