In the Gospel of John Jesus engages in conversation a number of people, some foes, others new converts, and yet others undecided. One among those He meets along the way is the Samaritan woman. In her case we get a vivid idea of the human condition and Jesus’ response to it.
The woman comes to the well about midday to get water. She meets Jesus there and has a conversation with Him. Jesus knows more about her than she can imagine. The passage is replete with irony.
Jesus came to Samaria to a village known as Sychar. From the woman whom He meets at Jacob’s well He asks for a drink. The woman is astounded that He would be speaking to a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans had been enemies for a long time.
Christ offers the woman living water. The irony centers around these two words. The Samaritan woman thinks that living water is physical water as found in the well. Jesus is talking about something else. He explains, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4: 13-14 ESV) The woman still does not understand: “Sir, give me this water , so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4: 15 ESV)
Jesus changes the topic of the conversation by asking the woman to call her husband to join them. She rightfully says that she has no husband. Jesus knows she does not know what He knows. Jesus knows that she has had five husbands, and the one she is living with now is not her husband. She declares that Jesus is a prophet. The text does not tell us , but one can imagine that for her it was a very awkward moment. Perhaps, calling Jesus a prophet was a way of flattering Him in order to ingratiate Him.
The woman continues with the observation that Jews worship in Jerusalem while Samaritans worship on Gerizim. Jesus counters this statement by pointing out that the Father will be worshipped in truth and spirit, not at Jerusalem or Gerizim. She responds that the Messiah is coming. Jesus answers that He is the Messiah. He is the “I am.”
When the disciple return from the town, the woman goes to the villagers to tell them about her encounter with Jesus. She asks them whether Jesus might be the Christ. Because of the woman’s witness, people in the town came to believe in Christ. The villagers asked Jesus to stay with them which He did for two days.
The story is rich in content and tells us some things important for our own witness and defense of the faith. Whenever we are relating to the atheist and unbeliever, we must always remember that we do not come to them as perfect people. The Samaritan woman was a sinner. So are we. Belief in Christ as the One who gives eternal life does not mean perfection in this life. It must await the coming of the kingdom. Our approach to others must be done in all humility. No self-righteousness has room in our relationship to them. We must also remember that Jesus did not find the Samaritan woman’s sin to be a bar to His having a conversation with her. Nor did He find her gender or ethnicity an impediment. Our relationship with God in Christ depends solely on His willingness to have a relationship with us. It depends on His grace.
The woman witnesses to Jesus and is the means by which some villagers are converted. She did not keep the message to herself. Many believed as a result of her witness. We too, when opportunity presents itself, must engage others, either individually or in groups, for the sake of and in the Name of Christ.
Michael G. Tavella
February 13, 2020