John 4:1-42 presented a story about an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. It begins this scene as Jesus and his disciples travel northward through Samaria. When Jesus arrived at Jacob's well in the city of Sychar, he was weary from his journey:
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John — although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water from the well. When she drew near, Jesus asked "Will you give me a drink?". This is striking for two reasons:
- Jewish people did not have dealings with Samaritan during Jesus' time.
- Jewish men did not speak to women in public.
Here is some Bible commentary for context:
Samaritans were viewed as a result of intermarriages between earlier Hebrews of the northern kingdom of Israel and the Assyrian settlers in Israel following the captivity of the northern kingdom in 722-21 B.C. The Samaritans had their own brand of religion - a mix of Jehovah worship and heathenism. This led to much animosity between the Jews and Samaritans. What Jesus did would be considered highly unusual for the time. But we know that Jesus valued everyone, including women (think of Mary Magdalene). He called every person he encountered according to their purpose. He did not care for the animosity between the Jews and Samaritans. In short, he did not fall prey to social norms.
Jesus Christ Challenged the Samaritan Woman
When Jesus asked this woman for a drink of water, he challenged the best of her morality. It was understandable to be resistent to helping someone we have a grudge against. Yet Jesus appealed to her kinder instincts, despite their conflicting cultures.
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”
Jesus seized this opportunity to raise the stakes of this conversation to the heavenly domain:
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.”
Jesus spoke of a gift,
dorea (Greek), which signified a free gift. He also mentioned a living water, which was significant to people living in sin.
This shocked the woman, who changed her tone immediately:
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 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?”
At the point, the woman still believed Jesus was speaking of the water in the well.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 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.”
In this statement, Jesus emphasized that he was not speaking of the water in Jacob's well anymore, but rather he was speaking of a bountiful fountain in the form of eternal life, i.e. salvation. Jesus was the Bread of Life. Only He could lay the crops for eternal life. The woman was now fully intrigued, and asked Jesus for this water.
The Samaritan woman had need for salvation, and she also had a knowledge of God. Christ took this opportunity to gently expose her sin.
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
To this, the woman replied that she did not have a husband.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
The point Jesus made was that she was in a sinful relationship and she needed salvation that only he, Jesus, could offer.
It was a startling revelation to the Samaritan woman, who immediately realized that Jesus was greater than she thought:
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Here, the Samaritan woman addressed the long-standing controversy between the Samaritans and the Jews as where worship was to be rendered. The Samaritans contended for Mt. Gerizim, while the Hebrews for Jerusalem.
Jesus was quick to point out that the external location does not matter. Rather, that worship was spiritual in nature:
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Jesus was making a grand statement about salvation here: God had been working on a plan to save mankind through the Hebrew nation. Jesus teaches about the Spirit and Truth. He is the Savior of the world. He alone held the water of life. Jesus declared that true worshipper who belonged to God as his redeemed children and would receive the God's revelation.
The True Messiah
By this point, the Samaritan woman already concluded that Jesus was a prophet. To the Samaritans, the term prophet was closely associated to the coming Messiah. She knew that the hour is coming when the Messiah would arrive. She addressed this point directly:
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
The Samaritan woman had not yet deciphered that Jesus was the Messiah, but she did believe:
- In the promise of the Messiah. She knew the the Messiah is coming.
- That the Messiah had not yet come.
- The Messiah would be a teacher, and not a conqueror.
Jesus took this opportunity to reveal his true identity:
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you — I am he.”
The Samaritan woman, leaving her jar, went back to town to spread the word about Jesus. This is a pure statement of faith. She knew now that Jesus Christ was the messiah, the Savior of the world. She knew He held the Spirit and the Truth. Only He could give eternal life. Jesus teaches that people are not defined by their sin. The Samaritan woman set aside her sin, and began working toward God's mission. This is the quintessential essence of living a Christian life.
Word of the Messiah Spreads
The Samaritans believed the woman's testimony. Her confession regarding her past was so explicit that she became a compelling advocate for the credibility of Christ. This was very telling in a time when woman could not act as legal witnesses. But her testimony was so powerful it transcended all social boundaries.
Testimonies are powerful. They are so powerful that they exceed all social conventions. In the case of the Samaritan woman, Christ knew her sins but also loved her and reached out to her. God has a bigger plan for you, and He uses all people to His means. Pray to God to uncover what His purpose is for you today.
I hope you enjoyed reading this breakdown of Jesus and the Samaritan woman.
Stay at peace through Jesus