A real encounter with Jesus changes your whole life. Not another like him, number fourteen.
This woman went to the well thirsty, and left satisfied,
she went to the well empty inside and left filled,
she went to the well friendless and lonely, and left knowing real love,
she went to the well believing in some small way the Messiah would come one day, and left, having met him;
she went to the well, a woman scorned and rejected, and skipped away,
a woman loved by Jesus.
Lean in a little to understand the cultural and historical biases of the day, and why John said Jesus ‘had to travel through Samaria’, as though it were the only route—when it was not. This story shows the rich impact Jesus made on people.
--‘Seems once folks met Jesus they were never the same.
--‘Seems once folks meet Jesus they are never the same.
So, Jesus leaves the Judean countryside to return to Galilee, and chooses to go through Samaria because he knows he has a divine appointment waiting there. Jesus breaks the social and religious code, as a Jewish rabbi traveling into Samaritan territory, and then, horror of horrors, as a Jew speaking to a Samaritan, and God forbid, a woman! Let’s take a look at the biases attached to this setting—
Do you know the reason the Jews and Samaritans hated each other? Well, it had been centuries in the making, dating back to 700 B.C., when the Samaritans’ ancestors, the Assyrians invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel and carried its residents into captivity. When a few Israelites escaped and returned home, the Assyrian king sent some of his men to guard the former Israelite territory from future revolts. Over the years that followed, there was intermarriage between Israelites and Assyrians - called Samaritans. Even the religion was ‘half-breed’, so to speak, a mixture of Assyrian superstition and gods with Jewish truths and traditions. The Jews hated the Samaritans, and resentfully, the Samaritans hated the Jews1.
As for speaking to a woman . . . well, Jesus was unaffected by social mores—actually, he violated them in every single encounter he had with women recorded in the gospels.2 Jesus was a revolutionary with regard to his treatment of women! In the first century at every synagogue service, Jewish men prayed, “Blessed art thou, O Lord, who has not made me a woman.” Women sat in a separate section, were not counted in quorums and were rarely taught the Torah. In social life, few women would talk to men outside of their families, and a woman was to have no close contact with any man but her spouse.3 ‘And for rabbis? They were forbidden to speak to women in public.
So here we have Rabbi Jesus addressing a Samaritan woman, “Give Me a drink.” Instantly, she sums up the situation in the form of a question, “How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” Jesus responds with, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.” Just as with Nicodemus, Jesus goes right to the woman’s greatest need – it is not water to quench her physical thirst, but rather ‘living water’ to quench her spiritual thirst.
Jesus knows our Samaritan friend has never known spiritual truth . . . never been satisfied in her soul . . . and so he explains that his living water will make it so she will never thirst again--and this for eternity! He’s got her now. You can hear her urgent demand, ‘tell me how to get it!’
But first … Jesus said, “Go call your husband and come back here.” Uh-oh. He knows. Jesus reveals that he knows all about her life. [your attention? The point is that her several relationships with men reveal that she is grasping for something. That is no different than you and me--our appetites reveal deeper things about us. Hmmm] Yes, Jesus knows all about her. . . he loves her and wants to see her set free.
This is truly a great day! She goes to the well for water and meets Jesus. He sets her free and gives her living water that will last forever. And one more thing: Jesus puts into practice what he had just told Nicodemus: For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus loved the whoevers in the world.
We are the whoevers. In Jesus, we can know freedom and new life AND be with him forever. Yes, that is why the gospel is such good news!
He loves you - he really does,
1 Anne Graham Lotz, Just Give Me Jesus
2 Walter Wink
3 Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew