It Was About Noon
As I mentioned yesterday, the Gospel of John is very precise with its words. And, because he uses a relatively simple vocabulary, John's Gospel is often referred to as "the simple Gospel". If by "simple" we mean "easy to read", that's an appropriate moniker. If, however, we mean "easy to understand", we're way off base. John's Gospel contains some of the more confusing passages of the New Testament. Jesus, talking to his Father in Heaven, says, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
Now, I know what each of those words mean individually: You. Are. In. Me. And. I. Am. In. You.
But strung together like that -- "You are in me and I am in you" -- I've been pondering that sentence for 15 years, and I'm still not exactly sure what all it means.
There's a depth to John's Gospel that begs to be explored, and I've done my best to dive deeply. Still, for all my best efforts, there are things that sometimes rise up to slap me in the face -- words or phrases that seem to leap off the page and shout at me -- sentences that I feel like I've never read before and make me wonder how on earth I could have missed them. That just happened.
In Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman, there's a short sentence that gets a lot of press. John writes, "It was about noon" (John 4:6b). Preachers and teachers seize on this phrase to let us know that this woman must have been some kind of outcast. No one would come to draw water in the heat of the day like this. The fact that it's noon tells us something about the power of her physical thirst and the shame of her social standing.
But as I read that sentence this morning, something occurred to me that I'd never thought of before.
See, that phrase appears one other time in John's Gospel -- word-for-word. It's in John 19 -- towards the end of Jesus' life. We read, "It was the day of Preparation for the Passover; it was about noon. 'Here is your king,' Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, 'Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!'"
I'm convinced this is not a coincidence. John wants us to read this and remember the time Jesus sat down, physically exhausted in the heat of the day and asked a woman living in sin for a drink, offering her the promise that he had water that would satisfy her desires forever.
Later in John 19, as Jesus hangs on the cross, having taken upon himself the sins of the world, he says, "I am thirsty."
He took our sin upon himself. He took our shame. He took our thirst. It was about noon.