The story related to us in John chapter 4 is often referred to as the story about the woman at the well. We don’t even know her name despite the fact that Jesus spent an amazing amount of time talking to this one person.
In fact, you would be hard pressed to find another point in the Bible where Jesus spent so much time talking to one specific person, which probably means we need to pay extra attention to this event. And it is an extraordinary event.
John chapter 4 introduces us to the woman in fascinating circumstances. We are told that Jesus and the Disciples are at a well outside of the town of Sychar in Samaria. The location is significant. Because throughout the Gospels, we told over and again of the Jews extreme dislike of the Samaritans.
Time prohibits us from going into detail concerning the genesis of this dislike, but suffice it to say that it was palpable. We see evidence of this in two interesting passages. In John chapter 8, after Jesus made the Pharisees extremely angry, they retorted with the worst accusation they could level. They said to Jesus: “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” () The Pharisees put demon possession and being Samaritan on equal footing.
Also note that in Matthew Chapter 10 when Jesus sent His Disciples out on a short term mission trip, He clearly stated: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.” This was not an attempt to keep the Gospel from the Samaritans, it was an acknowledgement that even His Disciples were not immune to this disdain of the Samaritan people.
And yet, here in John chapter 4, we see Jesus…sitting alone at a well…with a Samaritan woman. And the first words out of His mouth? The first words of the Redeemer to the one He was about to redeem? The opening salvo of the Messiah to a woman who desperately needed to hear the truth of His Gospel?
In essence… “will you give me a drink of water” (). That’s it. That’s all it took to begin a conversation that would not only reveal salvation to her, but to a multitude of her fellow townspeople once she told them that the Messiah was out by the well.
How did He do this? She obviously came to the well because she was thirsty, but there is more to this story. Traditionally in that part of the world, water was drawn either early in the morning or early in the evening to avoid the brutal heat. It is estimated that the time of this encounter would have been noon.
This is borne out in the fact that there were no other people there with Jesus and this woman. Clearly, she was determined to draw water when there was less of a chance to run into other people. Why would that be the case? Because as the story unfolds, we discover several things about this woman that probably made her a pariah in the town.
When Jesus asks her to go and bring her husband back to the well, the woman answers: “I have no husband.” Jesus responds back that He is well aware of the fact that she has no husband and continues by stating: “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” ().
Jesus doesn’t let her slide on her sin. She had had multiple husbands and was, in fact, at that time living with a man who was not her husband. Though that is relatively ignored in our culture today, it bordered on unforgiveable at that time. Hence the reason she came to the well at noon.
Jesus didn’t let her slide on her sin…but neither did He walk away in disgust. Instead, He loved her. And when He asked her for water at the beginning of the story, it was because He knew that He was going to give her living water…so that she would never be thirsty again.
And when He told her about this water, her response was the response of all of us who see our sin…and need forgiveness. She said: “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst” (). When she tells Jesus that she is awaiting the Messiah and that when He comes He will tell all things…Jesus says to her: “I who speak to you am He” ().
Jesus didn’t expect her to know more than she did. He didn’t turn away from her because of her sin. He didn’t avoid her because she was a Samaritan. He met her right where she was…which is what He does to us. And her life was transformed forever, because He first asked: Can I have a drink of water. How cool is that. On behalf of myself, Robert Houghton and all of us here at GP. Keep reading God’s Word.
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