Lesson 7: Compassionate Hospitality
Jesus welcomes all people: tax collectors, women, children, the ritually unclean, and people whose sin is evident to the world. In today’s reading, Jesus interacts with someone who epitomizes how hospitable and compassionate he is. Jesus lives out the reign of God, incarnating God’s desire for us: all who will receive God in spirit and truth are welcome.
Devotion: Read John 4:1-42. The Jews look down on Samaritans and refuse to interact with them. This attitude is rooted in the hostility between Israel and Judah during the era of the Divided Kingdom. After Israel is defeated by Assyria in 772 BCE, the Judean Jews look down on the survivors who intermarry with the conquering Assyrians. Their anger is also fueled by the Samaritan religion, which weaves together Jewish and Assyrian pagan religion. The Jews see this as a terrible corruption of their faith. When Jesus initiates conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, he breaks three taboos: 1) speaking to an unaccompanied woman, 2) who is a Samaritan, and 3) who has been married numerous times. How does Jesus treat her? What do we learn from their interaction about how to treat people of other faiths? What assumptions do you make about people of other religions? Is Church doctrine a barrier for conversation or an invitation for discussion? How did your family of origin encourage you to interact with those different from you?
Personal Worship Option: Read Romans 2:1-16. Some outside the covenant community intuitively understand God’s desires for them and are obedient to that calling. Just because someone does not know our tradition does not mean they are not seeking God. How should this passage inform your prayer life? Pray and reflect on its message for you.
Dig A Little Deeper:
4:4 The opening verses reflect Jesus’ awareness of the Pharisees’ very early hostility to him.
4:5 “Sychar” is also called “Shechem,” near the modern town of Askar, near Mt. Gerizim (4:21).
4:6 Most people draw water for the day early in the morning. Noon is an odd time to go to the community well. Most likely, this woman is an outcast in her community.
4:15 Jesus transforms the meaning of “living water” from “flowing” water to the Holy Spirit (7:37-39). Both this woman and Nicodemus (3:1-15) are confused by Jesus’ metaphors. How much does the Samaritan woman come to understand compared with the Pharisee?
4:16 In response to Jesus’ personal comments, she confesses he is a prophet and seeks clarity about how best to worship. She wants to know how to connect with God. The resulting conversation leads her to name him “Messiah” (4:29).
4:20 Samaritans teach that God designates Mount Gerizim as the proper place to worship (Deut 11:22-30; 27:11-13). The coming of the Holy Spirit makes physical location of worship irrelevant.
4:22 The truth of “salvation is from the Jews” is standing in front of her—Jesus. However, his words and interaction with this Samaritan indicates that salvation will not be limited to Jews in the future.
4:23 What do you think it means to worship in spirit and truth? What kind of worship does God desire? What prevents our worship from exhibiting these qualities?
4:24 Jesus proclaims the future day when people will worship in spirit and truth has arrived in him. His coming initiates a new age where people are baptized in the Spirit and capable to worshipping God without being limited to a particular geographic location.
4:26 Another way of translating this “I am he” passage is “I who am speaking to you, I am,” which is a very clear reference to Exodus 3:13-15.
4:27 The act of leaving her water jar behind is significant. Perhaps she leaves it for Jesus, fulfilling his original request (4:7). It is usually interpreted as a sign of her desire to leave her old life behind. Additionally, it can be a sign the living water she encountered in Jesus has made her forget her physical thirst. She becomes a witness to Jesus, demonstrating her belief in him.
4:34 How does this passage sum up Jesus’ ministry? What does it, along with his comments about the harvest that is ripe and ready for reaping (4:35-38), convey about the Hebrew Covenant? What might it teach the Church about our role?
4:42 Her testimony leads them to Jesus. Their personal encounter with him over two days leads them to pronounce Jesus is the “Savior of the world.” How does this title far exceed the idea of “Messiah” in this day and time?