Woman at the water well

John 4:3-28: The Woman at the Well

Planting a Seed of Love

Aware of the Pharisees’ concern that more people were now coming to hear Him and be baptized than were going to John for baptism, Jesus left Judea and headed for Galilee.


Because of the hatred between the Samaritans and the Jews—they would not even extend the sacred courtesy of offering a drink of water to each other—Jews customarily took a longer route to Galilee to avoid going through Samaria. However, Jesus desired to teach His disciples that God’s salvation is for everyone, regardless of their nationality. Therefore, much against His disciples’ wishes, Jesus chose the shorter route directly through Samaria.


He had to because He knew a woman there who would provide rich soil for planting the seed of truth.


Sychar stood near the plot of ground Jacob bought from Hamor, the father of Shechem, and bequeathed to his son Joseph before he died in Egypt. Jacob’s well was there at the entrance to the valley.


When they came to Jacob’s well, Jesus stopped to rest in the shade of a nearby tree while the disciples continued on into Sychar to buy food. The timing was perfect as it was almost noon.


Jesus, hot and tired, grew thirstier by the minute knowing the cool, refreshing well water was so close yet so unattainable because He had nothing to draw the water with.


As He looked toward the town of Sychar where the disciples had gone, He saw a lone figure emerge from the gates and walk towards the well. After a few minutes, He discerned it was a woman. He smiled, relieved that the excessive heat of the day had not deterred her.


She was the reason He had come this way to begin with.


The woman approached the well and stopped uncertainly when she saw Jesus sitting under the tree. One glance told her He was a Jew, both His facial features and His clothing gave Him away. She sighed with relief. Now, she could ignore Him completely. Being a Jew, He would never stoop to talk to her anyway. And since Jews would never accept water from a Samaritan, she didn’t need to talk to Him either.


Putting Him completely out of her mind, she went straight to the well and secured her drawing pot to the rope. Once attached, she centered the pot under the rope so that it wouldn’t swing while she lowered it. Then, she removed the locking loop holding the crank in place and began unwinding the rope from the crankshaft until she heard the pot splash into the water.


When she felt the weight of the pot tugging heavily on the rope, she began cranking with all her strength to bring it to the top of the well. Within seconds she felt sweat trickling down her face and back.


How she wished she could do this in the cool of the evening like all the other women instead of at the hottest part of the day.


Once the pot was above the rim, she held the crank with one hand, grabbed the pot, and drew it to her. Setting it firmly on the rim of the well, she slipped the locking loop over the handle of the crank. After emptying the water into her much larger water jar, she mopped her face with her scarf and took a minute to catch her breath.


She repeated this procedure two more times before her water jar was full. Gratefully, she untied the drawing pot and sat it securely on the top of her water pot where it doubled as a lid. Thank God it’s only a quarter of a mile back to the city. The heat had sapped her energy. She squared her shoulders and squatted to lift the water jar onto her head for the trip back.


“Will you give me a drink of water?” Jesus asked.


She stood abruptly and whirled to face Him. She had quite literally forgotten He was there. Again, she took in the obvious Jewish clothing and facial features… and His genuine smile. Stunned, she blurted, “You’re a Jew and yet you are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”


Jesus smiled, “If you only knew the amazing gift that God has given all humanity and who it is that is asking for a drink of this well water, you would have asked Him for a drink, and He would have feely given you living water to drink.”


She caulked her head to the side considering Him. He was calm and friendly. The normal Jewish animosity and disdain were absent. She smiled, “Sir, you don’t even have anything to use to draw water with for yourself, much less for me, so how in the world are you going to get this “living water” you are offering? Are you trying to say that you are greater than our father Jacob who provided this well for us and even drank from it himself, along with his sons and his livestock?”


Jesus chuckled. “It’s true. I don’t have anything to draw water from this well. But it’s also true that anyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again and again. They will always be looking for water to quench their thirst. But whoever drinks of the living water that I will give them will find their thirst truly satisfied. They will never look anywhere else for water again. In fact, the water that I give them will become like an artesian well bubbling up inside of them and giving them eternal life.”


Her heart leaped at the hint that He had a solution to her soul’s deepest craving. Having drunk deeply at the world’s stagnant cisterns, only to discover it augmented her thirst, He had her full attention. She could tell He was offering her something better, but she wasn’t exactly sure what it was.


“Sir, please give me a drink of this living water so that I don’t have to come out here to draw from this well that never truly satisfies.”


Jesus rejoiced inwardly that He had piqued her interest. She was asking for what He wanted to give her, but He wanted her to be even thirstier so she would relish it more. “Why don’t you go and ask your husband to join us, and I can tell you both about it.”


She colored slightly and looked back towards the town gate, “I don’t have a husband,” she replied evenly.


Jesus looked at her with compassion and love. Tenderly, He replied, “I know. It’s true. In reality, you have had five husbands and the one you are living with now is not your husband. You are being very truthful.”


As He spoke the color left her face and she stepped back away from Him tripping over her water jug. She caught the rim of the well to keep herself upright and swallowed hard. How did He know that? He didn’t even know her name, nor she His. She was sure she had never seen Him before.


She stole a look at Him and was stunned to see love and compassion on His face instead of condemnation. What sort of man was this who could know her sordid past and not despise her? Even her own people despised her, and He was a Jew.


Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she looked Him square in the face. Jesus made no threatening moves. He sat calmly waiting for her to speak.


She pulled her scarf tighter around her head. Shakily she stated, “Obviously, you are a prophet.”


Her mouth felt dry, and her hands were clammy. Looking beyond and above Jesus at Mount Gerizim rising behind them, she drew comfort from the sacred mount. With a wave of relief, the answer to her dilemma presented itself. If He were a prophet, He could give the definitive answer to the one crucial question all Samaritans had. Plus, it was a much safer topic.


Looking back at Jesus she said, “We used to have a temple here on Mt. Gerizim that we could offer sacrifices in, but it was destroyed. But even before that, you Jews said the only place we could make sacrifices to God is in Jerusalem. Is that really true?


“My dear lady,” Jesus replied, “believe me when I tell you that the time is fast approaching, in fact it has already arrived, when the place where you worship won’t matter. Unfortunately, you Samaritans have mixed idol worship into your worship of the true God, and it has caused you much confusion. The Jews are in possession of the whole truth about God and His character because He revealed it to them. And the Savior will come through them.”


He turned and looked up at the summit of Mt. Gerazim. “However, the Father is not concerned with sacred geographical locations, rituals, sacrifices, and ceremonies.”  He faced her again and smiled. “What He desires most is people who will internalize His words and live them out in their daily lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.”


She stared at Him. “Are You saying that salvation does not come through the sacrifices? That God is accessible no matter where I am?”


Jesus nodded. “Exactly. God prefers the worship of those who love Him and His word more than anything else, and through the power of the Holy Spirit manifest His character—His love, mercy, and justice—to those around them.”


She had never heard anything like this before in her life. It turned her whole understanding of religion upside down. Could it really be true? Could she trust Him? …It all seemed too good to be true.


She shook her head. She wasn’t smart enough to figure this out.


She sighed, “Well, I know that the Messiah is coming very soon. And when He comes, He will clear up all this confusion.”


Jesus looked at her steadily and said, “I am the Messiah.”


Shocked, she stared open-mouthed at Him. It made perfect sense. No wonder He knew all about her. The most amazing part was that He, the Messiah, had chosen to talk to her, a Samaritan woman. The Messiah was a Jew, but He loved her. He was her Messiah! The Messiah loved and accepted Samaritans!


Oh, He could clear up so many things for her. She had so many questions she wanted to ask Him.


“Master,” Peter interrupted, “We have brought You some food.”


The woman turned in surprise to see a group of men standing awkwardly on the other side of the well looking questioningly from her to Jesus. His disciples maybe? Looking beyond them to the town of Sychar, her eyes widened. Oh my! They have no idea that the Messiah is just outside the gate, resting by the well. She had to go tell them! They could all come and learn from Him because He loved Samaritans too.


Forgetting all about her water jar and without even saying goodbye, she took off running for the town.


She couldn’t wait to share the news with the town’s people.



Read more first person stories from The Gospel of John or explore  Lessons from the Gospel of John.

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