Contemplations on the Story of the Samaritan Woman

Contemplations on the Story of the Samaritan Woman

pope shenouda iii

One of the Sundays of the Great Lent is The Samaritan Woman Sunday, which tells us one of the stories of salvation… 

The Stories of Salvation: 

Stories of Salvation are of different kinds: one of which is when the sinner comes to the Lord, as in the Parable of the lost son, who came home repenting and saying: “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son…” (Lk 15:21). And The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector who went up to the temple, standing afar off beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Lk 18:13).

There is another kind of the stories of salvation, when God comes to the sinner: like the bride of the Song of Solomon whom He came to her, knocked at her door saying:” Open for me …” (Sgs 5:2). Also what the Lord said in the Revelation “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me…” (Rv 3:20). 

  • In the stories of salvation, “Response” is a factor which becomes conditional, if God is the One who comes to him, or if God shows him the way, or if he is the one who comes to God. In the story of the Rich Young Ruler: he is the one who came to the Lord asking Him about the way to salvation. When God told him” Go, sell what you have and give to the poor” he couldn’t respond, “he went away sorrowful.”

  •  And the bride of the Song of Solomon, when God put his hand by the latch of the door, she didn’t respond to him so He turned away and was gone. She said:” My heart leaped up when he spoke. I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” (Sgs 5:6).

  •  In the story of Zacchaeus’ salvation, his own will came along with God’s will. He wanted to seeTheChrist,andJesustoldhim:”Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house”. God entered his house and said: “Today salvation has come to this house”. (Lk 19:2-9). 

  •  God desires all men to be saved (1Tm 2:4). But the most important thing is that the will of man would accord with that of God’s.
    “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10). But they, whom He came to save, should accept His salvation. We say at the end of every prayer of the Agpeya, the Book of Hours:” who calls all to salvation for the promise of the blessings to come”. But it was also said that “Many are called, but few chosen” (Mt 20:16). 

  • The story of salvation called upon Sodom, but Lot’s sons-in-law didn’t respond, it was said:” to his sons- in-law he seemed to be joking”. (Gn 19:14). And no one of Sodom was rescued except Lot and his two daughters… 

The Samaritan: 

This woman lived in sin with five men. The Lord knew and kept silent. People of the city of Samaria have been worshipping idols since Jeroboam’s separated from Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, and made two calves of gold saying about them “Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (1K 12:28). God then was beholding and listening…endured and was patient; Till the time came to call on the Samaritan woman, and to visit the people of the city of Samaria. Just as when the time of visitation of the Communists came after seventy years of Atheism during the era of Lenin, Stalin and Others…when they, at the end, came back to their faith.

So, God comes at a particular time to visit those who are living in sin.

He thirsts for their salvation, as we tell him in the Psalm:” My soul thirsts for You” (Ps 63:1). That is why He rightly said to the Samaritan “Give Me a drink.” (Jn 4:7). He definitely didn’t mean to drink from that water, which actually didn’t happen. 

Those whom God visits them, His visitation become a turning point in their life.

It was a turning point, through which the lives of them all were changed to a better one. Indeed, it was a turning point for the Samaritan woman and for the people of the city of Samaria. It was also a turning point for Mary Magdalene, to Zacchaeus the tax collector and to Nicodemus. And was a remarkable turning point for Saul of Tarsus, who immediately responded and said:” Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6).

Amazingly, there were powerful and effective personalities in history and in the Bible, whom if they had been attracted to Christianity and to the spiritual path; they would have became a great gain and a cause of blessing,. Like Saul of Tarsus, and some pagan philosophers who were turned into Christian philosophers. Also Saint Ignatius who, when attracted to Christianity, became a deep spring of spirituals for many generations. 

Back to the Samaritan woman, we say that she was an amazing and strong woman regarding her influence. She was able to attract five men, who lived with her in sin, then, when she wanted, she threw them out, and they returned to their homes. Only one was left, whom she un-doubtfully kicked him out after her meeting with Jesus Christ.

In spite of her sin, she knew several religious subjects:

She knew the story of Jacob’s well, the dispute amongst the Jews and the Samaritans, and the conflict around worshiping on the mountain in Jerusalem or on the mountain in the city of Samaria. She also knew that “Messiah is coming (who is called Christ) When He comes, He will tell us all things.” (Jn 4:9, 13, 20, 25). Knowing this, she was that kind of a person who argues and likes to know the truth.

She had the courage to argue with Jesus Christ himself:

How comes that You, being a Jew, talk to me and I am a Samaritan woman?! May be you are not following your people’s traditions. And how can you say that you can give me water which I can ask from you, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep?! Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?!

The Samaritan woman, in spite of her sin, responded to the spiritual work.

When God revealed her life for her, she said “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet” (Jn 4:19). And when He talked to her about the living water, she said “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst”. And when He revealed Himself to her, she then left her water pot and went to annunciate her people saying “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ…?”

Veneration of God overwhelmed her during His conversation with her; she was calling Him “Sir”. He was a man who wasn’t like any of the men she knew. 

Jesus Christ, step by step went through the conversation with her… and gradually she began to know Him.

He was talking to her so gently, without hurting her feelings at all, despite He knew all her sins…He didn’t at all talk to her about repentance, He didn’t rebuke the woman for her bad reputation. On the contrary He talked to her in a positive way about the Living Water which whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst….He also talked to her about worshipping God in spirit and truth…He didn’t answer her question: Are You greater than our father Jacob? There are questions which not answering them is better… Jesus Christ was of the descendants of our father Jacob; He didn’t reply and said “yes, I am”. He left her to understand later on…

Concerning her question about Him, being a Jew and her as a Samaritan and that Jews had no dealings with Samaritans…His answer was clear in His mind: I came to reconcile the Jews with the Samaritans, and I will also reconcile the Jews with the Nations. And if the Samaritans had sinned and worshipped the idols, the Jews also sinned…”For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost”. God didn’t explain all this to her, because she wouldn’t have been able to understand all that at the time. And regarding reconciliation, it was then enough that he, as a Jew, was talking to her when she was a Samaritan…this was the first indication of the reconciliation. 

He said to her: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water…”

She grasped at the phrase of giving her water, and how this could have been? And to whether it was possible for her to have the living water, she forgot the phrase which said: If you knew who it is who says to you..?

Well, she would know who she was talking to, later on. She will identify Him through the conversation. She wanted the living water, of which whoever drinks, will never thirst…but drinking from this living water, needed that her private life should be changed. At that point, Jesus had to bring up the issue of her private life…

He didn’t say to her: you don’t deserve to drink from the living water.

Instead, He commenced with her in an easy way, telling her Go, call your husband.

He left the answer to her saying “I have no husband “. Which was her first confession…since she had no husband, then whom she was living with was not her husband…which meant that she was living with him in sin.

Jesus Christ considered her answer as a sign which was good enough, and praised her for that, saying “You have well said, “I have no husband “. Then He went on saying what she herself couldn’t say: “for you have had five husbands and the one whom you now have is not your husband”. He concluded all that with the phrase “in that you spoke truly” which is another word of praise…although she didn’t say anything…may be she was giving him gestures in a way or another by which she meant “yes”…! 

Jesus Christ, in His conversation with the Samaritan, presents to Priests a gentle way of having a confession.

Some priests, they are like squeezing the confessor to say everything, even in the first confession!! So the confessor is negatively affected by this compulsion or pressure, and wishes that he would have never came to confess.

Or may be a woman comes to a Priest and confesses, with such shame, that she fell into sin, and although what she says is understandable enough, he embarrasses and hurts her asking “what sin?” and tries to go into tiring details. This woman walks out insisting of not coming back once more for this confession…!

Would priests practice the gentle way of having confessions: tenderly, without hurting the confessor’s feelings, realizing that throughout confession, likewise any virtue, a person grows. And he might not be able to say everything at once, but gradually and by time, he can. And later on he can say the things which he couldn’t utter it before… 

Jesus Christ’s gentleness when helping the Samaritan woman to confess made her says to Him “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet”. And also to tell her people afterwards about Him “told me all things that I ever did”, and not, “told him all things that I ever did “.

He was, in his conversation with her, seeking her salvation, not looking for embarrassing her. 

But after she told him “I perceive that You are a prophet” she had two questions:

The first question was about the place where they ought to worship: whether it was on the mountain of Jerusalem as the Jews thought or on the mountain of the city of Samaria as the Samaritans thought? It is a ritual question.

While Jesus Christ was with her, He gave her the answer in a positive way, without coming near the issue of the sanctity of the mountain of her country…and said to her “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” “for the Father is seeking such to worship Him”…

The person, who was talking to her, was not fanatic towards the mountain of Jerusalem, Despite the fact that he was a Jew. He said “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father”.

And the woman was relieved on hearing this answer. But still she had a second question:

She said: ” I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ) When He comes, He will tell us all things”. Hence the Master revealed Himself to her saying “I who speak to you am He” (Jn 4:25, 26)…exactly as when the Man Born Blind asked Him about the Son of God: “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”” (Jn 9:36, 37). That was when Christ revealed Himself, as when He did with the Samaritan…

That revelation had such an amazing impact on the Samaritan’s heart, as she “left her water pot and went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”

Accordingly, she was not only transformed from a sinner to a believer but moreover she was also turned to a preacher…God’s conversation had such an influence on her. 

After that, Jesus Christ went to the city of those Samaritans, and stayed there for two days, where many more believed because of His own word. And they said:” Now we believe, we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (Jn 4:41).

His story with the Samaritan woman and the Samaritans gives us an idea about how not to despise the sinners and the lost. Christ said “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mt9:12, 13).

So, it is not appropriate that anyone should feel superior to a sinner. He’d rather guide him to God’s path “let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Jms5:20).

And if he couldn’t, so he should at least pray for him, and never despise him…

We can also learn, from the story of the Samaritan woman, how can we talk to even the worst sinners: the gentle way by which we can win souls to the kingdom as “he who wins souls is wise”. And also the fathers of confession could learn how to have confessions.

We also learn that To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven (Ec 3:1).

For the salvation of the Samaritan woman and the Samaritans there is a time, for putting an end to the Communism and Atheism there is a time, there is a time also for accepting the Nations, and never give up on anyone.

Here is God saying that the fields are already white for harvest, which means that harvest time has come, that’s which God’s grace prepared , to reap that for which we have not labored (Jn 4:38).