The story of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well that we read in John 4: 1-26 is a very well-known passage of scripture.
God is always teaching us something. As I was reading and pondering over this passage, looking to see what God might teach me this time, I kept getting interrupted. With repeated interruption I began to feel some annoyance. I immediately realised what was happening and that I needed to focus on God and His word and not give into my emotions as clearly Satan was at work.
Let’s get back to the story of the woman at the well.
What do we know about her?
We do not get to know her name, she is just referred to as the Samaritan woman. At those times, being a woman and in addition to that a Samaritan she was clearly not the crème de la crème of society. Considering her past, her current circumstances and the fact that she came to collect water at the sixth hour which is about 12 noon tells us that she was probably a social outcast as she came at a time when no one else was there at the well considering it was the hottest part of the day and to probably avoid the stares, murmurs and alienation by other women..
“Now he had to go through Samaria” (John 4:4)
In this verse we read that Jesus had to go through Samaria when he left Judea to go to Galilee. The Jews wanted nothing to do with the Samaritans and usually avoided going through Samaria and would instead cross the Jordan river and go east to travel north.
Jesus did not have to go through Samaria because he wanted a shorter journey to Galilee. He went through Samaria on purpose, he had a divine appointment with the woman at the well. He came to seek and to save her.
“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink? (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).” (John 4:7-9)
Some of the social rules that applied to the time and place of this conversation were that:
- Jews did not speak with Samaritans, let alone drink from their water jars as that would make them ceremonially unclean.
- Men would not speak to the women without their husbands present.
- Women were not spoken to about faith, scripture or theological matters.
When Jesus asks her for a drink of water, we see her respond within those social bounds.
She was focused on the law but Jesus was focused on Grace.
Seeing how Jesus treats her, a socially outcast non-Jew woman, reminds us that He loves each and every one of us and he teaches us by example to not fall into the trap of treating those outside of faith or those who do not “fit in” in a way that would grieve the Father. We are all His children and he desires for each and everyone to know about His love and saving grace and we as followers of Christ are to be a reflection of His love in this world.
“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
Gift of God – Salvation is a gift, that is not earned by privilege of birth or works but by the grace of God. Jesus emphasises that neither works nor status can provide salvation but it is freely given to those who believe.
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” (John 4:11-12)
Jesus words have meaning on a deeper, more spiritual level where as we see her speaking in a more literal manner.
We get to see her express some doubt and disbelief about who Jesus is and how he is going to provide this living water without something to draw with.
And it appears that she assumes that he is going to draw this ‘living water’ from the same well that she has drawn water a multitude of times as she says that the well is deep and then asks where are you going to get this living water from? We see her confusion in not comprehending what Jesus says.
Jesus patiently addresses her doubts, reminding us that there are moments when we struggle to trust or circumstances that can erode our belief but we are to take them to the Lord and ask Him to strengthen us in our faith.
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
“Whoever drinks this water that I give Him will never thirst- with this sentence he shifts from everyday life to everlasting life.
She wanted what he was offering so that she did not have to keep coming back to the well to fill up water.
She did not still comprehend that what Jesus was offering was beyond the temporary, it was not a quick fix but a lasting solution for our spiritual needs.
How often do we look for quick fixes for the temporary and fail to understand that God is working with a much bigger and forever plan?
Speaking the truth in Love
Jesus then tells her to go and call her husband.
When she confessed, “I have no husband” (John 4:17), Jesus affirmed her answer, then gently exposed her sin: “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband” (John 4:18).
Five marriages didn’t make her a sinner. A woman had minimal options those days when she was widowed but living with a man who was not her husband was a sin.
How does she respond to this – she tries to change the subject when things get too real and personal.
She veers the topic from being too personal to more of a religious one; The proper place of worship, which had long been a source of debate between Jews and Samaritans.
We continue to read her last attempt to evade the situation when she says
“I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” (John4:25)
Jesus wants us to surrender our entire selves to Him, even the bits we like to keep buried and not try to think or talk about. Let his healing love and grace fill our very depths so that we can fully experience what He wants us to be.
Jesus reveals himself when he declares “I who speak to you am He.” (John4:26)
She eagerly and excitedly went on to share her testimony with others and many came to believe because of that. (John4:39)
God values each and every one of us enough to actively seek us, invite us to have a relationship with Him, and to rejoice in our worship. As a result of Jesus’ conversation, a person like the Samaritan woman, who was at the receiving end of ethnic prejudice and ostracised by her own people came to know and understand the saving grace of the Lord. She understood that she mattered and was loved even when no one could see anything of value in her—this is grace indeed.
God accepts us just the way we are, who are we to expect others to fit in to a mould prior to being accepted at church or in our eyes.
Let us remember to see each and every one as valuable to God and worthy of knowing the gospel. May we strive to follow this beautiful example of Jesus and may we be eager to share the powerful message of His saving grace like the Samaritan woman.