2013.06.02 John 約翰福音 4:5-42 sermon by Father Jonah
The Samaritan Woman: Worshiping in Faith, Truth and Love 撒瑪利亞婦人：在信仰、真理與愛中敬拜上帝
(Text of the Gospel for the day follows the sermon.)
這位撒瑪利亞的婦人受寵若驚，她就像Nicodemus一樣，是一位貧窮的婦女，她並不瞭解耶穌說的話，所以，她又問耶穌：「我知道彌賽亞要來；他來了，必將一切的事都告訴我們。」耶穌回答：「I am. He who talks to you.」在聖經（約翰福音）中，耶穌第一次這樣說。事實上，這段文字的英文和中文翻譯與原文有一些出入。這就是為什麼我剛剛用希臘文念誦其中一段福音。中文的聖經大多把這段話翻譯為：「這和你說話的就是他！」這是錯誤的翻譯。耶穌並不是說：「我就是和你說話的那一個他。」（I am He who talks to you.）而是先說「I am.」，然後才說「The one who is talking to you.」。「I am」是上帝的名字。摩西問上帝：「你是誰？你的名字是什麼？」上帝回答：「I am.」在這一位貧窮又沒有受教育的婦人面前，上帝之子以清晰而強烈的方式顯現了自己。從約翰福音的描述中，我們會發現，耶穌基督第一次說明自己是誰，就是向這一位婦女說的，福音中描述的那一群婦女，也從來沒有背叛過耶穌。
Today we celebrate the Samaritan woman, but first I want to say something that I did not say two weeks ago, when the bishop was here and we talked about the myrrh-bearing women. These women always followed Jesus and they never betrayed him, so the ladies here can be proud, not so much, but you must be. And in the Four Gospels, whenever a woman meets Jesus Christ she always becomes well and follows Him and never betrays Him.
Now, today we see – though I did not read this part of the Gospel – that He must pass through Samaria. We say “must” not because he was forced to, but because he knew he had to meet someone. This poor Samaritan woman was going almost every day to the well to draw water from the well, but she never thought that she would meet Jesus Christ there. And I was thinking that, if every day we do our own jobs, that one day we will meet Jesus Christ in a very unique and strong way, not because we ask for this, but because he looks for, he wants, he knows everybody and he knows when to interfere, when to show up.
It is important that the Bible says Jesus was tired, which shows that He was a real human being. It was the sixth hour, so it was very hot and not a good time to walk outside, and He stood there. The woman came there alone for the water, alone, why? All the other women came for the water very early in the morning, but this woman had a sad story and she was humiliated. She did not dare to come with the other women because she did not have a good reputation. And going there alone in the heat, she met Jesus Christ.
She did not dare to talk to him because in ancient times a woman did not dare to talk directly to a man outside, that would be very, very bad. But Jesus asked her very politely to give him a drink of water. Actually, she was shocked by this, and we see this same surprise in Jesus’ disciples later when they came back and saw Him talking with the Samaritan woman. There were two bad things. First of all, because she was a Samaritan and they were considered unclean by the Jews and every contact with them was forbidden. So if a rabbi were to receive water from a woman, this would be a kind of contact and he would become unclean. But we see that not only does Jesus not become unclean, but by touching the unclean he cleans and sanctifies everything. It was forbidden to touch the dead; Jesus touched the dead and the dead were resurrected.
And the second thing was that she was a woman, and for a good rabbi it was forbidden to speak with a woman in public. This was a very strict in the Jewish tradition, and especially for a famous rabbi like Jesus Christ, to do this was very offensive. So, she was so surprised, which is why she asked him, “Eh? You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan, and you ask me for water?” She was so shocked by this. But Jesus, because he really came to her, He said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who is talking to you, you would ask me for water, the living water. Actually this woman did not understand what Jesus was talking about when he said “living water.” This living water has two meanings in the Bible. One is really water from a river, very fresh and good; and in this desert place it was very fresh and good. But the other thing is that God is the real living water. We see this in Isaiah and the prophets. In Isaiah, God says there are two very bad things that my people, Israel, did. They refused me that I am the living water, and they dug to find water by themselves, which is not good. In the Old Testament, in many places God says that He is the living and the real water.
But the Samaritan woman did not know these things and what Jesus Christ’s meaning was in saying this. So she said, very surprised, “Well, sir, who are you? And how will you get water since you have no pot and the well is very deep. So you cannot get water. And who are you? Do think that you are greater than our father Jacob, who made this well for us to drink?” But Jesus is not offended at all; He knows that she is a simple woman. But he came to her, remember this. She does not understand anything. So he continues, “The water that I have, if somebody drinks it will not only fulfill his thirst, but it will be a spring of water from here [gesturing from his stomach], going out, so much water.”
It is very important that Jesus Christ is the real water of life. And when we receive him it is to go out from us, to the universe, to our family, to our job, to everywhere. It is very important that every Christian should become a source of this, the life of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ as He now becomes water. In many places in the New Testament, Jesus is the water of life; in other places, the Holy Spirit is the water of life. In the Revelation we see the fulfillment of this; we see a river in Paradise of living water and it is the grace of the Holy Spirit, coming from the Father, and everybody there is not thirsty any more.
So, the woman now starts to become serious, she starts to understand and she asks him to give her that water so there will no longer be any need for her to come there. It is very important that the woman now becomes humble; she does not say, “Heh, heh. You are joking. Who do you think you are?” She is not proud. She does not judge Jesus Christ to say he is lying. And this is because the Grace of God touches her and now she accepts and asks him to give her this water. She did not understand and say, “I’m so tired, and if I drink this there will no longer be any need to come to the well and get water.” Then, when the woman starts to accept, Jesus wants to give her but there is some reason that she can’t receive Jesus Christ; she cannot receive the water of life if her life is not proper.
Now we can understand that Christianity is not an intellectual matter, as if I can read a book and understand Christianity; this is useless. Christianity is a matter of life and relationships with God and with other people. So, He told her, “Call your husband;” and the answer was very dramatic, “I don’t have a husband.” It was very terrible for a woman to say that she doesn’t have a husband, she doesn’t have a family, I did not meet love. Jesus touched her wound. Jesus very peacefully, not scolding her, says, “Yes, you say the truth because you have had five husbands and the man you live with now is not your legal husband.” Jesus touched this woman, who had failed in love; because if you have lived with five and now six husbands, you cannot love any more. You have lost the gift of God, which is the ability to love and to be loved. In Christianity, it is not a matter of sin, like you break a law, but the tragedy of the soul that fails in love. And I say this because everybody of you must take care and find love and give love and protect this love because this is what you have in this life – of course from the human point of view. You must water this love with the water of life, which is Jesus Christ, so as to remain and to stay alive. Because if you don’t do this you will be like this woman who had to say that she had no husband, which so dramatically means, “I am alone; which means, I am dead.”
And the woman accepts very humbly what Jesus says; she gives no excuses. So in admiration she says, “Lord, now I understand, You are a prophet.” Actually, the Samaritans were expecting only one prophet, so what she said was very strong; it was not just our common idea of a prophet. She wants to ask now – it is not forgiveness that is important, obviously she feels that she is forgiven by God because He treated her so politely – she wants now to learn about faith, but she does not know how to learn. And she asks the type of question many people ask me every day (and sometimes I become crazy), “What is the difference between the Jews and the Samaritans?” She wants to learn the difference. And actually many people now ask what is the difference between the Orthodox and Catholics, or Catholics and Protestants, or Protestants and Buddhists, you know, they don’t know how to ask. But she is saying, “Where should we pray? We pray on this mountain; you pray in Jerusalem, which is correct?” It is so important that Jesus speaks so deeply to the simple, uneducated and sinful woman. He says to her first of all, “You Samaritans, you pray, but you don’t really know. We pray and we know.” This was because the Jews were following; and this is why we say salvation came from the Jews, because the Jews were following as the elected people of God, and now of course we are all the Christians taking the blessings of God. But he told her that a time will come when real worshippers are worshipping the Father – not God in the abstract, but the Father – in truth and in spirit. And He continues, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
Actually, I must explain a little bit more what He means in saying that God is Spirit. He means that God is not just in a place; God is something that we cannot touch, we cannot arrest by our senses. And it is very important that first he said to worship the Father and now He says, God is spirit. So now he uses the other name of the Father, God, and He says God is not an entity of this world. But actually God becomes human, the Son of God. And He says we must pray to God and worship God in spirit and truth.
Actually this is very misunderstood by some people. They say, why should I come to the church? I can pray to God in my house, where I can have some icon or something. It is better that I don’t have to be troubled by other people. So I can be more spiritual. But as Orthodox Christians we must understand this in the context of the Bible and the Holy Tradition of the Church: to pray to ‘God in spirit means in the Grace of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that prays inside us with unspeakable voices. In the Psalms we read, “In the light of Your face we will see life.” What is this light that we will see life in? In the light of the Holy Spirit we will see the light of the Father. In the Pentacost we will say, “Light is the Father, light is the Son, light is the Holy Spirit.” So it is very important to understand that we pray in a spiritual way, but this is not a kind of spirituality like, for example, I create a very good atmosphere and I don’t see other people, and I’m alone. But if I am in the Grace of the Holy Spirit, this is the real way of prayer.
And there is a second thing – in truth, because there are many wrong ways of believing and praying. How many people, traditional Orthodox, say to me, “Oh I don’t come to the church. I have icons in my house and I pray in my house, so there is no need to come to the church.” This is a very big mistake. They are not Orthodox. Others, they say to me, “Oh, I have the Bible;” and they forget that Orthodoxy has the Holy Tradition and the Bible. So this is why the truth is very, very important. We cannot pray to God in a wrong way, that is not good.
The woman is so surprised. She is a poor woman like Nicodemus, and she did not understand what Jesus Christ said. So she said to Jesus, “We know that the Messiah will come and He will explain everything.” In front of this woman, for the first time in the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I am. He who talks to you.” Actually in the Greek language there is a difference, and this is why I read part of the Gospel in Greek. In many English translations and in many of the Chinese translations there is a mistake. He does not say, “I am He who talks to you.” He says, “I am,” which is the name of God. When Moses asks God, “Who are you, what is your name?” God says, “I am.” Then the original text says, “The one who is talking to you.” So, in front of a poor and uneducated woman, the Son of God reveals himself very clearly and very strongly. This why, once more, women should be very happy, because in the Gospel of John it is to a woman that Christ first revealed himself; and the woman, as I say, never betrayed him.
The poor woman was so shocked, so happy that she found the One, that she found God, that she forgets her pots for water and leaving them there – now she has water – she runs to the town and she becomes the first missionary, Again, a woman. She runs in the town and she shouts, which actually takes a lot of courage, especially for a woman like her. What does she say? She says, “I found somebody who told me everything I have done. Is this Christ?” Actually this should be humiliation because the people of the town knew her past. But Jesus changed these painful memories and the torture of being alone and without love. As I say many time, when we meet Jesus Christ, all our bad experiences turn to good things. Our life, which seems to be a wasted life suddenly takes on a new meaning. All these years that seemed wasted take on a new meaning: they become an experience and they become a good way to teach others. Mu sinful past, my failures, that I was nothing in the past, take a big meaning now. And this woman becomes the first missionary because she wants to share the truth with the others at once. This is the real faith, not to keep the truth for herself as a secret, but to share it with others.
Meanwhile, the disciples had come. They were surprised to see Jesus and they said, “Eat.” Jesus answered, “I have another kind of food.” They asked who had brought Him food because they did not see any there. Jesus said, “The real food I have is to do the will of God, who sent me.” You must understand that for each of us this is the real feeding of our soul and our body; to do the will of God will fulfill us. And I want to say something about this, because many people call me to say that they “Father, I wanted to come to the church.” Or “I wanted to call you to beg you come do Liturgy or to bless our houses.” But they say to me, “I know you are busy.” You must understand, this is humiliating for a priest. What I do is to act as a priest, to give the blessings and the word of God, and not to say, “Oh I know you are busy and so not to come.” I’m not a businessman.
But the Samaritans came and they forced him to come to their town. He stayed there for two days teaching them. And they told him that now they knew, not because the woman had told them, now they knew he was the Son of God. So who confessed Him first? Not the Jews, it was Gentiles. The Gospel does not say that he did miracles there, but according to the tradition, the Samaritan woman later became a missionary and a martyr. They killed her children in front of her and then they killed her. Her name was Photine, which means light, bright; in Russian zheplan, and she is a great saint of the Church and the Church considers her to be the equal of one of the Apostles. So remember that if this poor and sinful woman could become a missionary, then each of us has to bring the light of Jesus Christ to our friends, our families and our jobs. And to feed our love with the water that is Jesus Christ. Amen. May the Holy Trinity protect all of us. Amen.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and 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.” 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 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?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” 27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him. 31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.