SCRIPTURE NOTEBOOK by Doris Hayes
Exodus 17: 3-7 Psalm 94 Romans 5:1-2;5-8 John 4:5-42
AFTER long drought the
rains came. The classroom emptied. The children danced in the rain, mouths wide open to drink the lifegiving waters. Soon they would be plucking fresh mealier.
When those African children prepared for baptism they had no difficulty in appreciating water as a symbol of the life-giving Spirit of God.
The people were "tormented by thirst" before the miraculous water flowed from the rock. Such experiences lie behind the frequent use in the Old Testament of "living water" as a symbol of the Wisdom of God and of the Spirit of God.
"I will pour water on the thirsty land...
I will pour my Spirit upon your descendants" (Isaiah 44:3) During Lent catechumens are preparing for baptism and we are all anticipating renewing our baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil, when we respond in faith to the crucified and risen Christ, through whom "the love of God has been proved into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us". (Roman 5:5) Thus the "living water", "the spring of water welling up to eternal life" of which Jesus speaks may suggest the waters of baptism to the Christian reader. To the first readers familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, they would refer to the revelation of God and to his Spirit. recalling promises such as God made through Ezekiel:
"I will sprinkle clean water upon you... a new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you... I will put my spirit within you." (Ezekiel 36: 25-26)
Baptism is not just an event. It is a life to be lived in the company of the risen Lord through whose spirit within us we are related to the Father. We do not see the risen Christ. We come to know him through the picture we have of him in the Gospels. So let us enjoy this story of his encounter with a woman by a well.
"Wearied as he was with the journey," illustrates his normal humanity. His engaging with the Samaritan woman in lively repartee was evidently unusual. The woman feigns shock because Jews do not speak to Samaritans, and the disciples are surprised to find him talking to a women. That is consistent with the personality of Jesus portrayed in all the Gospels. He is on familiar terms with all whom he meets, but especially with sinners, with the marginalised and with "the rabble who know nothing of the law".
But this woman expresses interest in the law. She quickly decides she would prefer a theological discussion rather than talk about her disreputable private life with this stranger. Deftly she changes the subject.
She responds in faith when Jesus tells her that he is the expected Messiah. Through her, many Samaritans come to believe that Jesus "really is the Saviour of the World".