The Readings: Judges 13:15-24; Acts 6:1-15; John 4:1-26
The Judges reading is puzzling. Why give so much space to the aftermath of the messenger’s announcement to Manoah’s woman? (There were certainly more engaging Samson stories left on the cutting room floor!) Perhaps this: Manoah is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and seems to distrust the divine. Is the narrator using Manoah to preview Samson’s character?
Faithful Jews—now Christians—responded to Hellenistic culture in divergent enough ways that Luke uses ‘Hellenists’ and ‘Hebrews’ to describe the emerging factions. The response of “the Twelve” is priceless. On the one hand, they get it right, and appoint seven with Hellenist names to deal with the presenting issue. On the other hand, “it is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables” shows why Jesus spent time trying (with at best partial success) to root out status-seeking among his disciples (Mk 9:33-35; Jn 13:1-17). God’s opinion is immediately evident: Stephen, one of the seven, is the first martyr, and Philip, another of the seven, brings the Gospel to Samaria.
Samaria. I wonder if Jesus’ conversations with Nicodemus (Jn 3) and the Samaritan woman (Jn 4) do not form a diptych, both long, contrasting participants, one scene in the darkness, the other in broad daylight. Another layer: John the Baptist had described Jesus as the bridegroom, himself as the friend of the bridegroom (Jn 3:29). Courtship at the well is a classic type scene (Gen 24:10-28; Gen 29:1-12; Exod 2:15b-21), and here’s Jesus at the well. The Gospel’s Prologue: “we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (1:14b). In this diptych is John showing us what glory, grace, and truth look like?