Today I’m linking up with some fabulous writers at http://onegirl-itjusttakesone.blogspot.com/ , where we’re talking about the women of the Bible in a link up called “Chasing History”.
John 4:1-42 tells a story we often call “the woman at the well”. She’s not even called by name, yet the story of her interaction with Jesus was important enough to be included in John’s gospel.
Jesus was headed to Galilee from Judea and on His way, He passed through Samaria, specifically a town called Sychar, and in that town there was a well known as Jacob’s well. He didn’t have to go through Samaria – it wasn’t the shortest way and in fact, Jews usually took a different way to avoid going through Samaria because, well, those Samaritans were not the kind of people Jews normally associated with.
Yet Jesus chose to go that route. Verse 5 says that He was tired so He sat down by the well at around the sixth hour, which I believe is approximately noon.
Sometime afterward, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Since we know that with God there are no accidents, we can safely assume that Jesus knew exactly how this conversation was going to go. He asked the woman for a drink of water and as usual He is bucking the social customs of the day, this time just by talking to her, since He’s a Jew and she’s a Samaritan and the two just didn’t mix. It was also “not done” for a Jewish man to talk to a woman in public. She points this very thing out to Christ, and He goes on to tell her that if she knew who He was, she would have asked Him for a drink and He would have given her living water.
I don’t know if sarcasm was widely used in those days, but I can almost imagine her next words delivered with a roll of the eyes. Or maybe that’s just me. She may have merely been confused.
“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?”
Jesus tells her that whoever drinks the water He gives will never thirst again. Now, this is appealing. No more trekking to the well every day? So she decides to take Him up on this offer, and then He adds the kicker:
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
Now, if you think Jesus didn’t already know her living situation, I have a piece of ocean-view property out in Wyoming to sell you. There are no accidents with God – this was a divine appointment. Jesus went to that well, on that day, at that time, to speak to that woman.
And so as He knew she would, she tells him she doesn’t have a husband. Based on what Jesus reveals about her love life, she sounds like she’s living a country song. “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”, maybe. She’s on her sixth man and she’s living with him without benefit of marriage. By saying she doesn’t have a husband, she’s technically correct, but not very forthcoming.
There follows a discussion about worship, in which Jesus says that God is spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. The woman says that she knows Messiah is coming and He’s going to reveal everything when He comes.
Then comes that jaw-dropping moment when Christ tells her it’s Him. Can you imagine? Here she is, carrying on the most unexpected conversation of her life already, when the man she’s speaking to tells her He’s the Messiah! Based on His intimate knowledge of her life, it’s pretty easy for her to believe He is who He says He is.
The Bible tells us she left her water jar there (I’m guessing she forgot all about the water), went back to town and told all the people what had happened to her. Verse 39 says that many of the townspeople believed because of her testimony.
We don’t know how long it was before the Samaritan woman came along to draw water, but the fact that she’s coming in the middle of the day, in the heat of the day after all the other women have come and gone, tells us something about her social standing. Maybe she’s avoiding their whispers and their judgmental stares. Maybe she’s being shunned, or most likely, all those things are going on. She’s living with a man who is not her husband. She’s likely very lonely and maybe she’s wondering just how she got here. She’s probably thinking there must be something more to life – surely this isn’t all there is!?!? She’s thirsty for more but she feels trapped by her bad choices. Have you ever been there? I have.
And then, she meets Him. He speaks to her and He doesn’t treat her like a pariah. He knows all about her. And yet He offers her a second chance, a way out. He offers hope. And I’ve been there too. Hallelujah!
We don’t know this woman’s name, but God does. The fact that her name is not mentioned but her encounter with Jesus is tells me that her relationship with Him is what’s considered important here. It’s not the name we’re given by our parents that counts, or the labels we’re given by others, or the opinions of our neighbors, or our past, or even our present situation. What counts is what we do when we meet Jesus and we realize who He truly is.
I don’t claim to have any easy answers. I could sit here all day and draw parallels between the life of this Samaritan woman and my own. We’re all sinners, and we’ve probably all felt like outcasts at one time or another, branded by our sins and condemned by other sinners who have no business judging us. Or is that just me? Here’s my takeaway (at least for now): once she met Christ and knew who He was, she went back to her town and told everybody about what He did and said. Because of her, scripture says, many people believed. Even more people came to see and hear Jesus for themselves, and believed. How many people came to know Jesus because of this nameless woman and her story of what happened at the well?
I can do no less than that in my life and on this blog: tell people what meeting Jesus has done to my life, and how knowing Him has changed me and continues to change me, chipping away at the old me to reveal a new creation.
I can’t save anyone – that’s God’s job – but I can tell my story.