The Woman at the Well
- authored by Jason, Hedgelinenews Contributor
The longest one-on-one interaction in scripture between the Savior and an individual is recorded in John chapter 4 in which he met with a Samaritan woman at a well where she was drawing water. This story reveals a pattern the Savior uses with each of us, features his wonderful teaching style, and illustrates how Jesus uses our individual life circumstances to bring us to the knowledge of truth.
Knowing a little history of Samaria will help with context. The Jews held the Samaritans in contempt. Why? When Assyria carried the ten tribes into captivity, the King of Assyria sent foreigners to occupy the land of Samaria. They intermarried with remaining Israelites in the region, mixing their religions. This resulted in a people with a corrupted religion: a mixture of Judaism and idolatry. Both groups disagree on the location of the temple and therefore where proper worship should be performed. When the Jews attempted to rebuild their temple and Jerusalem, the Samaritans actively tried to stop them, even building their own temple elsewhere, claiming that Moses had directed the temple to be built there instead of Jerusalem. The Jews destroyed the Samarian temple, leaving them without a house of worship. Samaria also became a place of refuge for outlaws and criminals … these fugitives would flee to Samaria to avoid Jewish courts, increasing Jewish hatred for all things Samaritan. Finally, the Samaritans only believed in the five books of Moses, rejecting the rest of the scriptures, and deepening their despising by the Jews. The fact that Jesus, a Jewish Rabbi, was beginning his ministry by traveling there was unique enough, but the person with whom he chose to initiate this ministry was even more eyebrow raising.
Introducing the Woman at the Well … What made her such an unlikely candidate for the Savior’s focus, at least in the minds of his disciples?
First, she was a woman, a Samaritan woman at that, and in a patriarchal society she was a second-class citizen, even within her own despised Samaritan population. Second, she was outcast even by other women, evidenced by the fact that she was drawing water alone in the heat of the day instead of with the other women in the cool of the early morning as was custom. Perhaps she wasn’t permitted to go to the well with the other women because of the next reason: she was 5-times divorced and as we will see, she was living with a 6th man to whom she wasn’t married. No, the Savior approached this person for a reason. He likely chose her as the best example of each of us: sinful, shunned, seemingly worthless, spiritually blind, and lost.
John begins his description of their interaction by making clear that the Savior was alone with this woman. Verse 8: For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat. It is important to realize that we make our most important spiritual realizations and work out much of our salvation when we are alone with the Lord, not sitting in church or in gatherings with our friends and family.
The Savior begins by asking her for a drink and she quickly points out in Verse 9: How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
He answers her in Verse 10: If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. He is beginning to teach her something greater than the physical situation they are occupying together at that moment.
Like most of us, she still didn’t understand and says in verse 11: Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Effectively saying “How can you give me any water? You don’t even have a cup or a rope to fetch it with!”
So Jesus teaches her a bit more about this water: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
And in verse 15 she meets a requirement, SHE makes her REQUEST: Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. This is a key step in our lives … we can learn about the Savior and his gospel and what he has to offer all we want, but until we ASK him one-on-one to receive, we won’t get it.
After she asks, the Savior then begins the process of delivering the special kind of water that only he can deliver by doing THREE THINGS:
1) He shows the woman her sins by asking her to bring her husband. She responds by saying that she has no husband. He reveals that this is true because she’s living with a man to whom she is NOT MARRIED but that she’s had 5 husbands before him. This shows that when you ask the Savior for what he has to offer, you must face your sins and weaknesses with him.
2) He teaches her about TRUE WORSHIP: She voices the concern that she has no temple wherein she can worship God. He teaches her that worshiping God will soon not require a temple or any other building but that worshiping the Father is done in “spirit and truth”. He also teaches her about the true nature of his Father. This shows that when you ask the Savior for what he has to offer, you must be able to shed incorrect doctrine you may hold and accept his truths.
3) Finally, he teaches her that HE IS THE MESSIAH, the one that even the Samaritans look forward to, the source of all salvation, the Savior of the world. This shows that when you ask the Savior for what he has to offer, you must accept that he is who he is: and he is I AM.
The woman apparently and finally understood what it was he was offering. How do we know this? Verse 28: The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city – notice here that she abandons the objects of her temporal work, those pots which hold inferior water, and rushes to tell others saying to the people of Samaria Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? This resulted in 2 days of teaching by the Savior and multiple conversions in, of all places: SAMARIA!
Like the woman at the well, we each must have our one-on-one teaching moment with the Savior before we finally understand what he’s all about and what sort of water he has to offer us. He approaches us no matter what our station. In fact, the lower we are, the farther we’ve wandered, the more in need of him that we find ourselves: that is the moment that he approaches. We will learn about his gospel, his “living water”. We might not get it at first or even second, but when we start to understand internally that he has something wonderful to offer, we can take the next step and say to him “I want this water you’re talking about” and “Please give me what you have to offer”. It is then that you will have to face your own sins and weaknesses with him. He will teach you how to worship his father “in spirit and truth” and you can do it anywhere. He will teach you the false doctrines that you hold in your heart. Finally, you will gain your own clear understanding that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the source of salvation and of all good, the Savior of the World. At that moment, you will put your own waterpot down – meaning the mundane concerns and labors of this world will no longer be your priority – and like Lehi after he tasted of the fruit of the tree – you will strive to point others to Christ.