Shattering Norms

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

John 4:1-26 (NIV)

Society has a set of norms or rules which are to be followed by all individuals. These norms govern the behaviors and interactions of those people living in the society. A majority determines and adopts these for a smooth functioning of the given society as they understand. Today there seems to be a reduction of the norms and rules in place, or at least they are much more centered on specific locations and not as widely adopted. Many of society’s norms have been based upon ethnicity, race, religion, sex and sexuality in earlier times. While some still exist, there have been leaders, movements and courageous individuals who have worked at eliminating discriminatory norms and rules.

Today as we read the passage, we encounter a rebel, who through actions, attacks some of the social norms of his day. Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well contains actions which people would have considered totally unacceptable. First, he had a lengthy discussion with an unfamiliar woman. Second, this woman was a Samaritan woman which meant that she was part of a group despised by the Jews for centuries. They despised them since they were unwilling to let the Jews pass through their country on the way to the promised land. Third, she was a woman who Jesus somehow knew had had many men in her life. The man who she was living with now was not even her husband. All of this was very scandalous which is why the woman questioned Jesus asking her anything. Their conversation focused on the worship of God but actually is more about the arbitrary division of people. Jesus makes it known that God is more interested in the spirit of people than any humanly defined differences. The location of the people no longer even matters. The Spirit binds all together.

The example of breaking social norms and rules here is part of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. Jesus’s ministry was about introducing a new way of living. In the kingdom there will be no division because we all share in the same Spirit. The norms and rules based on old understandings and conflicts are not a part of the coming kingdom.

As followers of Christ, we are charged to be active participants in the coming of the kingdom. Whenever we say the words of the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “Your kingdom come…” God has chosen us to be agents of bringing about the kingdom. We are to do as the rebel Jesus did throughout his ministry displayed in this passage. We are to challenge the norms and rules of our society which encourage division among people. Our challenge cannot be in mere words but must also be in bold actions. As we stand shoulder to shoulder with our Muslim or Jewish neighbors, or any who are harassed or ostracized because of their faith, we follow Jesus. As we walk alongside our neighbors who have a different skin color than our own in an effort to overcome unfair practices, we follow Jesus. As we learn from and embrace those of different sexual orientation, or those who have struggled with addictions, or those who have acted in ways deemed unacceptable to others, we follow Jesus. It is time to follow Jesus and be rebels in bringing forth the Kingdom of God on earth.

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