Biblical Interpretation Paper
For my biblical interpretation paper, I chose to focus on the story of Jesus and the women at the well (John 4:7). In this story, Jesus finds himself passing through the town of Sychar. Jesus had been travelling long and far and stopped at some land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob had a well on this land, and Jesus, tired from his long journey, sat down by the well. A Samaritan woman came to the well to gather water. As the women approached, Jesus was alone by the well and he began to ask the woman for a drink of water. After hearing the question, the woman seemed to be confused, as Jews were not supposed to associate themselves with Samaritans in this time. As the conversation went on, Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink from the water I give to 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 women then replied, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” As Jesus teaches her about his knowledge of theology, the woman becomes increasingly aware of his spiritual presence and says, “I know that the Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Jesus responds to the Women by saying, “I am”, a term thought by many to refer to God himself. A literal translation from John 4:26 has Jesus saying, “I am he who is speaking to you.” Jesus identifies himself to her as the Messiah. In the story of Jesus and the women at the well, Jesus exemplifies what it means to believe in him and emphasizes that no one race or being is above or below the love of God.
The woman immediately left her water jar and hurried over to the town of Sychar. She ecstatically testifies in the town of Sychar about Jesus, and asks, “Could this be the Messiah?” And many people believed Jesus was because of her testimony (John 4:39). Although many believed from her words, a woman’s testimony was generally not regarded as fully credible during that time. Even considering the speculation given that it was a women’s word, the Samaritans quickly hurried over to the well to experience for themselves. The Samaritans of Sychar were ready to believe and they went on to trust in Jesus even more when they had gone to the well and heard him for themselves. They declared, “Jesus is the Savior of the world!”
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There were many Samaritans who believed her on the basis of her story, and also many more who believed upon hearing Jesus’ own word. They had many questions beginning at the start of her story, such as where does this relationship between Jesus and the woman start? At the opening of the story, the words of the woman could’ve been said with a tone of aggression towards Jesus, showing the lack of distrust between the two communities. Jewish people, who were violent themselves towards the Samaritans, would’ve been surprised if the woman showed any other response to the Lord Jesus. The conversation matches well with the attitude of the disciples when they return from the city where they had gone to buy bread. They ask in their minds a question similar to hers, “What are you talking with her for?” The disciples had assumed a difference between the two of them, first as a woman and a man, but also as a Judean and her as a Samaritan.
What is surprising about this story is Jesus’ overall attitude towards the woman. The content of his words does not show any sort of negative response at all. Over the course of the conversation, he first announces to her what he has to offer her and invites her to receive it from him. He later asks her to call her husband and return, and he asks her for her honesty about having no husband. He then shares with her his knowledge of her sexual history with men. His words could be said with strictness, but such a tone would most likely escalate the situation rather than calm it down. This was likely to give some sort of credibility to Jesus. The women had all sorts of questions. Could Jesus love this Samaritan woman? The love could be suggested by the very setting of the conversation at the well. However, he does not express and communicate that love to her through his tone of voice in his effort to get her attention. He did not speak in such a way that expresses his desire for her love. As he speaks, would he not try to get closer to this woman? As he seeks to ask his disciples to embrace the Samaritans, will he simply instruct them and command them, or will he speak passionately about what has been taking place?
The second great realization in this passage begins with the return of the disciples. Their response to seeing Jesus in communication with a Samaritan woman expressed a sort of objection when Jesus first spoke to her. Their amusement is enhanced, as hers was, both by the fact that she is a Samaritan and that Jesus is speaking in public with a woman. In fact, the first part of both their conversation with Jesus and the disciples’ conversation are oddly similar. The disciples do not voice their curiosities aloud to Jesus. Instead, they confine them to inside their own heads. What they were experiencing could be compared to when a man brings home his new love for family approval and is met with silent rejection instead. A sense of unspoken awkwardness and disapproval, but a sense of respect to not say anything. In the second half of the story Jesus seeks to overcome unrest from the Judean side of this conflict. The result is left unanswered. A similar story in the Bible is the one of Luke’s. There, too, the story is a tale of two halves. In the first the father receives back the younger son. In the second the father seeks to persuade his more obedient older son to receive his brother back. The story ends without telling us how the older son responded to his father’s wishes.
It is important to the impact of John’s story to emphasize again the conflict between Jews and Samaritans, this time from the side of Jesus’ Judean disciples. As you look at the story in a in order, the Jewish testimonies to Jesus’ messiahship, testimonies which include stories of Jews won over to Jesus (John, Andrew, Simon, and the other first disciples), this story of Jesus reaching out to include Samaritans is the first test of a true fellowship response by the Jewish disciples. They question themselves if they can accept a Messiah who attempts to break down barriers between themselves and their opposition. The story of Jesus’ befriending of the Samaritans one that brings out the belief of the Messiah beyond the borders of the Judean community. The Samaritan’s trust in Jesus’ telling’s sets up a greater understanding to be realized only after the story had ended. This is shown in statements like John 3:16, “For God so loved the world . . .”, emphasizing that whoever believes in him, (Samaritan, Jew, etc.) shall not parish but have eternal life. It is not limited to a certain race or group. The Samaritan woman that expresses and seeks to break down the wall separating Judeans from Samaritans is rewarded in the end, as is anyone who carries the belief of Jesus as the Messiah.
Another important aspect of the interaction at the well is tone. The tone of Jesus’ voice is very calm and collected throughout the conversation. The voice of the woman almost moves from hostility to embracement and excitement, since the discovering that Jesus is the awaited Messiah. The tone of the disciples shows offense at first, but there is no evidence of the dialogue that shows them changing their overall attitude towards what Jesus is doing. Jesus’ calling to embrace the woman and her fellow Samaritans, was a true test to the disciples. What is Jesus’ tone in response to these subtle objections by the disciples to his behavior? Like many other stories in the Bible, Jesus remains calm and throughout the story provides wisdom to his disciples. There are many times where Jesus could directly say something, but instead chooses to demonstrate or not say anything at all. Jesus was an immaculate teacher for this reason. Instead of demanding things and speaking with no credibility, Jesus was a master of demonstration. Throughout the context of the conversation, he at least attempts to show both the Judeans and the Jewish Disciples that following him is more important than their differences. In fact, he begins to let them see that their differences are not important.