Everyone Is Called To Christ’s Spiritual Well

Everyone Is Called To Christ’s Spiritual Well April 28, 2024

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Jesus And the Samaritan Woman At The Well /Wikimedia Commons

In light of the resurrection, the Byzantine tradition reminds us of Christ’s universal charity. It does this by showing when he went beyond social boundaries of this time and lifted up those society denigrated. This is one of the reasons why Christ’s meeting with the Samaritan woman, St. Photina, is given to us at this point in the yearly cycle (the Fifth Sunday of Pascha):

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings 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 nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:7-14 RSV).

Samaritans were mostly despised by the Jews, seen as the lowest of the low. Nonetheless, Jesus was willing to dialogue with them, indeed, not just with Samaritans, but a Samaritan woman, someone who others would have considered far outside of her place to address him. But he did not. He was willing to share all he had to offer with her. While Jesus might have said, in other instances, that his temporal mission was with the Jews, what he meant by that was not, as some might have thought, that he was denying others their chance to be with him and receive their share of the kingdom of God. He was not an exclusivist. But he believed that his temporal work, what was done before his death and resurrection, should be focused with the Jews, so that he could and would fulfill the messianic prophecies, hoping to prepare them for the next stage of history. This is why he consistently revealed that what he was doing, and what he was offering, was not just for the Jews, but for everyone. Perhaps there is no better representation of this than in the way he taught how everyone with love, that is, as neighbors, and using a story about a Samaritan to exemplify this truth. Jesus wanted his listeners to realize that God is to be found where there is love, and the one who loves will be the one who is justified by God, because God is love:

This charity, however, reckons all men as neighbours. For on that account the Saviour rebuked someone, who thought that the obligation to behave neighbourly did not apply to a righteous soul in regard to one who was sunk in wickedness; and for that same reason He made up the parable that tells how a certain man fell among robbers, as he was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and blames the priest and the Levite, who passed by when they saw the man half-dead, but approves the Samaritan who showed mercy. [1]

The incarnation is for everyone. Jesus challenged his audience to think beyond their simple expectations. So many of the Jews believed the messiah would come into the world, take control of it with the power, given to him by God, and that they would rule the world with an iron fist in and through him. But that was not his way. His kingdom was not of the world, that is, it does not follow the way of worldly empires. The messianic kingdom, therefore, is something far greater than the Jews had imagined. It is not just simply a replacement of Rome with Israel on the world stage. It is far greater, and its ways is not the way of power and might, but of love. This is why the last judgment, the eschatological event par excellence, will be one which God looks to find images of love and use it to render those who have such love in their hearts, exemplified by their deeds, among the chosen of the kingdom of God:

But the most decisive argument in favor of the universal and all-human power of Christ’s Incarnation, as well as of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, is the testimony of the Lord Himself in His words concerning the Last Judgment (Matt. 25), where He identifies Himself, His humanity, with all human beings. One should not diminish this testimony by an allegorical interpretation: All human beings, present before Christ’s tribunal, belong to His humanity, are Christ (this same conclusion can be drawn from other texts as well, e.g, from the parable of the Good Samaritan). [2]

Jesus promised St. Photina that she could receive from his well, that is, his spiritual water, and that is exactly what she did. Photina turned to him with faith and followed after him. In doing so, her own voice was lifted up so that what she said and did has been remembered ever since. She has been honored in a way few have been honored. Jesus did not hold anything she had done in her past against her. She was welcome to receive from his spiritual well, and by it, find herself transformed, no longer bound by what society said she could do as a woman or as a Samaritan. After the resurrection, the church slowly began to realize this and act on it, so that Peter could and would give a similar message:

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.  And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, `John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”  When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:15-18 RSV).

Everyone is called to the kingdom of God. Everyone is welcome to the spiritual well, to receive from it all that they should need so they can have abundant life. Let us make sure we do not stand in the way of the spirit but learn properly the lesson of Christ’s meeting with St. Photina, especially now, when it is seen in the light of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

[1] Origen, “The Song of Songs: Commentary” in Origen: The Song of Songs, Commentary And Homilies. Trans. R.P. Lawson (New York: Newman Press, 1956), 33-4.

[2] Sergius Bulgakov, Bride of the Lamb. Trans. Boris Jakim (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 266-267.

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