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Seventh Sunday of Easter
Pastor Anke Deibler
- Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
- Psalm 1
- 1 John 5:9-13
- Gospel Reading will be selected verses
The Woman at the Well
John 4 (Excerpts)
Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that 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 have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never 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 him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no 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 see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’
Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him. Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days.
The woman at the well has had five husbands and is now living with a man she is not married to. Most people take this to mean that she is a sinful, lose woman, who comes to the well in midday to avoid the stares and sneers of other women. Is that fair, though?
Have you ever wondered why she might have had five husbands? Back then, women could not divorce their husbands. Men, on the other hand, could very easily dismiss their wives. This woman has been widowed or divorced five times. Can you imagine? She deserves our compassion, not our judgment.
Compassion is what she receives from Jesus. He engages her in a long conversation, the longest conversation Jesus has with any one person in any of the gospels. They speak about living water, about the right way to worship, about the messiah. It is quite the theological debate.
Why does Jesus bring up her marital status? Not to judge her or embarrass her. Jesus is never shy to speak about sin, but the word sin does not come up here at all. Rather Jesus talks about her situation to reveal himself as prophet and messiah. Just as he said to Nathaniel that he saw him sitting under the fig tree and this knowledge convinced Nathaniel and made him a disciple, so does Jesus bring up his knowledge here to prove himself as the Christ.
And it works! The woman believes. She runs into the village and tells everyone what, or better whom, she has discovered. “Come and see a man who knows everything I have ever done!” she proclaims. And we could add: Someone who knows everything I have ever done, and still cares, still loves me, still takes me seriously, still calls me as a disciple.
For she indeed has turned into a disciple. Jesus told her that he can give people the spring of water gushing up inside them. “Gushing” is a great way to describe this woman at the end of the story, running into the village and spreading the good news and bringing folks to meet Jesus.
There are two things we can learn from this woman at the well.
One is her willingness to engage in a long conversation with Jesus. Let us do that, too. In Bible study, in prayer, in conversation with fellow believers, let us be willing to dig deep and open our minds to ever new understanding of who Jesus is.
The other is her exuberant discipleship. Her faith is so joyful that she can’t help but share it. Let us be filled with such faith, as well. Let us be gushing with good news and bring ever more people to meet Jesus. Amen.
Mary and Martha
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’
I know many wonderful, faithful women who hate this story. They are the women who cook church suppers, facilitate funeral luncheons, host coffee hours, bake for Christmas bazars and hold fundraisers. Every time this text rolls around, they feel yelled at – yelled at by Jesus.
A few years ago, I heard a New Testament professor speak about this text and open a new way of understanding it. This is what he said:
When Luke wrote his gospel account, the church was in its second and third generation. More and more believers came to faith who had never personally met Jesus. Some of the witnesses to Jesus’ earthly ministry were still living, though.
Imagine then, said the professor, that the recent converts would come to Martha and say: “We read that Jesus came to you house. That’s amazing! What was it like to sit and talk to Jesus?”
And Martha would have to answer: “I don’t really know. I was busy.”
The problem is not what Martha does, but the timing of it. Her hospitality is wonderful, a gift to be proud of, especially in middle-eastern culture. Also, I am sure Jesus and the other disciples enjoyed whatever food she worked so hard to prepare.
What she does is not a problem. The fact that she does it when Jesus is there, that is the problem. By the time he comes to Martha’s house, Jesus has already announced that he would be killed. He is on his way to Jerusalem to die. In that particular time of his life, the company of a friend was more important to Jesus than the perfect pie or roast.
What we can learn from Mary and Martha is the importance of prioritizing, of stepping back and thinking: What is the right thing to do right now? Even if baking and cooking is our usual way of showing love, there might be times when just sitting with a friend is more important. Even if teaching and explaining things is our passion, there might be times when it is better for us to be quiet and just be present. Even if stepping in and fixing someone else’s problem is in our nature, there might be times when holding back and letting that person figure out his or her own solution might be a bigger blessing.
What happened so long ago in Martha’s house might provide us with a good guideline. It encourages us to evaluate our instinctive reaction to any situation. It challenges us to step back and ask: Is this a Martha moment or a Mary moment? Is this a moment that calls for action or for quiet listening? How can I be the biggest blessing to a brother or sister in Christ in this situation?
Following this guideline will not only make us a greater blessing to others, but it will also make Jesus present among us. Amen.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him. ’When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Mary Magdalene is one of the persons in the Bible who has gotten a bum rap in church history. Everyone knows her as the former prostitute. Famous artwork, movies, and musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar portrait her as the fallen woman who was reformed by Jesus.
However, the Bible never says that. The Bible only tells us that Jesus cast seven demons from her. Demons in that age could be anything from epilepsy to schizophrenia to diseases and more. Jesus healed her from seven such ailments. It is no wonder she dedicated her life to him after that.
And she really did! She followed Jesus in his group of disciples. She was there when Jesus was crucified. And she is the only person that all four gospels agree upon being at the empty tomb on Easter morning. Even though it might well have been dangerous, she went as soon as possible to do for Jesus what she had not been able to do after his death: anoint him and embalm him for a proper burial. She came to the tomb to perform the last deed of love she would ever be able to do for her beloved Lord.
Or so she thought. For when she gets to the tomb, it is open and empty! She calls the disciples for help, but they only look around, shrug their shoulders, and go home. Mary lingers. And thus Mary gets to see the risen Lord. When Jesus calls her by name and she recognizes what has happened, she is amazed and overjoyed. I imagine she is also shocked and confused and bewildered. This has never happened before. There has not been a resurrection like this. What is she to do?
Jesus helps her by giving her an assignment: Mary is to go and tell all the disciples that she has seen the risen Lord and that he has sent her to tell them.
Mary does exactly that. Which makes Mary the first apostle in the whole Bible. The church declares that an apostle is someone who has seen the risen Lord and was sent by the risen Lord to share the good news. The first person ever to fulfill these criteria was Mary Magdalene. The church has finally recognized that. When her feast day rolls around on July 22, church calendars now read: Mary Magdalene – Apostle!
There are many things we can learn from Mary Magdalene. Today, I want to highlight the fact that she shared her faith in the risen Lord even though most people did not believe her right away. The very next story in the Bible finds the disciples hiding in a locked room, which does not exactly express any Easter faith.
And yet, when Jesus steps into that room, I am sure they are quicker to believe because they had heard Mary’s message. Mary had primed them, so to speak.
That can be a good image for us and our call to be witnesses. When we tell people about our faith, they might not believe us. But when Jesus then steps into their lives in some way, shape, or form, they will be quicker to realize that it is Jesus who is blessing them. When we prime them by telling them about the kind of things Jesus does, they will be better able to understand when Jesus calls them by name, like he called a grieving, confused Mary Magdalene.
So let us be like Mary: let us share our faith without worrying about results, and leave the rest up to Jesus. Amen.