Reflecting on John 4 (7-15, 28-30, 39-41)

This week, we are studying some select verses in John 4:1-42, the story of “the woman at the well” – although, there’s more than one story of a woman at a well in the Bible, for that matter. In fact, this story, of Jesus and a Samaritan woman at a well, gets some of its depth from those earlier stories, stories Jesus and his disciples and the early Christians would have known well.

Our curriculum has us focusing on verses 7-15, 28-30, and 39-41 – that is, the part of the conversation that concerns water, and then the woman’s subsequent actions: telling the neighbors, and their aftermath. In light of that, and considering that we’re being encouraged to think about “calling” during these particular thirteen weeks, we might want to pay some attention to the dynamics of “calling” that show up in this story.

Why, do we think, does Jesus launch into this deep conversation with this particular woman in this particular encounter? We will probably say it says something about Jesus, and what Jesus knows – of course it does! But if we stick with that, what does Jesus know, about this woman? [Because as an aside: commentary on this encounter tends to paint the woman herself in a negative way, reducing her to her sexuality, and ignoring her theological interest, and her evident extensive relationships with people in the town, and the implications of Jesus’ choosing to have a really LONG conversation with her ABOUT THEOLOGY … so we might want to consider that!] What does Jesus know about her that matters for calling her, and for her calling others? [Maybe this will make us wonder: what does matter for calling people? Why do we think that?]

And then, how does the woman call her neighbors? What do we notice about that? If she is a model evangelist [that’s one way to read her, it seems to me], what can we learn from her?

Then, what is the significance of the people’s testimony at the end (v42) – what is the difference between a report, and a personal encounter? More personally – would we say we know this difference from experience? How?

There are some notes on the text here, and more here.

Image: “Christ and the Samaritan woman at the Well,” [crop] John Linnell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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