A Harvest of Samaritans

“A Harvest of Samaritans”
A reflection on John 4:5-42
Third Sunday of Lent (Year A)
©️2023 by Gloria M. Chang

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the well is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

John 4:5-42

Living Water

As Jesus’ reputation grew, backlash from the Pharisees intensified. Rumors spread that he was baptizing more disciples than John; in fact, his disciples were the ones baptizing.1 Thus, Jesus left Judea for Galilee, stopping in Sychar, a city of Samaria. At about noonday, exhausted, Jesus sat down by Jacob’s well.2

When a Samaritan woman approached to draw water, Jesus shocked her by asking for a drink. As John informs his Gentile readers, Jews and Samaritans do not socialize. Rabbinical rules also forbade public interactions between men and women. Shaking up social mores, Jesus suggested the woman could ask him for “living water.” Taking his words literally, she expressed doubt, for he had nothing to draw with from the deep well. Was this man superior to Jacob, who bequeathed the well to Joseph and his sons? The Samaritans traced their ancestry to Jacob through Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons.

Jesus clarified the spiritual meaning of his words. Anyone who drinks well water thirsts again; whoever drinks his water will never thirst. “The water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Still skeptical, the woman replied, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

A Jewish Prophet

Suddenly, Jesus commanded her: “Go call your husband and come back.” When she answered that she had no husband, Jesus revealed her past marriages with prophetic insight. Indeed, her current one was not her husband. 

Astonished to find a prophet among the Jews, the woman wondered how God could be in two places simultaneously: Mount Gerizim and Jerusalem. For the Samaritans had revised the Pentateuch to honor Mount Gerizim. True worship is neither here nor there, Jesus responded. Yet “salvation is from the Jews,” the keepers of the Torah. Transcending the divide between Jew and Samaritan, Jesus united “true worshipers” of the Father “in Spirit and truth.” “God is Spirit,” Jesus declared, shattering the ancient notion of territorial deities.

The Messiah

Perceiving a new, authoritative teaching, the woman inquired about the coming Messiah. “I am he, the one who is speaking with you,” Jesus answered. Enlightened and amazed, the woman left her water jar behind to go and tell her neighbors the good news.

A Samaritan Harvest

Before she left, Jesus’ disciples had just returned from buying food in the city. They marveled at his exchange with the woman. Basking in the harvest of his Samaritan brethren, Jesus refused to eat. “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.”

Believing the woman’s testimony, crowds of Samaritans followed her to the well. “Lift up your eyes and see how the fields are already white for harvest!” Jesus told his disciples. Christ sows, and his disciples reap. Sower and reaper “rejoice together.” 

“Come see a man who told me everything I have done,” the woman announced. “Could he possibly be the Messiah?” New life glowing on her face convinced many before they met Jesus. But after encountering him, they told her, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

A harvest of Samaritans ripened at the well
When joyfully a woman, the good news ran to tell.


1 John 4:1-2. 

2 Jacob bought this field from the descendants of Hamor, the father of Shechem (Genesis 33:18-19). 

2 Replies to “A Harvest of Samaritans”

  1. At Jacob’s well she had a jar.
    He came with no bucket.
    He surprised her with conversation.
    She grasped his messianic role,
    Left her jar, feeling transformation.
    Town folks heard her proclaim Good News,
    Two days with Christ they changed
    their views.
    No more divisive attitude,
    Only Christian gratitude.

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