The Samaritan Woman at Jacob's Well
There is a striking difference between conversation of Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3 to that of Jesus with the Samaritan woman in John 4.
With Nicodemus, an openly religious man, a community leader, Jesus gives him the blunt truth. “The good moral path you are on will not get you into Heaven.” Nicodemus does not openly confess Christ as His Savior, but slinks away in the night to ponder Jesus’ words in awed silence.
In John 4, we are introduced to the Samaritan woman at the well. She is half-pagan, she is a blatant sinner. Never rebuking her for her sins, Jesus clearly, lovingly states, “I am the Messiah.” Quickly, the woman responds to Jesus’ unconditional love by telling all her neighbors and bringing them to see and feel the same love.
What is your response to Jesus’ love? Do you keep it to yourself? Do you run to your family and friends to share your joy?
The Pharisees were pitting John the Baptist against Jesus saying “Well this man has baptized this many, whereas this one only these.” We see in verses 1-3 that Jesus was not interested in the Pharisees’ fabricated pissing contest and instead chose to leave.
In Jesus’ day, Israel was divided into three main territories - the North was Galilee, the South was Judea and the middle was Samaria. When traveling either north or south, a Jew would take a route twice as long to avoid setting foot in Samaria. Why? Because Samaritans were a mixed race - Israelite and Palestinian. They were known for their strange religion that mixed heathen gods and a belief in Jehovah and the Law of Moses (see 2 Kings 17:41).
Jesus, thankfully, did not share the Jews’ spirit of exclusivity. He knew the needs of the Samaritans and chose to travel through their land.
As a child living with a very racist man, I often wondered why God even bothered to create races knowing that they would cause so much strife and pain throughout history. As I grew older, I learned that there are biological reasons for different skin colors based on an individual’s environment. When I studied the book of Genesis, and learned about the tower of Babel, I understood that God separated men with different languages, because when we are a united body, we will work together for evil. God never intended for the Jews to hate Samaritans. God never intended for Hitler to hate the Jews. God never intended for my dad to hate black people. Men choose to hate because we are inherently evil. Men choose to love when we are blessed by the amazing grace of God.
In verse 6, we see that it is around noon - a very warm time of day in Israel, especially for a man who had been walking all morning. Jesus stops at Jacob’s Well to get a cool drink, and along comes the Samaritan woman. Little did she know how much her life was about to change!
It was uncommon for a woman to draw water during the noon hour because of the heat. Possibly, this woman was there because she had miscalculated the amount of water she had needed that day. Or, the women in her village ostracized her for the choices she had made in life, and so she chose to avoid them.
By merely asking this woman for a drink, Jesus shook the very foundation of Jewish culture. First, Jews never spoke to Samaritans. Second, men never spoke to woman in public, much less women they didn’t know. Third, a Jew would be considered defiled if he drank from a cup of an unclean individual like this woman (verse 11 alludes to this when the woman points out that he has nothing to draw water with).
Verse 10, I think is important when you compare John 4:7-11 with Matthew 3:13-15. When Jesus asks John the Baptist to baptize him, John’s response is of total humility and awe “It is I who needs to be baptized by you.” This is the response Jesus was looking for from the Samaritan woman. He offers her a drink and her response should have been, “It is I who need a drink from you.” Unfortunately, not many were tuned into the coming Messiah like John the Baptist was. Thankfully, Jesus was concerned enough for the woman’s eternal future that he spent some time explaining it all to her.
Verse 10 is paraphrased in The Message as:
“If you knew the generosity of God, and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink and I would give you fresh, living water.”
Fresh living water, as opposed to stale, stagnant water, refers to the new life given to those ask, through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the representative of Jesus Christ that resides on Earth after Jesus ascends into Heaven (see John 14:16-17 and Acts 2). He enters into the being of the believer who receives Him or asks for the “living water” of eternal life. Spiritually, “living water” symbolizes the inner spring of joy of satisfaction that continually renews itself in the heart of the true believer.
Notice, please, that Christ offered her this gift of eternal life prior to any talk of her sins. After we believe, because we believe, our way of living naturally and (somewhat) easily changes. God loves us for who we are, not who we will become.
In verse 12, the woman shows her strong side. She was cynical and doubtful, but she was strong. “Who do you think you are to say you are better than our forefather Jacob?”
Jesus wants her to understand that whenever we drink of the wells of Earth, we will always want MORE. Our thirst is unquenchable, our desires are unrealized, until we drink of the living water that only Christ can provide.
It has been suggested that hell is full of torment, because people take their unclassifiable desires with them.
She thought her needs were physical, but really she needed her spirit healed. Jesus never promises that the widow will find a husband or that the poor will become rich. He says their souls will be saved. Eternal life with the Creator is the ultimate satisfaction.
Are you asking what physical needs Jesus can meet? Or do you want everlasting, truly satisfying spiritual healing? There is a greater purpose with Jesus, and it has nothing to do with clothes or cars or designer dogs.
In verse 15, we see that she is still focused on the physical need for water rather than the spiritual need for healing. Recognizing this, and still wanting to help her, Jesus turns to her needs as a sinner.
Conviction and Confession
When the woman responds with true desire for this ‘living water,’ Jesus opens her eyes to her deepest need. He opens the wound where His cure needs to begin. It is entirely possible that at Jacob’s Well, in the middle of a hot summer day, was the first time this woman considered her life in the same light as Jesus.
He did not, however, condemn, chastise, or rebuke her for her sins. He does use strong words that lead HER to see herself from God’s perspective. His words prove His love for her - He knew all about her and choose to offer her His living water. He wanted to help her.
Sometimes, hearing the truth can hurt. But truly we can rejoice - the dead feel nothing. Dirt and dust are revealed only after the coming of light. Jesus WANTS to cleanse us from all our sins so that we can fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-10).
When Jesus and the Samaritan woman met at the well, she gave him the polite title of “Sir.” In verse 19, after He reveals her secrets, she calls Him “Prophet.” Eventually, she would call Him her Savior.
I love verse 20 of John 4. In this verse, the woman reminds me of myself. She felt a sort of kinship with Jesus, she trusted him and she saw him as wise, so she laid it all out there, she told him the one problem she has with the Jewish religion. “Our Fathers worship in this mountain, but you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the only place where men ought to worship.” She lets him know that the Jews hatred for the Samaritans doesn’t make sense to her and trusts that He will give her a logical, fair answer.
When I have a question regarding Biblical truth, I know that I can respectfully ask God to explain it and He will find a way to help me understand - whether it’s from a book, from a trusted believer or from simple enlightening from the Holy Spirit, He will help me understand.
Jesus, acknowledging that the Jews had it wrong, explains to her that soon God will make sure this changes.
Previously, God had commanded that all worship take place in a specific place and in a specific manner (see Exodus and Leviticus for details). In verse 21, Jesus is essentially saying that once he is crucified, resurrected and then ascends to Heaven and the Holy Spirit descends from Heaven (all are inclusive in ‘the hour’), then there will be no set place for worship and most importantly no need for a sacrifice. I Corinthians 3:16 says that every believer that has the Holy Spirit in their heart is now the Temple of the Lord. Jesus was the scapegoat for our sins so we no longer have to follow the laws of Leviticus that require so much time and effort. (Thank you, Jesus!)
True worship is not ritualistic. “To worship in spirit and truth” (verse 4:23) is paraphrased in The Message as:
“Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth.”
Worshipping God for all His glory is not singing three songs on Sunday morning. The singing of songs before a church service prepares our hearts and minds for the message God wants us to hear. Yes, we are praising God during those songs, but true worship is any act that expresses my reverence, admiration and devotion to the One True God. I worship God in spirit (with sincerity of heart) when I post Biblical truths on the Internet. I worship God in spirit and truth when I lovingly help my friends who call on me. I worship God in spirit and truth when I joyfully spend time with my stepson. I worship God in spirit and truth when I peacefully discuss “issues” with my husband.
What act have you committed today to express your reverence, admiration and devotion to God?
Jesus sees the woman’s open heart, the deep longing for healing, and also her confusion. To make sure there is no question in her mind, He clearly, lovingly reveals Himself plainly (not in parables) and says, “I am the Savior that you seek.”
The disciples returned and were astonished to see Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman...Do not reject His ways just because they do no fit into your preconceived notions.
In verses 28-30, we see the woman leaving her waterpot at the well, indicating she would be back. So Jesus waited.
The woman runs to tell people that she came upon a prophet and she thinks He is the Messiah they have all been waiting for.
No longer did she feel guilty or embarassed by her past choices. "He brought to light all the things I have done."
No longer did she feel inferior.
"A man may hide his sin, but once he discovers Jesus Christ, his first instinct is to say, 'Look at what I was, look at what I am now. Jesus has done this for me!'" (BSF notes John Lesson 7)