Summary: This is the 3rd in a series of 5 sermons of people who encountered Christ personally & how their lives were changed. The woman at the well invites us to meet Jesus at the struggles in our life and rise above our troubles.
It all started with a simple request for a drink of water.
It is noon, the hottest part of the day. Jesus has been traveling with the disciples. He’s on his way from Jerusalem, traveling North to the area of Galilee. The journey takes them through the countryside of an area called Samaria.
Noon finds them paused on the way near the city of Sychar. Jesus is tuckered out (that’s what it says in my southern gospel). He rests by the well where the people of Sychar come to get water while his faithful followers go into the city to pick up some lunch. Its a famous well, a landmark in the community.
The story goes that this land many years ago was given by Jacob (later to be known as Israel) to his son Joseph. Jacob is one of the three great patriarchs of the faith and an important link to these people.
You see, Samaritans are not like by Jewish Israelites, because although Samaritans might descend from the same ancestors as the Jews, they don’t worship right. They’re the Isrealites from across the tracks.
Actually, they were only half Israeli descendants because long ago, when war broke out, and Assyria invaded their land, the Assyrians followed a practice of exporting Israeli citizens to other occupied countries and brought foreigners from those countries to the Samaritan region. It was a way to create upheaval among the people and to keep them from gathering together to try to overthrow the occupiers.
During that time, the Israelis intermarried with these foreigners, and adopted some of their ideas, particularly some of their religion and religious practices. Because of this, Samaritans are known as semi-pagan individuals who don’t follow the true faith of Israel.
When they tried, years later, to realign themselves with other Israelites from the south, they weren’t welcome. They had too many of their own ideas. So they set up their own temple of worship (which did NOT go over well) and set up their own quasi-Jewish faith.
And because of the dislike of others for them, they clung to their common ancestry heritage with other Israelites. They have great pride in the tradition that Jacob gave this land which they have possession of to his son Joseph,
and great pride in this well.
The story goes that when Jacob was searching for a wive, who later became his beloved Rachel, he saw her at a well. When he pulled back the stone from on top of the well, the well filled with fresh water and came gushing out. This abundance of water lasted for 20 years.
Water is an important item when you live in desert regions. It means the difference between life and death. Thats why this abundant well is a big dea.
Now, this well isn’t the same well where Jacob met Rachel, but Jacob and well traditions go way back. And this is Jacob’s land, and this is Jacob’s well, an important landmark and life source for this community.
As Jesus gazes towards the city, looking in the direction that the disciples have gone, he sees a lone figure approaching. This figure continues to make their way towards the well where Jesus sits, and Jesus immediately recognizes that something is wrong with this picture for three reasons.
First of all, the figure approaching is a woman and she’s coming to the well in the middle of the day, and she’s coming alone.
Noon time was the wrong time for any woman to come to the well. During the day, women were secluded within their homes, seeing to their domestic duties. It was the men who gathered at this public community place during the middle part of the day, and for that reason alone no woman would come to the well at this hour.
Because coming to the well now, in the presence of men was a shameful, brazen thing to do. To do such a thing would ruin her reputation.
But it wasn’t just coming to the well in the middle of the day that was shameful. She was coming alone. No woman would come to such a public place alone. She is breaking with all the conventions of society. There was something unique about this woman.
Coming to the well all alone gives a person time to think. I wonder what was going on in her head. What was she mulling over on that long walk to the well? I wonder if it was the predicament she found herself in that sent her to the well alone in the middle of the day.
Was she struggling over her situation in life? Was she wishing, for whatever reason, things could be different for her?
Was she mulling over the problem that brought her to the well alone at the wrong time of day? Was she wishing that someone anyone could help her find a way out, could save her, could rescue her from her burdens? Could change her life?