This is a true, inspiring story, found in the Bible, which beautifully shows what Jesus is like. We know from other parts of the Bible; Jesus is Jewish, a carpenter turned Rabbi, and truly, the Son of God. In this story, we find Jesus knows every woman’s life story and, in spite of how hard or easy life has been, Jesus loves women to their core, and He wants to give them eternal life. Here, we see Jesus meet with a Samaritan woman, known as “The Woman At The Well.” She is having a hard life.
Look at the Samaritan woman’s dress. It is filled with holes. These holes represent parts of her broken, empty heart. Because she has tried to find love and acceptance in many difficult relationships, without success, her heart has brokenness or emotional holes. Will Jesus be able to help her with these holes?
Jesus is hot, tired, thirsty and hungry. He is in a place of need. It is noon; the heat of the sun is directly over his head. He is seated at a famous place, Jacob’s well, in Samaria. This well is 100 feet deep and fed by a flowing spring. His disciples have gone into town to find some lunch. As Jesus humbly sits at the well, the Samaritan woman approaches alone with her water jar. It’s odd she is alone and coming at noon.
Women usually walked together to gather water. They come to the well early in the day, so they have plenty of water for their meals, their animals and their cleaning. It is likely this woman is alone because she is a social outcast; her community of women have judged her poor moral life and decided she should be left out – marginalized from their daily lives. It is a daily shame for her to walk to this well alone.
The Bible says Jesus “had to go through Samaria” on His was to Galilee. There were other ways to Galilee, so it seems likely His urgency to go through Samaria is because He planned to meet with the woman at the well and her community. Everywhere He went, Jesus had encounters with people that changed their lives forever. Let’s see what happens at Jacob’s well in Samaria.
Samaritans have their own distinct religion, a mixture of Jewish faith and other faiths, without many Jewish distinctive. Jews and Samaritans hated each other because of this mixture and tried to have nothing to do with each other. As the woman arrives at Jacob’s well, Jesus says to her, “Will you give me a drink?” Surprised He would even talk with her, the woman replies, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman.” She is reminding Jesus; Jews and Samaritans hate each other.
The fact that Jesus is Jewish, a man, a rabbi, and the Son of God, but He wants to have a drink and a conversation with this woman, shows He is eager to cross the gender boundary, the religious/racial boundary, and the moral/social boundary. These were normal boundaries for that time. Jesus was revolutionary in crossing all these boundaries.
Responding to the woman, Jesus says, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would ask me for a drink, and I would give you Living Water.” The woman replies, “You don’t even have a cup, this well is really deep. How are you going to get this “Living Water?” Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well, drank from it, along with his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?” She’s thinking fast on her feet! This well has the best water around, so how will Jesus be able to produce even better water? How will He get it?
Jesus embraces the woman’s questions. He thoughtfully and kindly responds to her, “When you drink from this well, you will get thirsty again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst again. The water I give will be a spring just like a fountain of endless water lasting into eternity.” The woman excitedly replies, “Sir, give me this water so I am never thirsty again, and I will never have to come back to this well again.” She has forgotten quickly how special the well is! She is hoping to satisfy her physical need for water, and her emotional need to avoid the daily shame of coming to the well alone.
Then, Jesus asks her to go get her husband. That command will touch at the heart of her story and her holes. “I have no husband,” the woman asserts. Jesus responds, “You have sure answered correctly. You have had five husbands, and the man you are living with is not your husband.” Wow! He knows her story, in deep ways, that he hints at with the facts in His response. He’s also catching her in a half-truth, because actually she’s had many husbands and is currently living with a man. Yet, He remains kindly engaged with this woman. Do you think He wanted to heal her heart?
There may be a variety of reasons why this woman has been married five times. She may have been: unable to have children and her husband wanted children, or she may be widowed, or she may have been abused. She may have committed adultery. Whatever her reasons for five marriages and five divorces, she has endured much shame through either her actions, or the actions of her husbands. She is currently living in a shame-filled relationship; the man she is living with won’t marry her. She is really in a profoundly unsafe and impoverished situation.
She must have marveled at how Jesus knew her story. She concludes He is a prophet, a man who speaks for God. “I perceive you are a prophet,” she replies and adds, “We Samaritans worship on this mountain, but you Jews worship in Jerusalem. Where should we worship?” Jesus must have enjoyed having the conversation turn to her worship! Most likely, she has been worshiping men, and how they might satisfy her deepest needs. He takes the time to teach and to care for this woman’s heart-felt questions and miss-placed worship.
“The time is coming, and really, has come when you worship God neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem. Salvation does come from the Jews, however, true worshipers worship God in spirit and in truth in their hearts. That’s the worship God seeks. God is spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and in truth.” The woman at the well is listening intently. Perhaps, she feels her question hasn’t been fully explained, because she informs Jesus, “I know Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” She is counting on getting the whole story on worship from the Messiah. Jesus reveals Himself to her when He next says, “I, the one speaking to you, am Messiah.” What amazing grace for her to have such crucial news first-hand! Now all her questions can be answered.
Just then, the disciples return to the well with lunch. They are shocked to see Jesus talking with that kind of woman! They didn’t have the nerve to ask Him why He is talking to her, but you can imagine their surprised and maybe, mocking faces.
As they approach, the woman drops her water jar and runs back to her community. The woman has forgotten all about her need for drinking water! She is filled with joy as she shares with the townspeople, “Come meet a man who told me everything I ever did! He knows everything about me. Could He be the Messiah?” How many people do you know with whom you are happy they know your whole story? Her story is filled with shame, and yet, she grasps Jesus knows her shame-filled story and STILL wants a relationship with her. He wants to give her “Living Water” and says He is the Messiah.
The people make their way to the well to see the man who so captivated the Samaritan woman’s heart. At the urging of the townspeople, Jesus and His disciples stay two more days in Samaria. Many believed Jesus is the Messiah based on the woman’s testimony, and, also, in seeing Jesus for themselves. As Jesus left town, the townspeople said, “We know this man is really the Savior of the world.” Jesus graciously allowed the woman at the well to be a part of bringing many to this knowledge, and He left her with a community of people who would appreciate and love her. She is no longer left out or alone in her shame. Her holes are being filled with Jesus and His love. Her brokenness is being healed as she worships God in spirit and in truth, in her heart. She is safe and spiritually wealthy. Now, she drinks from the fountain of Living Water!
Please see John, chapter four to read the whole story in the Bible.