In John 4:7-30, we read:
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 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.) 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.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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.” 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 said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
Do you relate to this woman? I do. In a quiet moment at the local well, she is confronted with the weight of her sin. That moment makes me cringe because I’ve been there: caught in an act of sin and deeply ashamed. Rather than lashing out at her, though, Jesus offers great compassion to the woman. That is why I love this story.
Jesus offers a better solution to the sinful options of this world: follow me. The woman saw the Savior’s compassion and she followed him. This is a beautiful story but stick with me because it doesn’t end here.
A Pattern of Encounters at the Well
Recently, I read an article that highlighted the biblical theme represented in women meeting men at the well. This isn’t the first instance of an encounter at the well. We first read a similar story in Genesis 24, where a servant of Abraham is sent to scout out a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. The servant meets Rebekah at the well, and God reveals that she is to be Isaac’s wife. Thus, they are betrothed in marriage. Just a few chapters later, a similar scene plays out between Isaac’s son Jacob and a girl named Rachel. The two meet at a well and (following a slight delay that involved Jacob accidentally marrying Rachel’s sister), Jacob and Rachel marry. Generations later, Jacob’s descendant Moses meets his wife, Zipporah, at a well. The woman is given to Moses in marriage shortly thereafter.
As the article explained, there’s a basic pattern:
- Someone is on a journey.
- A man meets a woman at a well.
- One of them draws water.
- There is a connection and a joining of two parties/people.
In short: a meeting at the well signifies an upcoming marriage.
The story of the woman in John 4 is different though. Rather than a noble young lady, the one drawing water is a woman who’s had five husbands and is living with a man she’s not married to. It’s safe to assume she was an outcast—whether her marriages had ended through deaths or divorce, this woman would’ve been looked down upon in society. But Jesus did not look down upon her.
Jesus Cleanses His Bride
This story in John 4 is quite different than the ones we see in the Old Testament. This “would-be bride” is actually a seductress, and she is a Samaritan—a people group that other Jews avoided at all costs. Jesus was not like other Jews though. The Scripture says he “had to pass through Samaria.”
Even though a pit stop in Samaria was unheard of for Jews, Jesus stopped anyway. He had a divine meeting planned, and this meeting involved a well. This situation immediately deviates from the typical well encounter storyline though. Neither this woman nor her community were fit to be Jesus’s bride. The woman said as much when she commented that Jews don’t associate with Samaritans. Jesus kept talking with her however, and instead of offering her water, he offers her living water: himself.
This woman is you. She is me. She is anyone who has searched for love in all the wrong places only to discover that love is found in Christ and that we are seen as blameless in him. He doesn’t avert his gaze or spit upon our sin-stained hands. He cleanses us with his living water.
For many years, this woman had been longing to be known—seeking love through relationships with men. Finally, she met a man who knew everything she had ever done. She knew Jesus not as just a man or a Jew, but as her Messiah. This woman wanted everyone to know about this loving Savior, so she went and shared the news.
Oh, what joy must have overflowed as she left her pitcher and her shame at the well, running to tell others about this man! We don’t know this woman’s history, but we know she wasn’t a well-loved woman in her town. But she was well-loved by her Savior, and he chose that moment to reveal his love to her.
Implications for You and Me
If you know Jesus as your Savior, are you regularly sharing your hope with others? Are you growing deeper in faith? If not, what is holding you back? I am often nervous of what people might think of me or of ruining a friendship. Yet, I want to be like this woman who was so eager to share the hope she found that nothing dissuaded her. Friends, we are emboldened and loved by the God of the universe—the One who knows everything about us and loves us still. That is who the woman at the well met. That is our God.