Taking His Hand

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After our recent big snowfall, I was walking the narrow path to the house, when I slipped off the packed trail, lost my balance and fell into in the deep stuff. Struggling to regain my footing, I looked up to see my husband holding out a supporting hand to me. With his help, I was quickly able to get back on the path.

While theirs wasn’t a problem with deep snow, the Samaritans, prior to Christ, had also fallen away from the narrow path. In 922 B.C. David’s kingdom was broken into two nations, each with their own kings and prophets. The southern two tribes were called Judah while the northern ten tribes were called Israel. When Assyria defeated the northern kingdom 200 years later, the 10 tribes became known as the lost tribes of Israel.

A total of five times, the people were overrun by foreign rulers. Whether in the name of tolerance or political correctness, or as an attempt to fit in, each time the people intermarried with the conquerors and accepted the pagan gods into their own worship. By custom, the pagan gods were referred to as “husband” – a direct reminder of their infidelity to God. Hence, when Christ referred to the five husbands of the Samaritan woman, he wasn’t speaking of just her, but of all the Samaritan people, the descendants of the Assyrians and northern kingdom.

In today’s reading, we see Jesus breaking the traditional rules by speaking to an unclean person, a Samaritan woman. Reading just the words, this is only a thirsty person asking for a drink, but a closer look reveals a lot more. First, Jesus is initiating contact. Second, he is asking for action on her part. Once he has her attention, he directs her towards what he has to offer – the Living Water. The Samaritan woman deliberately misunderstood what was being offered her. She looked only as far as the practical side – what temporal good she could receive immediately. Like most of us today, she avoids the truth to shield herself from change and the responsibility of a serious commitment. Still God persists and soon her thirst for plain water was transformed into recognizing her thirst for God. She accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Then she set aside the earthen vessel she had been using to draw plain water – symbolic of the setting aside of her “self.” Filled with Living Water – the life and vitality of the Spirit, she re-entered the village to encourage others to meet the Messiah face to face.

Jesus – the Bridegroom – reached out his hand to the Samaritan people and helped them back onto the path of righteousness. Today he is there for us, asking us to take action. We don’t need to flounder in our sinful past. Imperfect as we are, God is there, reaching out to us. We only have to take his hand.

Linda Crowley