Summary: In Christ's interaction with this woman at the well, He gives us a picture of who He is and why He came into this world. He didn't come to run away from sinners, but to call them to himself
She was tired. She was tired of knowing that if she walked into a room full of people laughing and chatting, it would go eerily and suddenly quiet the moment she walked through the door. She was tired of hearing people whisper as she walked by, and knowing exactly what they were talking about.
Sychar was a small town, and in small towns word travels fast. The grapevine had been full of juicy gossip about her on many occasions. But after 5 failed marriages it became more the rule than the exception. But the latest piece of news was like blood thrown to the piranhas. She was living with a man that wasn’t her husband. She knew it was wrong, but she also knew that none of these people who loved to talk about her had ever cared to ask her why. Why, was she living this way? Was it because she was so lonely, or because she had no means us supporting herself, so this was her only option? Was it because of the complications and scars (emotional and physical) of so many failed relationships that she found the idea of marriage difficult? Silence.
Sychar wasn’t known for much besides being the home of Jacob’s Well. It certainly wasn’t known for being a place where people are given second chances. In this case even that wouldn’t have helped, she needed 5 or 6 or 7.
So John tells us she goes to the well, but she goes at high noon and by herself. Unusual. Most of the time the women would meet at the well together to chat and have some social time. In ancient days messengers would go to the well to share news because it was the nerve-center of communication. The women would also go in the cooler morning and evening hours, to avoid the oppressive Palestinian sun.
It must have been that over time, she realized that the blazing heat from the sun at its highest point was more bearable than the blazing stares, the knowing looks, and the shaming silence from the other women. So she developed a routine which kept her from seeing anyone else. But this day was different. She wouldn’t be alone, there was a weary and dusty man sitting next to the well.
She wasn’t used to people talking to her, so it must have been surprising to hear this man say to her even something as simple as, “Give me a drink.” But that was only the beginning of the shock! “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” she said. It was a legitimate question. For centuries the Jews had held nothing but contempt for the Samaritans. The Jews thought of them as ethnic half-breeds, and since they only viewed the first 5 books of the Old Testament as Holy, they looked down upon as Spiritual half-breeds as well. Jews went to great lengths to avoid Samaritans. When travelling, pious Jews would rather add a day’s journey to their trip by walking on the borders of Samaria rather than defile themselves by walking through the midst of such “unclean” people. In fact, the only place you would find Jews and Samaritans living together was in a Leper’s Colony as we find in Luke 17. Pushed out to the margins of each of their respective societies, they would band together only in these extremes.
So it was like a bombshell, “Give me a drink.” But Jesus answers her honest questions with some truth about himself. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Living water? Him giving ME a drink? “What’s going on here?” she thought to herself, “And who does this guy think he is?”
“Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus is greater than Jacob, and Jesus makes this woman an offer of something significant, of value, of eternal importance: “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 again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
He wasn’t talking about mere water, or the well, he was talking about something so much more. This woman who had been offered contempt, and shame, and judgment was being offered the living water of God’s grace. She was being given the fullness of Christ’s entire purpose and mission in this world. But she didn’t quite understand yet, how could she. But she does respond, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” It was an exhilarating moment for her. But in the next instant, I’m sure she felt it would all unravel, as her past once again intruded on any hope she might have for the future.