JESUS AT THE WELL
Sunday 3A 19.03.17
Today’s Gospel, as always where St John is concerned, is full of hidden depths, like the well which sets the scene.
Jesus reveals himself as the source of living water, demonstrates that he is a prophet, proclaims the arrival of the new worship of the messianic era and himself as the Messiah.
Part of the difficulty in understanding lies in St John’s rather coded vocabulary, which it is difficult to convey in English. His choice and use of different verbs meaning to “speak” or “say” convey different messages. In verse 10, “who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’,” simply means the fact of speaking, whereas later on, in verse 26, when he says, “I who am speaking am he”, he uses a different verb, which in John is always used of revelation, never a revelation of a fact, but a revelation of Jesus, who he is – “I am”, so, God.
Jesus begins by being identified as a Jew – not a Samaritan – then as “someone greater than our Father Jacob”, then as a prophet, next as the Messiah who is to come, I am he, and finally, the full crescendo, it is truly he, the Saviour of the world.
That is very St John, unpeeling the layers of the onion, from what seems the obvious truth to reach the kernel, so to speak.
“Believe me, the hour is coming,” says Jesus. Nowhere else in the Greek Bible is this found. It means grammatically that one receives what is being said with faith, and that one welcomes his testimony – so this is a call to our faith, too, like the frequent “Amen, Amen, truly, truly, I say to you…”, a solemn formula of revelation.
We are not really used to such carefully-constructed writing as St John’s – after all, most of what we read is not inspired – so when the woman asks where to worship, Jesus offers two negatives – neither on this mountain nor Jerusalem – and two positives, in Spirit and in Truth – around the notion of adoring the Father. Not a material Temple, but a spiritual one, is the place of worship, interiorly – the Christian, Temple of the Spirit, the Church, made up of living stones, is St Paul’s thought – but for John, Christ himself is the new Temple. “He was speaking of the sanctuary of his body.” The presence of God in the Temple, in the tabernacle-tent, the cloud, is now in Christ: “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” – literally, pitched his tent among us. After his glorification he will be the new Temple, out from whom will flow the streams of new life, the living water flowing from his pierced side.
The Temple and Mount Gerizim are obsolete, past their sell-by date.
Adoring the Father in Spirit and Truth is adoring the Father in Christ, the Truth, enlightened and inspired by the Holy Spirit of Truth. The one who is adored is no longer simply the One God, as in the Temple; it is the Father, and this adoration is inspired by the Holy Spirit in the light of the truth that Jesus brings in revealing himself.
Adoring the Father “in truth” is adoring in communion with the One who revealed himself as the Truth, who is the Truth, and hence the Way, the Way to the Father.
As Rupert of Deutz says, “You will adore the Father, receiving from him the Spirit of adoption as sons. For what else does, ‘adoring the Father in the Spirit’ mean, if not to have received the Spirit of adoption of sons, through whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’?”
Let us, too ask to be given that living water, to slake our thirst for Christ, for God, Father, Son and Spirit, that we may never thirst again.