Jesus and the Woman at the Well

When was the last time you spoke to a stranger about Christ?

  • Jesus Himself was constantly looking for someone to change for the better. The Bible depicts some of these encounters and each provides important lessons for us. Interestingly Jesus did not approach just those who were like Himself, or even like each other.
  • Turn to John 4– This encounter stands as a great contrast to Nicodemus in Chapter 3
    • He was a Jew; She was a Samaritan;
    • He was a man; she was a woman.
    • He was a teacher of the law, she was uneducated.
    • He was a respected religious leader, she was an adulterous.
    • He recognized Jesus as a great teacher, she did not know who he was.
      • Yet Jesus was vitally interested in both. He had a message for both… , and it was not a different one.  Jesus calls us to take the message of the gospel to differing types of people.

 

What are the lessons we learn from this story?

 

I.  Christ came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10);

A. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews – During the period between the testaments, the foreign non-Jews intermarried with the population of Jews who had not been deported, forming a mixed race known as the Samaritans (the name derives from the region and capital city, both called Samaria).  The new settlers brought their idolatrous religion with them, which became intermingled with the worship of Yahweh.  In time, however, the Samaritans abandoned their idols and worshiped Yahweh alone, after their own fashion (for example, they accepted only the Pentateuch as canonical Scripture, and worshiped God in their own temple on Mount Gerizim, not at Jerusalem).

1.  This social hatred did not deter Jesus from connecting with this woman. Jesus had left Judea and was on his way to Galilee (v. 3), and vs. 4 tells us he “needed” to go through Samaria. It wasn’t absolutely true that it was geographically necessary. Most Jews went thru Trans-Jordan, because Samaritans were so offensive that they were to be avoided. Not considered a part of the Holy land. The Lord, did not hesitate to traverse Samaritan territory.

  1. Some scholars, therefore, view this “must needs” language as referring to a “compulsion other than mere convenience. As the Savior of all men, Jesus had to confront the smoldering suspicion and enmity between Jew and Samaritan by ministering to his enemies” (Tenney 1981, 54). J

b.  Jesus mission demanded that He speak to the hated Samaritans, and teach His disciples the “spirit” of mercy.   James and John are enraged at Jesus’ unwelcome reception by the Samaritans in Luke 9;  Luke 9:54-56 4 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

2.  The Setting:

  • Jesus was “wearied”; The Greek word for “weary” is kopiao (from kopos, in secular Greek, a beating or weariness caused by it). As we might express it, the Savior was “beat,” i.e., exhausted.  His humanity and commitment on display.
  • 6th hour – By Roman time it was 6 pm – a long day of traveling.

 

B.  “God is no respecter of  persons” – A Samaritan woman approaches the well to draw water. Imagine this woman’s  surprise when a Jew without a bucket asked her for a drink. (dealings in vs. 9 literally means “to use the same utensils”-v. 9) How unusual and countercultural was this conversation?

  1. Jesus broke the barriers of hate and racial bigotry:
  • When the Jews were rebuilding Jerusalem (following the Babylonian captivity [606-536 B.C.]), the Samaritans offered their services. They were summarily rebuffed (Ezra 4:1-3) and the Samaritans responded in kind (4:4ff). Josephus characterizes the Samaritans as idolaters and hypocrites (Antiquities of the Jews 9.14.3). Edersheim quotes a Jewish saying: “May I never set eyes on a Samaritan” (1947, 401).
  •  The Jewish attitude toward women was less than ideal. While the Old Testament afforded great dignity to womanhood (cf. Proverbs 31:10ff), the Hebrews over the years had imbibed some of the attitudes of paganism. Many a Jewish man started the day with a prayer to God, expressing thanks that he was neither a Gentile, a slave, or a woman!
  • A Hebrew man did not talk with women in the street—not even with his mother, sister, daughter or wife! (cf. Lightfoot 1979, 286-287). According to the most liberal view of Deuteronomy 24:1, a Hebrew husband could divorce his wife if she was found “familiarly talking with men” (Edersheim 1957, 157).
  • William Barclay even tells of a segment of the Pharisees known as the “bleeding and bruised” Pharisees; when they saw a woman approaching, they would close their eyes, hence, were running into things constantly! (1956, 142-143). And yet the Master addressed this woman: “Give me to drink.”

b.  Jesus was not restricted by the social barriers of his day from reaching out to those who needed God.

C.  Jesus makes a startling offer:  Jesus words are carefully chosen to draw her interest.

1.  Note that (1) Jesus spoke of a gift. The Greek term is dorea, signifies a “free gift” (Vine 1991, 341). A free gift stimulates anyone’s interest!  (2) He mentions  living water, i.e., a water that bestows life. This was what she came to get – needed it everyday.  (3) He associates these blessings with a who, i.e., he suggested that she was talking at this very moment to someone special, a depository of life

2.   Jesus’ offer reflects the gospel in miniature. (1) The gospel is the offer of a free gift of salvation; the expression of God’s grace; (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23).  (2) It is available only through that person who was conversing with the Samaritan woman, the Messiah (John 14:6; Acts 4:11-12).  (3) The result is the promise of life, i.e., union with God.

D.  The Lord’s statement produces a startling effect. The woman immediately changed her tone and addresses the friendly stranger with a term of respect. “Sir,” she says with some bewilderment, “you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where will you get that living water? You’re not greater than our father Jacob, are you, who gave us this well, which provided water for him, his family,   She did not understand that Jesus was talking about spiritual realities, but tantalized by the oofer she urges Jesus, “Give me this water.”

 

II.   A Call to Repentance:  The Samaritan lady  needed salvation (as Jesus offered).  Christ determines that it is now time to bring the discussion closer to home.

A.  Jesus has two goals here:

1)  First, he must penetrate her conscience with a sense of sin.  She needs Christ.

2)  Second, it is imperative that he establish his own authority as a spokesman from God. Christ is who she needs.  In this sense what needed to be revealed was her sin, and Jesus’ authority (identity).

B.   vs. 16 – “Go, call your husband, and return,” instructed the Lord.  The woman was taken back and abruptly answered,  “I don’t have a husband!” (v. 17)

1.  Jesus tells her she has told the truth. But she has revealed more than she intended.  John 4:17-18

You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”    To paraphrase Jesus’ answer:  “You’ve told the truth, lady. But the fact is, you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now are with actually is not your husband. (cf. 4:18).

a.  There are two ways of looking at this— both reveal the woman’s sinful position.  Consider the Greek verb echo, rendered “have” (v. 17), may be used in the sense of “married to” or it can signify to “have” or “be with.”

  • And so, the Lord may have been saying to the woman: “You’ve been married to five husbands, and the man to whom you are now ‘married’ is not a ‘husband’ in the true sense.”
  • Or  – “You’ve been married five times, and the man with whom you now are living cannot be called a ‘husband.’”  The point is she was in a sinful relationship and she needed the salvation that only he could offer.

2.  It was a startling revelation to the woman. This stranger had exposed details of her life he could not possibly have known naturally. “Sir, I perceive [Greek theoreo—to give careful observation to detail] that you are a prophet” (v. 19).  Later she will tell her villagers, “Come see a man who told me all things I ever did!” (v. 29).  Her words revealed her faith in his identity and her accountability to Him.

 C.  Was there a call to Commitment? The fact that Jesus offered this living water freely (Salvation) did not indicate that He was not seeking a commitment on her part -like  Nicodemus he was looking for a heart that would produce faith.

1.   She immediately attempts to change the subject, based on her declaration of Jesus being a prophet (As Nicodemus did), but Jesus brings the conversation back to the her commitment to God – John 4:22-24 “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

2.  This was more than just a statement of fact; it was an invitation to this woman to become a true worshipper (the hour is coming and now is!) through her submission to His will. She recognizes it as such coming from a Jewish prophet, and declares her faith in the coming Messiah. John 4:25  “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

3.  Then comes the clincher: Jesus declares for her His own identity – the focus of her faith that He is seeking.  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

a.  What a dynamic confrontation. She had come to get a bucket of water, and had found herself (through a look at her own life) and had found the one who could transform her into a true worshipper of God – The Messiah!

D.  The response of the woman in vs. 28-30 seems to indicate that she was ready to make that commitment. “The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  Her first desire was to lead others to the same “water” that she had found. She does not assert her faith on others, but invites them to investigate the evidence.

1.  Her faith in Jesus bore fruit in the belief of others and Jesus seems excited about the prospect of reaping the harvest that was before Him (as opposed to the disciples’ apathetic and offensive attitude).

2.  vs. 39-43And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”   Months before Peter’s famous confession, these lowly Samaritans were brought to the same point of  faith through this chance encounter between Jesus and one sinner. That what happens when God finds the good soil of an honest heart… He is seeking a commitment.

 

Conclusion:  Are you thirsty?  Who can satisfy that thirst?