Remember when you were a kid how you might come in from playing outside and ask your mother for something. “Hey Mom, can I have a cookie and something to drink?” And remember how your mother would answer the question. She would, of course, be smiling when she said it. She was not going to deny the request.
She would say, “Haven’t you forgotten something?”
And you would reply, “Oh yes, Please! Please, may I have a cookie and a glass of milk?”
And then, she in turn would respond.
“Haven’t you forgotten something?” This long reading from the Gospel of John about the Jesus at the well seems to invite such a question. We might ask the question of Jesus who has left Jerusalem where he had made sure that there was plenty of wine at the wedding feast at Cana—a suburb of Jerusalem. Also, it was there he had caused a ruckus at the temple. And there, in Jerusalem, is where he had been in conversation with a very important “leader of the Jews,” Nicodemus.
Where Jesus finds himself in today’s story is where we might want to remind Jesus, “Haven’t you forgotten something?”
Haven’t you forgotten where you are—Samaria. This is hostile territory. This is the homeland of the long vilified and dismissed Samaritans, with their heretical beliefs and their despicable characters.
“Jesus, haven’t you forgotten that you are in a public place and you are speaking to a woman—a Samaritan woman. A Jew speaking to a Samaritan, a man, that is one thing—that is stooping low for a Jew. But to speak to a Samarian woman, and, what kind of a woman! She has a reputation for promiscuity—five husbands you notice.
“So I see you are a prophet,” says the woman in response to Jesus’ comment on her busy life.. Jesus is not so much a prophet as observant. There would probably have been some kind of jewelry or evidence for him to see and draw this conclusion. The fact that she is currently “shacked up”—that could be prophetic or merely intuition on Jesus’ part.
Nevertheless, the key point here is the breach of social and religious convention, especially as her character is revealed. Jesus breaks all the rules of the society of the day with this encounter with this “low-life” Samaritan woman.
John’s gospel sets up this story immediately following the Nicodemus story in Chapter 3. We can’t help but see the contrast between these two settings and two principal characters—between Nicodemus and his encounter with Jesus and the Samaritan woman and her encounter. Nicodemus comes “by night” out of darkness. The Samaritan woman story occurs at noon—in bright daylight. Nicodemus is a learned, honoured and respected citizen—“a leader of the Jews.” The Samaritan woman is a “no count’. She has a reputation which adds to her ordinary and dismissive status. Nicodemus comes to Jesus with a need—an answer to a nagging question.
Today, Jesus comes to the woman at the well with a need. He is thirsty—in need of a drink of water.
What these two stories have in common is that they are placed in the gospel narrative in order to reveal to us the nature of Jesus. This Jesus is “the Word.” And the Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory. (John 1: 14)
Here Jesus, all flesh, all sweaty from the long walk up the hills from Jerusalem through Samaria with his disciples, on the way back to Galilee. Here is Jesus thirsty and hungry, real human needs, real flesh—his disciples have gone to the village ahead to get the groceries.
Here is Jesus, all flesh, born into the legacy and people of Jacob, whose ancestors dug this well centuries ago. Jesus—all flesh—will reveal himself here , as all spirit , as the Word—the Word made flesh.
Jesus is revealed in another dimension, here at the well with the Samaritan woman. His dimension as “the Word,” the wisdom, the knowledge, the Messiah, the Christ. He reveals himself with the first of several “I am” statements proclaimed in John’s gospel—“I am He—the great I am.”
Moses at the mountain about to take the Law , the Ten Commandments, to children of Israel below on the plain asks Yahweh, God: “Who shall I say sent me?”
Tell them “I am “sent you. I am. Jesus is the I am—I am he. (v.26)
Jesus’ true and full nature—Emmanuel – God with us, is revealed through his encounter with the Samaritan woman—with her sullied reputation and her plain innocent, even childlike, reaction to her visitor. Her encounter with Jesus is transformative. She is transformed from being the lowest functioning member in her society—the woman sent to fetch water. “Hey, Babe, go get me something to drink, will ya’ ?” says her old man—the sixth one.
She is transformed, reborn, from a lowly “slave girl” to an evangelist. It is through her experience and through her voice that she, the simple Samaritan, this woman of the world “believes” and experiences the living water, the “everlasting life” which is stated as God’s purpose for all humankind in the previous story – the story of Nicodemus and Jesus
“For God so loved the world…”
Jesus is indeed a prophet. His statement, his proclamation, his prophesy,
John 3:16, is made real in this story with the woman at the well. She is filled and transformed with her revelation.
Her encounter compels her to share her new found “belief”: “Many Samaritans from the city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” (v. 39)
She has fulfilled her purpose, her life’s purpose.
That is an amazing event. But we, who are hearing this story, following along closely, might say: “Haven’t you forgotten something?”
What has she forgotten? Look at verse 28. Then the woman left her water jug and went back to the city. She forgot the reason why she was sent to the well in the first place. She forgot the whole “practical” purpose.
“Hey, Honey it’s a hot day. I need a drink. Fetch me some water.” What do you think her “old man” is thinking when she returns without the jug? Do you think it really matters to her?
She won’t be too concerned about “the old man.” She has been renewed. Born anew. Born from above. Born into God’s love. For God so loved the world….
Hey, haven’t you forgotten something?
Once we’ve had an encounter with God’s love, once we have an encounter with the Word, the Word made Flesh, it doesn’t matter. Once we experience the one who transforms us through love, once we experience the “I am” – I am he , the one who is speaking to you. (v.26), can we be blamed for forgetting something. Can we be forgiven?
But, maybe, just maybe that’s the real message.
The grace in this story, as I see it, is that being born anew, being born from above, even “born again”, if you will, resets one’s priorities. It turns everything that seemed central and so very important on its ear. The day to day errands, the loyalties, even important ones, the those things that we thought were important, even “essential”’ are redefined through an encounter with Jesus, and encounter with the Word made flesh , the Christ.
Nicodemus with his intellectual. theological analytical brain function , doesn’t get it . The Samaritan woman does.
Haven’t we forgotten something?
As Christians in the 21st Century we need to ask ourselves that question: “Haven’t we forgotten something?” As Christians at Kerrisdale Presbyterian Church we need to ask ourselves that question , “Haven’t we forgotten something?”
Haven’t we forgotten what our purpose in life is, right from the moment of our fleshy birth—To know and to be known by God.
Haven’t we forgotten why we gather on Sunday to worship our God. To give thanks for God’s grace, to receive this grace , to forgive ourselves and forgive each other. Haven’t we forgotten about God’s love for sending his “only begotten son…”
We all know it “For God so loved the world…”John 3:16.
Haven’t we forgotten that our purpose for gathering is to worship [p , to be worthy , and make room for this “Word made flesh” to live among us. That we have seen and believed the glory of this promise.
And haven’t we forgotten our mission : to go and tell this good news , this gospel , that’s what it means – “gospel”—“good news” and to quote St. Augustine “ preach the gospel every day . Use words when necessary.”
Haven’t we forgotten that is our commission—to let the light of Christ shine. To let the world, see that good news played out in our lives. To, just like the Samaritan woman, go back to our village, back to where we come from and testify to our forgiveness through God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Just Like the Samaritan woman, we have been forgiven. We have been unburdened.
“He told me everything I had ever done” (v.39). Jesus knows her sins. Jesus forgives her sins without her even asking. he knows her shame. He knows her guilt. Jesus releases her from her past to be born anew – from promiscuity to proclamation. She is released to love herself, to love her God and to share that love , in a new way. Born anew.
“Haven’t you forgotten something, woman?”
She forgot her water jug. She forgot her burden. She was hanging onto what defined her “Fetch me a little water, girl.”
What defines us? What is it that people see in us that defines us as Christians? How do we tell the world who we are, what we believe, what role and function we serve in our place , our “Village”, where we live?
What can we forget ? What can we leave behind, how can we create space for God in our lives? This empty space can then be filled with God’s forgiveness and love? What can we leave behind, so we too can become proclaimers of the good news just as Jesus told us, his followers to be.
Sometimes we limit ourselves. We see ourselves a mere carrier of water jugs—fetchers. We see ourselves as limited. We even build structures to facilitate this limited notion of our selves. We say that our worship, our praising, our presentations, all aspects of what represents us as believers should follow a prescribed form. We carry that definition. We hang on to it. It defines us. It becomes our burden, our function. It limits us – our vision , our imagination. We sometimes , miss the real point of our going to the well, the place we go to quench our thirst , our thirst for God. ****************************
“Haven’t you forgotten something,” the Samaritan woman asks Jesus early in their encounter.
Sir you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get the living water? (v.11) Just before her question, Jesus had promised her “living water.”
Haven’t you forgotten the bucket to contain it? Haven’t you forgotten the container? Jesus answers explain that the water he offers needs no container. It cannot be “contained.”
Haven’t we forgotten that Jesus is not so worried about the “water Jug” or “the bucket,” those material containers, the trappings, the structures , the rituals . God so loved the world…. In this Lenten season, we are reminded of the love that was poured out for us in Jesus’ sacrifice.
Especially on this Passion Sunday, if we have forgotten, we are reminded. We are reminded of why God sent his son. To fill us with living water. We remember Jesus’ claim, I am he , and the sacrifice which resulted. This sacrifice was made out of love , For God so loved …
For God so loved the world that he sent his son to suffer, to die and to rise again so we , yes we who believe, can receive this grace , this eternal life ,
But those who drink of the water I will give will never be thirsty. The water that I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. (V. 14)
And what is her response to this uncontainable water. Sir give me that water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water. (v.15)
And what is our response?
Haven’t we forgotten something? Haven’t we forgotten that we are recipients of that same water, the living water by God’s grace?
Haven’t we forgotten that our purpose, our mission is to drink of that living water, and to share that living water. To share this water – the renewed, refreshed life find in Christ, shared through God’s grace with our brothers and sisters here, yes right her at KPC?
Jesus offers this living water ”Everybody who drinks of your this well-water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give will never be thirsty. (v.12)
Can we remember what to say in response? Let the Samaritan woman give is the words. Sir, Lord Jesus , please , give me, give us that water , once again, that we may never be thirsty? Let it refresh us. Let it restore us. Let it be shared in this place and in the world.
Haven’t we forgotten something? Amen