Previously we learned how the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught how we should treat our enemies. In our present-day world where we have conflict between Sunni and Shiite, supporters and opponents of Assad in Syria, Palestinians and Israelis … in Iraq … in Ukraine – no matter what country you may find yourself in there is most likely conflict between different groups where people hate and kill each other. This has turned our world into hellish misery. Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught in this Parable that entry into Paradise was dependent on how we treated our enemies!
But it is easy to teach one thing, yet act quite differently. Even many imams and other religious teachers have taught one thing but lived quite another. What about the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH)? On one occasion he had an encounter with a Samaritan. (Remember that in his day there was enmity between Jews and Samaritans that is similar to that between Palestinians and Israelis today). The Injil records the encounter.
Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:1-42)
The Samaritan woman was surprised that the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) would even talk with her – there was such enmity between Jews and Samaritans in that day. Isa started by asking to drink of the water she was drawing from the well. He did this for two reasons. First, as it says, he was thirsty and wanted a drink. But he (being a prophet) also knew that she was thirsty in an entirely different way. She was thirsty for joy and satisfaction in her life. She thought she could satisfy this thirst by having unlawful relations with men. So she had had several husbands and even as she was speaking to the prophet she was living with a man who was not her husband. Everyone viewed her as immoral. This is probably why she had gone alone to get water at noon since the other women in the village did not want her to be with them when they went to the well in the cool of the morning. This woman had had many men, and her shame alienated her from other women in the village.
The Zabur showed how sin is from a deep thirst in our lives – a thirst that must be quenched. Many today, whatever their religion, live in sinful ways because of this thirst.
But the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) did not avoid this sinful woman. Instead he told her that he could give her ‘living water’ that would quench her thirst. But he was not speaking of physical water (which if you drank once you would be thirsty again later) but a change in her heart, a change from the inside. The prophets of the Zabur had prophesied that this Covenant of a new heart was coming. Isa al Masih (PBUH) offered her this new covenant of a changed heart ‘welling up to eternal life’.
To Believe – Confessing in truth
But this offer of ‘living water’ threw the woman into a crisis. When Isa told her to get her husband he was purposefully causing her to recognize and admit her sin – to confess it. This is something we avoid at all costs! We prefer to hide our sins, hoping no one will see. Or we rationalize, making excuses for our sin. Adam & Eve had done this in the Garden and still today we prefer to hide or excuse our sin. But if we want to experience the Mercy of God leading to ‘eternal life’ then we must be honest and admit our sin, because the Injil promises that:
If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
For this reason, when the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) told the Samaritan woman that
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth...
By ‘truth’ he meant being truthful and authentic about ourselves, not trying to hide or excuse our wrong. The wonderful news is that Allah ‘seeks’ and will not turn away worshipers who come with honesty like this.
But it was too difficult for her to admit her sin. A common way to hide our shame is to change the subject from our sin to that of a religious dispute. Today the world is full of religious disputes. In that day there was a religious dispute between the Samaritans and the Jews regarding the proper place of worship. The Jews stated that worship should be done in Jerusalem and Samaritans held that it should be on a mountain called Mount Gerizim. By turning to this religious dispute she was hoping to divert the conversation away from her sin. She could now hide her sin behind religion.
How easily and naturally we do the same thing – especially if we are religious. Then we can judge how others are wrong or how we are correct – while ignoring our need to confess our sin.
The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) did not enter into this dispute with her. He insisted that it was not so much the place of worship, but her honesty about herself in worship that mattered. She could come before Allah anywhere (since He is Spirit), but she needed to come in truth about herself before she could receive this ‘living water’.
So she had an important decision to make. She could continue trying to hide behind a religious dispute or perhaps just leave. But she finally chose to admit her sin – to confess – so much so that she went back to the village to tell others how this prophet knew her and what she had done. She did not hide anymore. In doing this she became a ‘believer’. She had been religious before, as many of us are, but now she – and many in her village – became ‘believers’.
To become a believer is not simply about mentally asserting correct teaching – important though that is. It is also about believing that His promise of mercy can be trusted, and therefore there is no longer a need to cover up sin. This is what the Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) had done so long ago to obtain righteousness – he trusted a promise.
Do you excuse or hide your sin? Do you hide it with devout religious practice or religious dispute? Or do you confess your sin? Why not come before Allah our Creator and truthfully confess sin causing guilt and shame? Then you can rejoice that He ‘seeks’ your worship and will ‘purify’ you from all unrighteousness. For sure we need to continue in the Injil to understand how He will do this and how we should live.
We see from the conversation that this woman’s understanding of the prophet Isa (PBUH) as the ‘Messiah’ (= ‘Christ’ = ‘Masih’) was important and that after the prophet Isa (PBUH) had stayed and taught them for two days they understood him as ‘the Saviour of the world’. Perhaps we do not fully understand what this all means. But as the Prophet Yahya (PBUH) had prepared the people to understand, to confess our sin will prepare us to receive Mercy from Him. This is indeed a step on the Straight Way.
‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’