As the Words of Jesus' encounter with a Samaritan woman in the heat of the day at a well slowly drew me away from the distractions of my surroundings, I found myself taken into a different place and into new thinking about this familiar tale.
There was the return from exile and the naughty, syncretic, mixed-marriage, Samaritans. A bunch who were less than happy to see the Jews coming back to a place that they now saw as home! Not that they'd have been that pleased anyway, after all there had been division from the start and the division into Northern (Israel) and Southern (Judah) kingdoms set that division in concrete.
Then came the Assyrian conquest of Israel (early 700s BC) and the seventy years of exile and subsequent return (which was where Sanballat and Nehemiah popped in to sit alongside the woman who was sitting alongside Jesus by the well!
There was Jesus, a Jew, talking to a Samaritan - how very wrong is that?
For although they had common roots (which explains the twelve tribal heads sitting in the shade just to the side of the well), there was no love between them. The pure Jew and the wretched, territory-stealing, syncretic, mixed-marriage dogs that are Samaritans. Two people who represented a hardened and hate-filled division and they were talking!
Jesus has surely crossed the line here, for he's going against all the norms. Jews and Samaritans just don't mix, do they? It's like Serb and Croats, Proddies and Catholics, Geordies and Machams, Apple and Windows - same geography but different worlds.
There was Jesus, a Jewish man, talking to a woman; not just talking to h but they were alone - how very wrong is that too?
You just didn't do that. What was he thinking?
He knew that you gave women a wide berth. You didn't mix with them socially and you certainly didn't do it alone. Goodness me, she'd be letting her hair down next (and you know what that means;-). ).
There was Jesus, a holy and righteous Jew, talking to, well you know what sort of a woman she was! She was a bigger tart than Carla Lane's, Lilo Lil, (from the comedy 'Bread'), a reality confirmed by the fact that she had to draw her water when the crowds had gone. After all, who wanted to be around someone like her? And of course he answer is that Jesus did - and not for the reasons other men might have had!
If he was holy; if he was who he people thought he was - would he have let himself be defiled by her presence? Knowing who she was, would Jesus have been anywhere near her any more than he would have a leper or a dead body?
And the answer, obviously, is a resounding 'Yes'.
So there I was, by the well with Jesus, that woman (a Samaritan), Nehemiah, Sanballat, the boys (AKA the twelve tribes) and a host of others who could explain why he (Jesus) shouldn't be anywhere near (Pharisees, Saducees, Temple officials, neighbours any many others besides).
With Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well we find him teaching us something about crossing lines, many lines, and confronting attitudes.
Attitudes from our culture.
Attitudes from those around us.
Attitudes from within.
Attitudes that separate us from others.
Attitudes that separate us from God.
Jesus, the woman at the well - and a cast of thousands!!!