Summary: The Samaritan woman encounters Jesus at the well. Jesus reveals her past and she meets the Messiah.
Jesus and the woman at the well
John 4: 1-42
The story of the nameless Samaritan woman at the well, recorded only in the Gospel of John, is a revealing one, full of many truths and powerful lessons for us today. This story follows on the heels of the account of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and prominent member of the Jewish Sanhedrin (John 3:1–21). And in John 4:4–42 we read about Jesus’ conversation with a lone Samaritan woman who had come to get water from a well (known as Jacob’s well) located near the city of Sychar in Samaria.
This was an extraordinary woman. She was a Samaritan, a race of people that the Jews utterly despised as having no claim on their God. The story of the woman at the well teaches us that God loves us in spite of our bankrupt lives. God values us enough to actively seek us, to wel-come us to intimacy, and to rejoice in our worship.
There are many other valuable truths we glean from this story. We learn that:
1) Only through Jesus can we obtain and receive eternal life: “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’” (John 4:13–14; cf. John 14:6).
2) Jesus’ ministering to those outcasts of the Jewish society (the Samaritans) reveals that all people are valuable to God and that Jesus desires that we demonstrate love to everyone . . . including even our enemies (John 4:7–9; Matthew 5:44).
5) Our testimony about Jesus is a powerful tool in leading others to believe in Him: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world”’ (John 4:39–42).
Additionally, we learn from Jesus’ dialogue with the woman at the well three absolute truths about salvation:
1) Salvation comes only to those who recognize their desperate need for the spiritual life they do not have. Living water can be obtained only by those who recognize that they are spiritually thirsty.
2) Salvation comes only to those who confess and repent of their sin and desire forgiveness.
Our study is on our Lord’s dealing with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman in the third and fourth chapters of the Gospel of John. The similarities in these two encounters are few, while the contrasts are numerous. In both cases, our Lord is presenting Himself to individuals as the promised Messiah of Israel.
Nicodemus was a man, the Samaritan was a woman. Nicodemus was an orthodox, conservative Jew, the woman a half-breed apostate from Judaism. Nicodemus was a prominent, highly-regarded leader, perhaps one of the best-known religious teachers of his day. The woman was well-known, too, but her reputation had to do with the number of men she had lived with. Nicodemus sought out his interview with the Messiah, while the woman ‘chanced’ to meet with Him.
So far, all the pluses seem to be in favor of Nicodemus. But we should not fail to point out some additional contrasts. Nicodemus was not reported to have been immediately converted, while the woman’s faith is evident. The conversation with Nicodemus had no impact on the lives of his peers. Indeed, Jesus had to leave Judea because of the Pharisees (John 4:1-3). But the woman brought back nearly the whole town with her testimony, and Jesus was invited to stay on (4:39-42). While Jesus spoke of Himself to the Jews in veiled terms (cf. John 2:18-22), He gave one of the clearest statements of His identity to this woman (4:26). The Jews had already begun to reject Him, but the Samaritans received Him as the Savior of the world (4:42).
Let us look, then, to this account of the conversion of a Samaritan city, for lessons from the Master in sharing our faith, even across tremendous cultural barriers
The Conversion of the Samaritan Woman
The occasion for our Lord’s encounter is a bit unusual. Our Lord was passing through Samaria, retreating from Judea to Galilee. The reason for our Lord’s departure was His untimely popularity. The Pharisees were attempting to capitalize on the greater popularity of the ministry of Jesus than of John. They sought to promote a rift. Rather than take advantage of His popularity our Lord ran from it, for it was untimely, and would tend to undermine His ministry rather than underscore it.