The alternative Gospel for the 3rd Sunday in Lent this year was the story of Jesus (the Bridegroom) meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. Look at the Old Testament and you will see many incidents in which marriage and wells come together. (eg. Rebecca and the servant for Isaac, Moses and Zipporah) Jesus here meets a woman who hardly seems suitable bride material. She has had quite a life with five husbands and worse still, she is Samaritan. Jesus is a Jewish man, and generally would be regarded as a Pharisee in His beliefs and teaching. Those who wrote Scripture used the Septuagint most of the time. The Samaritans only accepted the Torah. Everything else was up for grabs. They were considered “mixed” by the Jews and there was quite an enmity between them.
Jesus meets her at the well of Jacob and promises her living water and tells her about herself – just as Adonai has told Israel how she wondered off with other men. Just as Hosea welcomes back his adulterous bride, so God had tried to welcome back Israel. “I hate divorce,” He had said.
This is how all Israel, and not just the Jews, will be restored. Through the Bride that the Bridegroom establishes and pours out His lifeblood for.
St Peter is often referred to as a Prime Minister to Christ the King – and that is true for Jesus, in giving Peter the keys of the Kingdom and passing His authority to Peter and the apostles did act as King and made Peter PM in the same way that Hezekiah (who was the first fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy) made Eliakim prime minister (Is. 22:15-25). But Peter is also the Best Man of the groom.
Jesus is amazingly forthright with this woman. She asks Him if He is the promised prophet. Even though they only have the Torah (Pentetuech of five books) the Samaritans too are awaiting the Messiah. Jesus replies with one of His “I AM” statements as He says, “I AM He.” We can often skim over these words and miss the astonishing meaning. The only Person who refers to Himself as “I AM” is God. He told Moses, “I AM WHO AM” from the burning bush.
There is no false humility here. Jesus is telling her exactly who He is as, a Bridegroom would reveal Himself to the bride. Salvation is from the Jews, He reminds her, but He is also calling her home.