We don’t know the details of her past. Five husbands later (perhaps due to divorce, war, illness or accident) she now finds herself single…again. She thirsts for a loving, stable, unconditional love relationship, but it eludes her. Now, she’s living with a man who is not her husband. She may or may not love him…but for the foreseeable future, it’s what a woman in first century Samaria needs in order to survive. She knows the people in the village question her morals. She avoids them when possible.
It’s noon on the hottest day of the year. In this god-forsaken desert area, the other women have already been to the well in the cool of the morning to catch up on the village gossip and get their water. But she chooses this time of day in order to avoid them. Maybe she can get her water and leave before anyone sees her. She wonders if the man at home will still be there when she returns. Her future is anything but certain.
But wait, there’s another person at the well. Why is someone at the well this time of day in the scorching sun? And it appears to be a Jewish man…perhaps a rabbi. With downcast eyes, her muscles tense and she is careful not to make eye contact as she approaches the well. The man breaks protocol and speaks to her.
Whoa. Didn’t see that one coming.
Didn’t he know the rules? Number one, Jewish men were never to address a woman without her hubby present. Second, they were to absolutely never speak to a Samaritan woman. And third, Jewish rabbis, especially, were not allowed to interact with women looked upon as a bit shady. But, today, Jewish law will be completely ignored.
I doubt if the woman woke up that hot day anticipating a conversation with her Maker. But the man at the well was Jesus. And it was no coincidence he stayed behind at this exact location to rest while his disciples traveled ahead to the village of Sychar for food.
The woman needed an intervention and was about to get one of epic, divine proportions. Jesus throws out Jewish protocol…as he so often did….and strikes up a conversation with her. BTW, this is the longest conversation recorded in the bible between Jesus and another person. And, here’s the rub….it’s with a woman…a non-Jew…and between two ethnicities (Jew and Samaritan) that held deep hostility towards each other. It was the trifecta of political incorrectness.
Dangling a carrot in front of her he offers the possibility of living water. He further surprises her with a very candid conversation about her past….five husbands and a sixth man living with her who is not her husband. All of a sudden he has her attention. Who was this stranger who knew so much about her? And what is all this nonsense about living water?
After discussing what would be needed to obtain this living water, she tries to avoid further embarrassment by dismissing the subject with, “I know the Messiah is coming, he will explain everything to us” (John 4:25). Jesus answers, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:26).
Double Woah. Definitely didn’t see that one coming.
JC’s disciples return and, after their shock of seeing him speaking with a Samaritan woman, confirm his credentials. Her eyes are opened and she realizes that, despite her past and present situation, she can have the living water of eternal life, grace and forgiveness today and forever if she will confess her sins and change her life.
The setting of this encounter by the village well is significant in this story. In this arid region, a well is a vital, life-giving force. Without the water it provides, people die. Our girl went to the well for essential, life-giving water to quench her thirst. She went to the well for water to cleanse her body.
She got both.
Although not in the way she expected.