This passage picks up with the second half of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, while he is passing through the town of Sychar. (If you missed Elizabeth Sallie’s beautiful reflection on the first half on Saturday, be sure to read it here.) Jesus has just engaged a woman representing personal and collective social stigma. In her shame and isolation, Jesus draws near with both tender mercy and rich theological instruction. This unnamed woman comes to the well thirsty in many ways, but her thirst means Jesus can connect deeply with her, satisfy her, and send her out equipped to share this living water with others. It creates the conditions for an incredible harvest: a brilliant wave of belief among these Samaritans, a people most like to be called “other” by the Jews.
Simultaneous to the Samaritan woman’s joyful reaction and confident proclamation, we also see Jesus’ reaction to their conversation. He seems to almost burst with exhilaration — a tone I tend to neglect to consider in my reading of Jesus. But he is truly delighted! He appears so energized by the encounter that food hardly seems necessary. His imagination has been kindled to proclaim a striking vision of a bountiful harvest in the Kingdom of God. Clearly, his returning disciples have a hard time keeping up.
This passage has long filled me with a wistfulness to see what Jesus sees, that I would lift my eyes to behold in the world around me fields bursting with the long-awaited harvest. I struggle with a drooping gaze caved in on my own self and on the mire of brokenness.
I’m no scientist, but I’m often struck by how natural processes and principles provide a way of understanding how God works in the world, in our hearts, and throughout time. We’re laid low and feeble by hunger and thirst, then revived. The land yields a plentiful harvest given the right amounts of sun, water, and time. Nature - our bodies included! - can grow, regenerate, and even heal in familiar patterns.
These are profound mysteries unfolding every day beneath the surface of our physical world and, it would seem, in the spiritual realm as well. Both are created and sustained by a God who also demonstrates miraculous action and authoritative power “that the sower and reaper may rejoice together.” He is doing the work of bringing heaven and earth together. Those who are thirsty for it will not miss these moments.
Such exuberance can be tough to enter into with Jesus, particularly in this season of Lent. But in our contrition and longing, the Samaritan woman offers us a posture for encountering Jesus with humility, ready to be filled to overflow. Her approach readies us to meet him wherever he may be, receive the satisfaction he offers, and join him in his work. May we delight to encounter this Messiah who reorients our longings and transforms our vision to see, as he does, these fields white for harvest.
Brittany Noetzel lives in Brookland with her husband Daniel, son August, and the sweetest dog in the world, Nala.