...Where could one such as her ever worship? She wants to know. Truly. Jesus is the only learned Jew she has ever felt safe to ask. And in response, Jesus treats her like a serious and worthy theologian. As he honors her capacity for understanding, he elevates her and all women along with her. He drops the most significant teaching on worship in all of scripture on her alone, there at the well. The entire, sweeping theme of the New Testament and covenant, and the implications of everything else he does and says, he lays out plainly for her. He doesn't shroud it in parable. He can see she's ready for the fullness of light to shine. He tells her that worship is ultimately without ritual or rite. That it is found in spirit and truth at the very core of a person. That, whether in Jerusalem or at Gerizim, such temples are already obsolete. This means that people are the very temple of God. And this suggests to her she has as much access to God as some self-important high priest who loathes her. And she always has.
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What could be going on here in the text that so compellingly breaks down our tepid versions of the story? It is simply this: Jesus clearly expected that more than one of those healed should recognize what had happened. And he clearly felt it reasonable to expect that more than one of them should return to him... To "turn back and give praise to God." Rather than continuing on to the Temple in Jerusalem. Even though he had instructed them to go to the Temple. Even though the Temple is precisely where people go to "praise God." ...Wait, what? Are we beginning to see something deeper take shape yet? Jesus is suggesting something. We're supposed to be left asking questions. We're supposed to be left considering the message which the miracle gave so much gravity to. So what's the message? Maybe this: The closer they got to that Temple, the less they should have felt like they needed to go.