Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"You Are Right," Said Jesus

"Jesus said to her, 'Go, call your husband, and come back.' The woman answered him, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said to her, 'You are right in saying "I have no husband"; for you have had five husbands, and the one you are with now is not your husband. What you have said is true!' The woman said to him, 'Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you (plural in the Greek) say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.' Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem'."  John 4.16-20

I have been in it deep for the last few days, thanks be to spring break, reading and thinking a lot. Today, I was reading the above passage and I was struck by two things. 

First, when the woman says she has no husband, Jesus could have accused her, but he chose to affirm her. The first thing that comes out of his mouth is "You are right..." I'm sure there's irony here, but he isn't shutting her down.  It means that when he tells her that he knows all about her, she doesn't dissemble. He doesn't minimize her or knock her down. And so, she keeps her focus on him and proceeds to ask a very big question.

That's the second thing. When I put myself in the sandals (as it were) of the SW, and I run into a prophet who tells me "everything I have ever done,"  what is my first question going to be? Here are some of the options that run through my mind: 

"How do you know that?" 
"How can you make my life better?" 
"How do I keep a husband from dying/divorcing me?" 
"So about that water..." 

These might say a lot more about me than about her, but the point is that she goes straight to her burning question: where to worship. She refers to "our ancestor" (4.12) and "our ancestors" (4.20) and she is arguing that they used to worship on Mt. Gerazim, but the Jews say it's in Jerusalem.  She doesn't actually ask a question, but a question is implied. THIS is what she wants to know about and talk about. This is what fuels her fire. She wants to talk about the separation between Jews and Samaritans and how it affects their relationships to God. 

This conversation just gets higher and higher. They start with basic need (water), move up to social matters (husbands), then on to location of worship, and Jesus, without hesitation, elevates the conversation straight to the top: 

"Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."   (4.21-24) 

Because I have been learning so much,  I have to insert here that for years I have read her character as "unworthy" and so I saw this question as a challenge. It seemed that she was trying to prove that she had thoughts and was a real person, and she needed to move the conversation to safer ground- because if this guy isn't a prophet, he may be looking to take advantage of her. IF the SW is of questionable moral character, then this may very well be the most likely situation, but if she ISN'T, then the other might be likely. I'm bending really hard toward the "upright" version of the SW than the "fallen" version. 

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