CHAPTER 4: Part 3: Spiritual Food
Short Meditations in John 4: 26. The Disciples Return
Jn 4:27 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?”
One of the things I like about the scriptures is the blend of the divinely supernatural and the ordinary, the spiritual and the material. God has made this material world but acts into it both materially and spiritually – because He is Spirit. So here were have been pondering for quite some while on the intricacies of this conversation between Jesus and this Samaritan woman, blending material needs with spiritual ones, and then it is brought to an end by the arrival back of the disciples.
In verse 8 we had been told in an aside, that they had gone into town to buy food. This is the very ordinary side of life that we don’t often see much of in these accounts. But it reminds us that they had very ordinary human needs and those needs were so often met in very ordinary ways – they bought food.
So suddenly, after this complex conversation the disciples return and find Jesus talking with this Samaritan woman, and this causes them surprise. They are Jewish men and belong to the Jewish culture and in that culture Rabbis rarely talked with women publicly. But Jesus is talking to a woman and a Samaritan woman at that.
Now this seems a sufficiently unusual thing that the disciples appear somewhat nonplussed by it. They appear not to know quite how to respond to what they find. This appears to still be in the early days of Jesus’ ministry and so it is probable that the disciples had not really got to know Jesus in the way that they did later on.
Now John, in his writing, remembers their responses. On one side they wanted to challenge this woman who was talking to their master. Who are you? What do you want? These were the obvious questions this group of men wanted to ask of her – but she is clearly with Jesus and so they hold back and say nothing to her.
On the other hand they want to ask Jesus, “Why are you talking to this woman – this Samaritan woman????” What is going on here, they wonder. They had left Jesus alone and now, when they get back, something is clearly going on between him and this Samaritan woman. They are sufficiently Jews that they are affronted by her presence. She is a Samaritan, for goodness sake! It’s one thing for us to have to go and trade with them to get food while we pass through their country, but it’s another thing to just sit down and socialise with them!
Despite what we may profess, most of us have our prejudices. There are people with whom we find it difficult to get on, but Jesus has no such limitations and sometimes that makes us uncomfortable.