Mid Week Faith Lift
June 4, 2014
“A Drink of Living Water”
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
This week begins a month of our Bible favorites and the first one we explore is the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. This story is in the Gospel of John, and it is rich with metaphysical meaning. Good pick, whoever suggested it! We need to recognize first of all that scholars across a wide range of Biblical research do not think that this story in any way represents any kind of factual event…it did not really happen. It is one of the stories that was recorded to teach the Jesus message, in about 90 CE, which is after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE and long after Jesus was gone from the scene. It is like a parable or a legend and is the product of a people who told stories in order to remember. They were basically illiterate, and they were in a time of great social upheaval as the center of Jewish life, the Temple was gone. It was during a time of great spiritual and social transition that John wrote it down in his Gospel.
Let’s look at the story from John 4:4-42
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (NIV)
We are going to weave through both a metaphysical and historical/critical exploration of this passage. The first thing to note metaphysically is that it takes place at noon and 12 is a deeply spiritual number. It is the number of spiritual completion: 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 disciples, 12 months in a year. It is a very powerful spiritual number and it signals that something of deep spiritual importance is being taught in this passage. It is an ordinary event of getting water that is loaded with spiritual power and meaning….so pay attention!
What is this story really about? In Hebrew scripture, a well is the place where one goes in search of a wife and the references to this being Jacob’s well make that abundantly clear. It signals even more clearly that this is not an actual event but a further window into the Jesus experience. The well in Hebrew Scripture stories was the place where Rebekah was found as a wife for Isaac, and later where Jacob found Rachel and if you go all the way back to the patriarchs, it is where Moses found Zipporah and she became his wife. So when a man and woman meet by a well, the encounter is viewed as a “Biblical mating game!” The first century Jewish readers of John would have understood this very well….pardon the pun! The same is true when we look at this from a metaphysical perspective. When masculine and feminine energy come together in Scripture, there is powerful spiritual energy present which contains a deep message from Spirit. This is very true in this passage as well. So to set the scene, we have the energy of a bride and bridegroom in the Samaritan woman and Jesus, which come together to offer a new consciousness. What is it about?
The writer of John has Jesus ask the same question asked by the Jewish patriarchs, “Will you give me a drink?” and the woman’s response is an immediate reference to the ancient conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans. They don’t deal with one another! There is a centuries long history of warfare, hatred, rivalry and distrust between these groups, going back to the time of Jacob. This conflict was between the Northern Kingdom of Israelites with its capital in Sumeria and the Southern Kingdom of Jews with its capital in Jerusalem. When the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians, the Southern Kingdom did NOTHING to help save it. In fact, the Southern Kingdom became allies with the Assyrians, a betrayal that added insult to injury. It is kind of like the Montagues and Capulets on steroids. Jesus asking her for a drink would be like asking Jerry Falwell or Tammy Faye Baker to give the opening speech at the Unity Convention I am attending next week to put it in modern Biblical terms.
Jesus gives her a spiritual response, which invites her to a higher consciousness…a place where you don’t define yourself in opposition to someone or some thing. His invitation is into a consciousness, which gives you life, not death. A consciousness that has “living water”…metaphysically water represents our feeling nature, and when we join our feeling nature with our thinking nature, we open the way for the Christ of us to have expression. This is a profound invitation to live into a new way of being that is very different from the past. If ever there were an invitation to NOT stay stuck in the past, in past hatreds, resentments or conflicts, this is it!
Now as we noted, the woman’s initial response is to hear the words, but not the meaning. She is caught in the literal or physical meaning of his words, not the deeper spiritual meaning because her first response is….”you don’t even have a bucket!” And don’t we respond the same way! We pray for guidance, for wisdom, for God to part the chaos we have so creatively developed….and when we look for an answer, we look for a bucket! But this story is not about getting a bucket….it goes much deeper…full of puns today! Because Jesus tells her that if she really understood who she was talking to, she would be asking for water, living water. And if she drank this water, she would never be thirsty again! That gets her attention, that shifts her energy into saying yes, “I want this water!”
When we drink of the ordinary water of revenge, getting even, retribution, no matter how “justified” we feel, it leaves us thirsty-think “blood thirsty.” And once satisfied, we are ok until the next “offense” right? But as Jesus points out so clearly, this is truly a dead end…an old consciousness that does not give life. When we drink of living water, we are able to see the old story through new lenses and respond from a different consciousness. Years ago, in my many mental plots to get revenge against my ex-husband, I thought the sweetest words I could say would be “I told you so!” And I looked forward to the time when I could say them and be “proved right!” When it finally happened, the words were not sweet, they were very sad and very bitter….and not at all satisfying! Give me some of that living water! It tastes much better!
The final part of this story we will look at today is the last bit about Jesus telling the woman to go call her husband, to which she responds “I have no husband” ….but she has had FIVE! This is a powerful metaphysical message. The number 5 is the number that represents what Charles Fillmore called “sense consciousness” or what we can know as truth through our senses. The last one she is with is not her husband, she is not married to him or to sense consciousness…..she is not bound to the old way of thinking or being. She is ready for the message of Jesus that goes beyond sense consciousness or race consciousness. It is a message that when we bring our thinking nature and feeling nature together—Jesus as the bridegroom and the Samaritan woman as the bride, we step into a whole new consciousness of life, of healing old hurts and grievances. We are much more than our story and these hurts can be “Christified” in this new covenant, this new way of being. This new water moves barriers and dissolves old hurts and grudges.
This woman goes on to take this message of healing to all of Samaria…she is the first successful evangelical minister to reach the Samaritans. It is in the hands of a woman and the total energy of Mother/Father God that our full Christed self is realized. So may it be with all of us!
Love and blessings at the well,