I have often been intrigued with the incidences in the Bible when people have, what appear to be, chance encounters with God. God is always at work in our world and He invites us to participate in what He is doing. Think about Moses on the backside of the desert. One day, he encounters a burning bush. Moses wasn’t looking for a burning bush. He wasn’t looking for an encounter with God.
It merely occurred, because God had great plans and He chose to involve Moses.
Remember young Gideon, who was processing wheat one day when he encountered an angel sent by God. This young man was the least likely person to be singled out by God for an encounter. He was from the least tribe, and the least family in the tribe and he was the youngest of his family. Certainly God would choose someone of higher stature to work through. But, God is no respecter of persons.
Think about the three Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These three boys never dreamed that they would encounter God in a burning fiery furnace. They sure never went there looking for God. But in the midst of an impossible situation, they found God.
A Divine Appointment
Our text is just such an encounter. And at first glance, it does not appear to be an encounter of great importance. But I contend, that this is probably one of the greatest encounters experienced by a person, who in all likelihood, never dreamed that God would stoop so low, as to even consider that she was worthy of an encounter with the Living Lord.
And like other instances of God’s intervention in a person’s life, this was no accident. We see in verse 4 that it was necessary for Jesus to go through Samaria. Why? He could have taken three possible routes: along the coast, across the Jordan and up through Perea, or straight through Samaria. Orthodox Jews avoided Samaria because there was a long-standing, deep-seated hatred between them and the Samaritans.
The Samaritans were a mixed race, part Jew and part Gentile, that grew out of the Assyrian captivity of the ten northern tribes in 727 B.C. Rejected by the Jews because they could not prove their genealogy, the Samaritans established their own temple and religious services on Mt. Gerizim. This only fanned the fires of prejudice. So intense was their dislike of the Samaritans that some of the Pharisees prayed that no Samaritan would be raised in the resurrection! When His enemies wanted to call Jesus an insulting name, the called Him a Samaritan (John 8:48). Even in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Samaritans were prevented from helping to rebuild the wall and the temple.
But Jesus was on a divinely appointed schedule. It was necessary for Him to go through Samaria. Why? Because He would meet a woman there and lead her into saving faith, the kind of true faith that would affect an entire village. Such a small thing. Such a seemingly insignificant individual. One that surely was not worthy of a confrontation by the Great and Holy God became man. But Jesus did not "despise the small things."
Jesus goes to Jacob’s well and there he encounters the reason for his route through Samaria. He was about to keep His divine appointment.
It is not only significant that Jesus was speaking to a Samaritan, but also the fact that she was a woman makes this story even more inconceivable. The strict Rabbis forbade a Rabbi to greet a woman in public. A Rabbi might not even speak to his own wife or daughter in public. There were even Pharisees who were called "the bruised and bleeding Pharisees" because they shut their eyes when they saw a woman on the street and walked into walls and houses because they couldn’t see. For a Rabbi to be seen speaking to a woman in public was the end of his reputation ... and yet Jesus spoke to this woman. Not only was she a woman; she was also a woman of notorious character. No decent man, let alone a Rabbi, would have been seen in her company, or even exchanging a word with her ... and yet Jesus spoke to her.
Why she should come to that well is something of a mystery, for it was more than a half-mile from Sychar where she must have stayed and there was water there. I believe that she was there because she was such a moral outcast among the women of the village that they treated her in such a way that she had to come all the way out there to Jacob’s well where she could draw water in peace.
A Disarming Approach
Jesus simply asks the Samaritan woman for a drink. He displays his humanity.
One of the characteristics of our Savior that we have a hard time emulating is His transparency. Jesus never professed to be anything other than what He was. But in making this request of this woman, Jesus disarms her. Of all the things she expected to hear from this "Rabbi" she never imagined that He would speak, must less admit to her, a Samaritan woman, that He had a need and that He would ask her to try to fulfill that need.
The fact that He asked her for a drink, was most disarming. She knew He was a Jew. She apparently knew that He was a Rabbi. John clarifies her astonishment by adding in verse 9, "For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans." The way this is translated in the NASB or the KJV is an overstatement.
Even the Pharisees permitted the use of eggs, fruits, and vegetables from Gentiles. Jesus’ disciples had gone to a Samaritan town to purchase food. The phrase can be translated "ask no favors from the Samaritans" or "use no vessels in common with the Samaritans." Why would Jesus, a Jew and a Rabbi, want to use her "polluted" vessel to get a drink of water?
It was simply a way to disarm this woman and engage her in conversation. Whenever Jesus witnessed to people, He did not use a "canned approach." He did not use a memorized "sales talk" that He adapted to meet every situation. To Nicodemus, He spoke about new birth; but to this woman, He spoke about living water.
A Dramatic Announcement
She said to Him, "If you knew who I was you wouldn’t ask me for a drink." Jesus said to her, "If you knew who I was you would be asking me for a drink, because I have the kind of water that will last an eternity."
Jesus was speaking about spiritual water, but she interpreted His words to mean literal water. Again, we see how easily people confuse the material with the spiritual. Furthermore, this woman was concerned about how He would obtain this water, instead of simply asking Him to give her a drink of it.
This conversation with the Samaritan woman follows exactly the same pattern as the conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus makes a statement. The statement is taken in the wrong sense. Jesus makes the statement in an even more vivid and dramatic way.
It is still misunderstood; and then Jesus compels the person with whom He is speaking to discover and to face the truth for herself. That was Jesus’ usual way of teaching; and it was a most effective way, for, as someone has said: "There are certain truths which a man cannot accept; he must discover them for himself."
This woman was so astonished and yet she realized that Jesus was offering something that went beyond her ability to cope, to make sense of, beyond her experience and so she requests of Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw water."
She did not understand the vastness of what Jesus was offering. She was looking for temporal solutions to eternal problems. Jesus offers eternal solutions to temporal problems. The woman’s immediate response was to ask for this gift, but she didn’t know what she was saying. The seed of the Word fell on shallow soil, and the shoots that sprang up had no root (Matt. 13:20-21). She had made progress, but she still had a long way to go; so Jesus patiently dealt with her.
A Devastating Accusation
He next makes a devastating accusation. He tells the woman, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The only way to prepare the soil of the heart for the seed is to plow it up with conviction. That was why Jesus told her to go get her husband: He forced her to admit her sin.
There can be no conversion without conviction. There must first be conviction and repentance, and then there can be saving faith. Jesus had aroused her mind and stirred her emotions, but He also had to touch her conscience, and that meant dealing with her sin.
"I have no husband" was the shortest statement she made during the entire conversation! Why? Because now she was under conviction and her "mouth was stopped" (Rom. 3:19). But this was the best thing that could have happened to her.
The woman said, "I have no husband." And Jesus said, "I know that. As a matter of fact you’ve had five husbands and the man you are with now is not a husband but because you have given up on marriage, you are living with this man. You keep looking for love in all the wrong places, but I am here to tell you about a way that you can have peace in this life and quit trying to find it in a
co-dependent relationship that God is not going to honor anyway."
She was looking for a temporal solution to an eternal problem. She was worried about how to receive a gift of "living water" where she would never have to come all the way out to Jacob’s well again to draw water. She was doing the same thing in her relationships with men. She was attempting to find a man to satisfy an eternal longing in her soul.
However, instead of listening to Jesus, she tried to get Him on a "detour" by discussing the differences between the Jewish and the Samaritan religions. It is much more comfortable to discuss religion than to face your sins!
But, Jesus once again revealed her spiritual ignorance: she didn’t know who to worship, where to worship, or how to worship. He made it clear that all religions are not equally acceptable before God, that some worshippers act in ignorance and unbelief.
The only faith that God will accept is that which comes through Jesus Christ.
Only those who have come to faith through Him, only those who have the indwelling Holy Spirit, only those who obey the truth of God’s Word, can worship God acceptably.
Look at verses 21-24.
Jesus describes true worship, "... in spirit and in truth." In spite of her ignorance, there was one truth this woman did know: the Messiah was coming and would reveal the secrets of hearts. Where did she learn this truth? We don’t know, but that seed had lain buried in her heart until that very hour, and not it was going to bear fruit.
A Dynamic Alteration
In verse 25 the woman says, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called the Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Our Lord’s response to her statement was, "I who speak to you am He."
At this point, the woman put her faith in Jesus Christ and was converted. She who had been so embroiled in sin; she who had led a lifestyle that was completely without merit, was irrevocably and dynamically altered for the rest of her life. Immediately she wanted to share her faith with others, so she went into the village and told the men, she had met the Christ. When you consider how little spiritual truth this woman knew, her zeal and witness put us to shame. But God used her simple testimony, and many of the people came out to the well to meet Jesus. The rabbis said, "It is better that the words of the Law be burned than be delivered to a woman!" But Jesus did not agree with that narrow prejudice.
Why did she leave her waterpot when she hurried into the city? For one thing, she had the living water within and was now satisfied. Also, she intended to come back; and perhaps in the interim, the disciples and Jesus could use the vessel to satisfy their thirst. Gone were the racial barriers and battles that had existed before! They were all one in faith and love.
This woman did not come to faith in Christ immediately. Jesus was patient with her, and in this, He sets a good example for us in our own personal work.
Certainly she was the least likely prospect for salvation, yet God used her to win almost an entire village!
I wonder how many people today are waiting for someone to come and tell them about Jesus. We in the church have the mandate, the commission, the command of our Lord and Savior, to go and make disciples.