November 3: Runaway Bride
‘The bridal figure of the Samaritan woman represents the people of God, all of them…’ Grant Pitre
During these forty days we are praying that Jesus might give us more of His heart for His bride the Church. Pray we must: without her winsome clarity, the world will not see Jesus! We are challenged by the fact that we are praying for a huge, often fractured body of people, which includes ourselves. Those very fractures may help us. If we can own them as ours and welcome the healing we need as representatives of the bride, then we can become a gift of mercy for ‘her’, the greater body of Christ.
To understand that mercy, we at Desert Stream/Living Waters draw constantly from the story of the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:1-42) who Jesus encounters in order to give her ‘living water.’ That gift is nothing less than the essence of Christ Crucified (blood and water for cleansing) and Resurrected (His Spirit of new life). You could say that ‘Living Water’ is the fulfillment of what Zechariah prophesied about Jesus’ piercing and the fountain released for cleansing and healing. Further, how Jesus relates to this woman demonstrates His enormous kindness and a well-aimed truth-telling that prepares her for the gift of ‘living water.’
Who is this woman? She is us, the bride! I was deeply moved and helped by Dr. Pitre’s compelling case for the Samaritan woman as a bridal ‘type’ established in Scripture and Hebraic tradition.
Drawing from Pitre’s insights, we have already explored how Jesus’ release of Life at Calvary was a wedding vow, His pledge of allegiance to His people. Pitre applies the prophetic story in JN 4 as a glimpse of how Jesus wants to pour out ‘living waters’–the essence of Calvary–to His bride, the Church. He writes: ‘Jesus words to the Samaritan woman about living waters can help lead us to a deeper understanding of who the bride is and how her sins are cleansed by His passion on the Cross.’
Pitre cites numerous occasions in the Old Testament where a future bridegroom meets his bride-to-be at a well, just as Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (e.g. Moses and Zipporah/Isaac and Rebekkah/Jacob and Rachel). Further, it was not unusual in these encounters for the man to be alien to the woman, a foreigner. Pitre writes of this Old Testament tradition as a kind of quotient: ‘Male foreigner + Woman + Well=Betrothal.’
Consider the alienation between Hebrew Jesus and the Samaritan woman, who would have been stunned that a holy Jew would engage with her at all. A little history may help us to understand this. In 772BC, the idolatrous Assyrians conquered the 10 tribes of Israel, scattered them then settled in uneasy spiritual union with the Jews in the land of Samaria (2 Kings 17). Samaritan persons resulted from the unlawful merging of Assyrians and Jews. You could say that the Samaritans reminded ‘pure’ Jews of their historic failure with the Assyrians!
Conceived in shame, Samaritans struggled to offer pure worship to God. Their awareness of the true and living God was blunted and mocked by their devotion to the pagan gods introduced to them by the Assyrians.
The Samaritan woman knew that a holy Jewish man would scorn her for these compromises. Tradition compelled him to remain far from her as to not compromise himself. So Jesus’ kind offer to this woman of ‘living water’ would have astounded her. Deeper still, the whole encounter is nothing less that God’s spousal love for His compromised people. “Living Water’ is an invitation to a bridal bath! John 4 describes the God who came to reclaim His runaway bride.
Please join us as we pray for:
Church Unity/Ecumenical Spirit : Unity in the body of Christ as Living Waters is offered in both Catholic and Protestant churches. Also for an ecumenical spirit to be strengthened and encouraged throughout each community running Living Waters.
Aguas Vivas: Southern California, Los Angeles area, Maria, Pilar, Zefereino and team: For discernment and wisdom as far as the best church covering for upcoming Aguas Vivas group.
RHN: For Anne Paulk, as Executive Director, protection and provision for her and her three sons and extended family.
“Courage for Reverend Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”