Bible Studies

Rev. David Withers, Mission Development Minister, UnitingCare Lentara. Rev. David Withers, Mission Development Minister, UnitingCare Lentara.

The Woman and Jesus at the Well (John 4:1-42)

The opening session set the foundation of our time. As Jesus journeys from Jerusalem in Judea to Galilee, the gospel comes to Samaria. The gift of God, Holy Spirit living water, is offered and empowers the witness of an unnamed Samaritan woman. She becomes a model disciple. The story of the woman at the well prefigures the promise of Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. It also prefigures the way of the cross – a thirsty and tired Jesus, abandoned alone at noon, becomes the means of new life, new beginnings, and new hope.

The first session also explored the significance of discipleship as a journey (on the way) and the power of person-to-person encounter – the power of a simple question. Such encounters may begin as simple, unremarkable circumstances; everyday moments that grow to become ones in which the secular spaces of our day are transformed into sacred moments of deep discovery.

In our subsequent session, as the sharing between Jesus and the woman go deeper, we explored key theme of Living Water. We reflect upon “the gift of God” and ourselves and our church as receivers of the gracious gift. Our unfolding of the theme of Living Water invited us to examine the broader biblical landscape: from the prophets, to the Psalmist, to the Gospels, epistles and Revelation. A thirsty people are invited the drink of the Source. The Spirit Gift of God is that which brings God’s people, the Church, to life. It is a gift that sustains us, and it is an over-abundant gift, that overflows into the life of the world.

As Jesus took the woman even deeper, the Spirit gift leads into deeper Truth – truth about both ourselves and God. This narrative of encounter is an experience in spirit and in truth. This is worship – encounters in spirit and in truth. Such encounters leads us to faith-full response.

All this leads to the consideration of “meanwhile” (vv. 27-38), the time in which the Church must live. “The time is coming and is now here…” (v.23), between the not yet and the already. The church is privileged to join the Spirit in the fruitful harvest even now, although it will not be fully complete until that hope-full day of “never again” (Rev 7:16-17). Meanwhile, the tender shoots of a new vine branch, a new church, seemingly springs up in Samaria (of all places). Wherever people come and drink the Gift of God, new life emerges.

As the UCAF, the Uniting Church, and indeed all people, drink of the Living Water, a thirsty people are satisfied and nourished for Life. We are called to be drinkers of the Gift of God. And we will discover such a gift on the road with Jesus; perhaps in the most unlikely of places and through the most surprising of encounters. The exciting journey of encounters in spirit and in truth continues. Thanks be to God.