4: 30 The disciples left the city and were on their way to Jesus.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”

In case somehow we missed the point, John drives it home again here. Jesus’ disciples, the ones who have been travelling with him, listening to his teaching, and experiencing the beauty of his Presence, have entirely failed to grasp what he is about. But a woman who has just met Jesus for the first time, is an outcast from the “chosen people”, and an outcast even from her own people, is the one person in the story who seems to have caught a glimpse of who Jesus is and what he has come to do.

The disciples remain locked into the old physical material time-bound paradigm. They are unable to see beneath the surface. The only food they can imagine is the food that goes into the mouth and nourishes the physical body.

Jesus is pointing to food that they “do not know about”, but has been discovered by a Samaritan woman. It is a shocking and challenging reversal. Those who should have known, fail to see. She who they considered lost, has found the deep truth of who Jesus really is. It is no surprise that, as the Gospel narrator will point out eleven verses later,

Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honour in the prophet’s own country. (John 4:43)

No Jew in Jesus’ day wants to hear the message of a Messiah who is recognized by a Samaritan woman but whose own male followers fail to discern his true identity.

Jesus is not in the business of currying favour or winning friends within his own little ethnic enclave. His vision is much bigger than simply enlightening one group of religiously observant people. “Salvation” may be “of the Jews” in the sense that it is mediated through a Jew; this does not mean it is only for the Jews.

This has been the plan from the beginning. The Jews who knew their own tradition should not have been surprised. When God sent Abram out from Haran, Abram carried in his heart the instruction from God who said,

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2)

God was never in the business of exclusion; God has always been in the business of universal blessing. It is human institutions that exclude. It is people who build walls and erect barricades. We are the ones who make distinctions and draw lines in the sand to keep the wrong people out. Jesus came to throw open the doors and windows and welcome in the world.

Why are walls and barricades so appealing?

What distinctions do I cling to that may exclude some people from the complete embrace of that love we call “God”?