What is the primary purpose of the Gospel of John? It is radically different than Matthew, Mark and Luke- the synoptic gospels. Why did the author write it?
Theologians have many different answers to this question. When I read John I come to the conclusion that the author wants us to know one thing above all else-
The man from Nazareth called Jesus the Christ is the Son of God – He is God.
The other gospel’s get to this point as well but it is John and his followers that take on the task of telling the story of Jesus in a way that makes it clear he is the Messiah.
During this part of the Lenten journey we will come to know Jesus through the words of John, the disciple Jesus loved through three of the most powerful stories in the New Testament.
- Today we meet the Samaritan Woman at the well- A story of personal conversation;
- Next week Jesus cures the man born blind- A story of a community wrestling with conversion;
- And we end with the raising of Lazarus- The story of the universal truth of life everlasting.
I would like to invite you to experience the Gospel according to John as a part of your Lenten journey.
Here is a Lenten TO DO Challenge to consider: Read the upcoming Gospel passage daily- watch the clip of the scene from the movie The Gospel According to John- write down the words or actions that have the most impact and determine what you would talk about if you had to give the homily on this Gospel.
For these final few weeks of lent I encourage you to spend a few moments with Jesus just as he asks the disciples to do in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Let’s look at this week’s story to see what we might take away from it.
Jesus and the disciples are wandering from town to town. They stop in what would be considered unfriendly territory- a village of Samaritans-if this happened today it would be like Jesus, a Jew, stopping in Gaza and encountering a Palestinian woman.
If you take the time to read and study the story carefully here are some points you will notice.
The woman arrives at the well alone and at mid-day. It would have been customary for the women of the village to fetch the water from the well in the early morning before the heat of the day and in a group. It is clear that she is an outcast in her own town and likely considered a woman of questionable character. She is a person who is to be shunned.
It seems as if Jesus is waiting for her. It is Jesus who then breaks the silence and says to her: “Give me a drink.”The woman is startled by this request as it breaks so many social norms of the day that she is in shock.
And then something remarkable happens. It is the only time this takes place in the entire New Testament.
Jesus delivers the “Living water discourse”, it is clear the woman does not fully understand it but she is intrigued by this man. Then Jesus gets her to admit that she has not one husband but five.
She concludes he must be some kind of prophet and eventually she shares that she believes that the Messiah is coming and when he comes he will proclaim all things to us.”
It is in Christ’s reply that we come to understand the purpose of John’s Gospel.
Jesus says to her: “I AM he, the one who is speaking to you.”
It is the only time in the New Testament that Jesus tells another person that he is the Messiah. Last week in Matthew’s telling of the transfiguration the voice of God proclaims that Jesus is his Son.Think about what has happened here. Jesus has arranged to meet this lowly and broken person. She is a Samaritan, a woman and a sinner- an outcast.
This is the person Jesus chooses to tell his greatest revelation to- That he is the Messiah- that he is God.
Why did he choose her? Why not Peter/ why not the chief priest who was well versed in scripture and prophesies about the Messiah?
I will let the theologians fight it out to answer this question. For me the message of this Gospel story is very powerful.
Jesus comes to us in our brokenness and our weakness. If we let him into our lives he will transform us in ways we never thought possible. Then he calls on us to share this good news with others, just as the woman did when she ran into town.
Jesus did not come to exclusively share his message with a select few who hold degrees in theology or wear robes.
He came for all of us- he is waiting for us at the well regardless of our station in life. He seems to have a special place in his heart for the sinner and he will go to great lengths to reach out to us in our time of greatest thirst and offer to us his living water.
We have an opportunity to meet Jesus- to be drawn into his mystery- over these 3 Sundays. Take a chance and spend some time with him in the words according to John and perhaps you may be able to say to others:
Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done- He is the Messiah.