"In the beginning was the Word."
In John 4, we have:
- a well with history;
- a woman with history;
- and Jesus… with history.
As we talked about in part one of this series, Jacob's well was a melting pot of circumstances and history. It was a place of joy and pain; divinity and idolatry; holiness and humanity. Jacob’s well is central to Jewish, Samaritan, Christian, and Muslim traditions alike. It’s not just a well; it’s a symbol of everything that had happened around it. All of it - mess, joy, scared, depraved, holy, chaos… it all happened at Jacob's well (the stories it could tell would burn my grandmother's ears *wink*).
The Samaritan woman had a lot in common with this well. We don’t know much about her, but we do know that her time with Jesus was unusual and counterculture. Samaritans and Jews simply did not mix with each other. Ever. We also know she was a woman with a wealth of experience, pain, heartache and change. Driven to the edge of life by circumstance, questions filled her heart and mind. Suffering has an odd way of leveling the playing field.
Brennan Manning once said:
"The dominant characteristic of an authentic spiritual life is the gratitude that flows from trust - not only for all the gifts that I receive from God, but gratitude for all the suffering. Because in that purifying experience, suffering has often been the shortest path to intimacy with God.”
The Samaritan woman was seeking truth and meaning through the pain. This is evident in the way she conversed with Jesus, but more on that later.
Jesus history is complicated. As we know, Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in an unconventional and divine manner (I wrote about this last Christmas). His human history included scandal, refugee status (yes, Jesus was a refugee), being different from his peers… We would do well to remember (and to study) the turbulent times he was born in and that in his day and age most religious leaders believed him to be a heretic; others some wanted him to lead a political revolution; and some followed everywhere he went.
Then he has a history before he was born. Jesus is often called “Jesus Christ.” But his name is more accurately, “Jesus THE Christ.” Christ isn’t his last name.
John started his book (which contains the story of the woman at the well) with this:
"In the beginning was the Word,
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.”
This is 'The Christ' that has existed for all time, a loop around eternity and back again. Richard Rohr writes on this extensively, so check him out if you want to do further reading. He says:
"Christ is a word for the macrocosm, Jesus is the microcosmic moment in time, and all else is the cosmos—including you and me. You inherently belong to Somebody that is going somewhere! This provides ultimate and deep meaning for human existence. It settles the mind, heart, and emotions.”
He goes on to say:
"The mystery of Christ is revealed, and the Christ “comes again,” whenever you are able to see the spiritual and the material coexisting, in any moment, in any event, and in any person. God’s hope for history seems to be that humanity will one day be able to recognize its dignity as the divine dwelling place, which it shares with the rest of creation."
John 1:14, it says:
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”
The Christ is the eternal thread weaved through us all.
These three subjects - Jacob's well, the Samaritan woman, and Jesus - represent the availability of the presence of God. There are no boundary lines. In chaos, in time, in the material, and in our pain; from the very beginning to the very end, The Christ is ever and always revealing himself to us. Or more accurately, trying to show us that he is already here. He is hidden in the mess - in the matter of our lives - and if we stopped trying to be perfect and to get things right and just simply asked, or open our eyes, we’d find him.