This passage is the narrative of Jesus and the Samarian Woman, or the Woman at the Well. It illustrates Jesus compassion and perfection. He loved people in such a way that He was able to expose their sins without shaming them. He loved them purely and perfectly, not allowing them to consider sin as acceptable but not refusing them because of it.
The Pharisees in Judea were getting all riled up about Jesus and so He decided it was time to go to Galilee. On the way, He passed Sychar in Samaria and stopped at Jacob’s Well. Samaria is not on the way from Judea to Galilee. Jesus went that way specifically for the purpose to meet the Samarian woman. It was about noon when Jesus stopped to rest at the well and sent the disciples for food. Verses 7-9 tell us,
“A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)”
Noon was not a normal time for a person to get their water. Most of the women went much earlier when it was cooler and they could use water for their many and various needs. This implies the woman didn’t want to deal with the others. Perhaps she felt ostracized or ashamed. Regardless, she came upon Jesus and had a one on one encounter with God.
It is Jesus who spoke to her and asked her for water. She was astonished. Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans. They were too good for them. Yet this man not only spoke to her, He wanted her to give her water. How did that make her feel? Perhaps she had been wrong to judge all Jews as haughty and hateful.
Verse 10 reads,
“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
Now she was really off balance. Here was this man, kind enough to speak to her and ask her for something and he said that it was he should be giving her water. Jesus was speaking spiritually of Heavenly things, of Salvation and she didn’t understand but she was intrigued. She knew He couldn’t get water from the well, so she asked “Where do you get this living water?” She also recognized that He was someone special. She asked if He was greater than their father Jacob.
Verses 13-15 read,
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus spoke spiritually but she still could only hear the human meanings of His words. She wanted the living water so that she would not have to come to the well and feel shamed by the pious women of the town that were so much better than she was. But Jesus wanted her to have this gift from God so that she would no longer face condemnation from Him. She must have considered her sin, her shame, and how lovely it would be not to face disapproval and judgment from the townswomen. At least this man didn’t judge her, he didn’t know how bad she was.
Jesus shocked the woman even more. Verses 16-18 read,
“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
He did know all about her! And He still chose to talk to her. He still chose to be kind to her. Every other person she knew looked at her with disdain. Every Jew she had ever heard of or met had treated her like she was worse than dirt. But not this man. She recognized He was from God because of His knowledge of her and His love through it. She brought the conversation away from her shame and asked about the main difference between Samaritans and Jews. She didn’t like that light exposing her sins. She asked Jesus why Jews said God had to be worshipped in Jerusalem and Samaritans worshipped at Mount Gerizim. Verses 21-24 say,
“Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
He starts off telling her that very soon the place people worship God would not matter. But He also pointed out that the Samaritans worshipped God without knowing Him. They worshipped Him but they weren’t getting it right because they didn’t worship God as He had prescribed but by how they chose. Salvation would come from the Jews because the Jews had been given the Law, they had been given the way to know God as He is. Obviously most of the Jews had missed the mark and were not worshipping God in love but through ritual. Jesus said that was going to change. Salvation was going to offer a way for people to worship God the way He meant it to be, in spirit and in truth.
Jesus makes it possible to know God and so to worship Him in truth. To know who it is we worship. And therefore to love Him and be able to worship not only the right way but with our spirit and His Spirit. To truly worship God we have to know Him, be in relationship with Him, and commune His Spirit with ours.
Now the woman was on the brink of understanding. She only needed to confirm it. In verse 25 she said,
“I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”
Verse 26 says,
“Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Can you imagine the jubilation she felt? I am overwhelmed simply reading about her coming face to face with the Messiah. What was it like for her?
At this point the disciples had returned with food and they were just as shocked to see Jesus talking to her as she had been. She was not only a woman, but a Samaritan. She was below Him. It didn’t look good. He was a spiritual leader, a great teacher, and was supposed to be teaching them how to be good. But they knew better than to question Him. They trusted He had a purpose. They didn’t ask Jesus why He was talking to her ad they realized that He was letting her meet any needs he had (such as getting a drink of water). But they also didn’t engage her or offer to find out if she needed help. For her it was a good time to leave. She had enjoyed this criticism free conversation and now it looked like some men were going to judge her and judge Jesus. She left her water jar at the well she was coming back. She had just met Jesus Christ! She had to tell people. Verses 29-30 read,
“So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.”
Verses 39-42 read,
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Jesus loved this woman completely. He loved her regardless of her sin. She had been judged and shamed by the world. She saw Jews as arrogant haters. She felt humiliation of her own life. But Jesus didn’t avoid her because of her lifestyle, her race, or her attempts to remain excluded and on the peripheries of community. He loved her through it. He initiated the conversation. He directed the conversation. He exposed the truth about her and about Himself. His love for her changed her so much that this woman who worked so hard to not come in contact with the people of the town went to them and loved them enough to bring them to Jesus.
They came because what she told them was astonishing. They believed because Jesus was who He was.
Does your life imitate Jesus? Do you love others as He loves or are the lost right to judge you as self-righteous, hateful, and judgmental?