Christ is Risen!
Today is the Fifth Sunday of Pascha. This season, which lasts from the bright resurrection of Christ until the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, continues for fifty days. The reason that it is longer than the forty days of Lent is to show the superiority of the feast of the Resurrection over the fast. As through Lent, we prepare for Pascha by fasting, vigils, prayers and the “training” in virtue, and after Pascha comes ease and enjoyment, so those who spend their lives in repentance and a life pleasing to God will delight in the joy of that age to come.
In today’s Epistle reading we heard Christ speaking to the Samaritan woman and telling her that he is the Messiah. He does not engage in conversation with her and then quickly tell her that he is the Messiah, but instead, as St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory Palamas note, it is with such care and love towards her that He gradually leads her along and reveals who He is.
Looking at today’s passage we see:
- that Jesus, being a Jew, sits at Jacob’s Well and asks the Samaritan woman, who is a Gentile, for some water. She sees him and knows that he is a Jew and that Jews do not have dealings with Gentiles.
- He veils who He is by saying that if she knew who He was, she would ask him for a drink, and He would give her living water (vs. 10).
- She then asks if He is greater than Jacob to whom she referred to as the father of the Samaritans, attributing honour to this geographic location and therefore to this well as though no better water could be found anywhere else.
- He does not respond directly but continues to speak of the living water that He gives after which no one ever thirsts and it wells up to everlasting life and in this statement he indicates that he is greater than Jacob (vs. 13-14)
- She answers with an open heart saying, “Give me this water,” and he continues to bring her along, closer to the truth.
- He then says to her to get her husband and through this, in another veiled way, reveals that he has a prophetic gift because he knows that she has five husbands. She meekly replies, “Sir, I perceive that Thou art a Prophet” (vs. 19).
- Moving from thirst to matters of doctrine, showing the ascent of her mind to greater things, the Samaritan woman shows her awareness of the five Books of Moses, noting the different places of worship between the Jews and the Samaritans (vs. 20). Christ responds saying, “The hour is coming, and now is,” (vs. 23) that these places of worship will be done away with and that those who will worship God will do so in spirit and in truth.About this “moment” in the exchange between Christ and the Samaritan woman, St. Gregory Palamas writes:
When the Samaritan woman heard these extraordinary and divine words from Christ, that God can be truly worshipped in His Spirt and His Truth, she, like the soul betrothed to God in the Song of Songs, was stirred up by the voice of the immortal bridegroom and made mention of Him for whom she waited and longed, and whose presence was still concealed. “I know,” she said, “that [the] Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things” (John 4:25). Do you see how ready she was to believe that the awaited one was already at hand, and how hopeful she was? Surely David’s words apply also to her, “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready: I will sing and give praise in my glory” (Ps. 57:7 LXX).
- Christ then says to her, “I who speak to you am He” (vs. 26). What did she then do? She leaves her waterpot and does not go back to her house but instead to the whole town to tell people what just happened. Many believed her and others went to meet Him to find out for themselves, and they invited Him to stay with them.
Two things that become apparent about this interaction are the compassion that Christ shows towards this Gentile woman and the meek quality of her responses.
Both St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory Palamas, in their commentary on these verses, describe in detail how gently Christ brings her along, slowly revealing who He is to her; a bruised reed He shall not break and smoking flax shall he not quench (Matt. 12:20). He who desires the salvation of all men, whose mercy endures forever, is patient, answers her questions and assists her understanding.
Jesus is not this clear when he speaks to Nicodemus, “Israel’s teacher” (John 3:10), but instead speaks of being born again and about the wind blowing where it will. To Nathaniel, He prophesies saying that he saw him underneath the fig tree (John 1:48). The Jews question him saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” And He answers them, “I did tell you, but you do not believe” (John 10:24-25). St. John Chrysostom explains that the reason he spoke to Nathaniel and Nicodemus as he did was that they were men and versed in these matters; the Jews did not enquire to learn but to mock him. But she was more “fair-minded” than they. She was a poor, ignorant woman, unpracticed, in comparison, to these others.
But St. John also accentuates her meekness. Christ reproved the Jews with greater reproofs than this and they did not bear it patiently but responded with insults and ridicule. She is astonished, believing Him to be a prophet and her heart was softened, and she proceeded in wonder of Him.
In our own life, Christ waits on us, encourages us, answers our questions and strengthens us in multiple ways to overcome our trials. He is not our enemy but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). In such a way does the Gospel begin to come to the Gentiles, through this sinful woman.
May we put down our water jug of worldly cares and turn to Him in meekness and drink the water that will become in us a fountain of immortality.