Imagine if you will the formless void, Chaos, total and complete darkness. Not the darkness of the city at night with its ambient, artificial light. Not the countryside on a cloudy evening where you can eventually see when your eyes become used to the darkness.
Imagine being deep in a cave, without life. Darkness surrounds you; you are not able to see your hand in front of your face. Darkness grabs onto you, forces itself into you. Into your eyes, into your throat, into your nostrils, darkness is crushing you.
In this darkness there is no hope. Nothing is there but you. And soon enough, you are not even sure if you are there anymore. You have become a part of the darkness.
Then, far away, or not so far, as distance has no meaning in this darkness, then you hear something (light match). The scraping of a match as it is lit. Then the entirety of the cavern is illuminated. The darkness is pushed back, into the crevasses. You are blinded by the light of this match. You reach up to shield your eyes from this brilliant light. The sudden illumination frightens you, it hurts you. You cannot stand it. If you bring your hand down the blinding light fills the cavern. You want to see the wonders inside this cave. What is in this place beside you? Your eyes become accustomed to the light, and the glory of the cave is revealed to you.
In the lighting of the match everything of the darkness, the crushing, invading, darkness is forgotten and all you see is glory. A glory that fills the cavern, pushing darkness into the crevasses. Freeing you to experience the beauty of the creation, the rock formations, the life that is there in the darkness.
In the gospel reading today it is noted that it is about noon. Jesus was tired from his travels. He rests at Jacob’s Well while his disciples go into the city to find food.
Jesus was alone at Jacob’s Well. This well brings to mind the stories in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. These are the stories of Jacob meeting Rachel at the well, Moses meeting Zipporah, and Isaac meeting Rebecca. Like these men Jesus was alone. Like these men, Jesus meets an outsider woman. Unlike these men, Jesus meets this woman alone. There is no one there besides the two.
This woman that Jesus meets is a Samaritan. She would have known well the stories of the three men; Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. The Samaritans read the Torah too, they called it their own. The Samaritans had separated from the Jews over a disagreement regarding worship space. They thought as this unnamed woman states, that God was to be worshiped on the mountain. Whereas the Jews thought God was to be worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem.
This Samaritan woman came alone to the well, in the heat of the day, to get water. This is an important detail as the original hearers of this story would have been shocked at the woman coming alone at noon for water. This work was usually done by many and early in the day so as to avoid the heat. The well was also a place for the community to gather. This woman though appears to be an outsider within the city. Still she was part of the City, she had not been kicked out of the city. But for whatever reason she appears to have been ostracized from the community.
In her relationships there is only Darkness, not because she did anything wrong. We do not know the conditions of how she came to where she was that day. We know only through empathy with one who hurts, who lives in the darkness, that there is great pain in her life. As only there can be with one who has had five husbands. This is such a series of broken relationships that we can only feel empathy for her.
So, with the sun high in the sky, this woman finds herself heading to the well. She is heading there to get water, so that she may live. And there sits a Jew, who seemingly without a second thought, asks her for a drink. This is an impossibility. She was a woman, and a Samaritan. She was doubly elect to be despised by a male Jew.
Yet she was less than nothing was being asked a favor by someone who apparently held worldly privilege over her. And in all this confusion Jesus speaks of Living Water that will quench all thirst (match). And she would love some of this water, as it would ease her burden.
Jesus tells her to call her husband and when she says she cannot (pull out match) Jesus tells her why. She now knows Jesus to be a prophet. She asks him a question about worship. Not to change the subject, but as a dialogue partner. Jesus says in effect, “Don’t box God in” (Strike Match) either on the mountain or in the temple.
She knows of the anointed one, the messiah, the Christ, who is to come. She knows that a light will come into the world and all the darkness will be pushed away. And Jesus says, as the LORD God did to Moses, “I AM” (light match).
Now the disciples have returned to Jesus. And the woman rushed off to tell everyone in the city what she now knows (gesture to the candles). The disciples, despite having travelled with Jesus do not know this. (hold hand in front of eyes) They don’t understand Christ until after they see his wounds as they cower inside locked rooms after he is crucified. Then they let down their hands (drop hand) and see the Glory.
This woman though, she goes off to tell the people of the city about the light of the world, which was revealed to her at high noon. In seeing the odd behavior of this woman, the people of the city head to the well and ask Jesus to stay. When they had seen the light themselves (gesture to candle), as individuals, as community, they too believed. The darkness of the world receeded for them and they were able to see, to celelbrate the light. And they too, outsider Samaritians, confess Jesus to be “I Am, to be Christ, Savior of the world.
The woman was not hold to go and share this news. She was not even sure of the plausibility of it. But she was changed by it. She had seen the light and wanted to reflect it so that others could see too.
This double outsider Samaritan woman is the first evangelist in John’s Gospel. The first besides Jesus to speak of the presence of God with us. This woman who’s life situation had totally surrounded her, was suffocating her with Darkness. Saw the promise of the light in Christ. She saw, at the height of the sun, the brightest time of day, she saw, the great I Am. The one who spoke light into existence and she was changed. The only thing she could do, the only thing she was driven to do, was to share the good news.
When your own life is only Darkness, when you are in the cave, in the total, complete, suffocating darkness, and when Christ comes and you see the light will you block it out? OR will you embrace it and drop everything to share with others so that they too can come to see the light and the life for themselves? So that they can know the Savior? So that they can know the I Am?