Summary: Does Jesus need saving?
She Finally Found a Good Man
Life had been tough for the woman. The sun rose on this day without the prospects that anything would be any different. Sunrise was the time which the other women in the village went to draw water and gossip. But not this woman. She was too ashamed to come. Instead, she stayed out of sight until the women had returned from the well. Were they talking about this woman there? After all, she had been married five times already and was now living with a man she was not married to. Rural life in a small Samaritan community was hard. They were held in contempt by the Jewish people who refused to have fellowship or do business with them. The Jews had destroyed their temple on Mt. Gerizim some time back. Each group claimed to be the true Israelites. A pious Jew refused to go through Samaria going to or from Galilee to Jerusalem and vice versa. Instead, they would cross over the Jordan River into Gentile! Country, which was a big detour. The Jews thought of the Gentiles as dogs, but at least they were better than Samaritans.
As the day developed, something very strange happened. A group of Jews came into the village looking for food. Strange indeed! If the Samaritan woman observed this, she might have wondered what was going on. She was soon to find out.
Chapter four begins with the statement that when Jesus became aware that the Pharisees were aware that Jesus’ disciples were baptizing more people than John that he left the area of the Jordan where He and His disciples were staying. If they intended to take the detour around Samaria which was custom for the pious Jew, the sensible thing to do was to continue up the Jordan River and cross over just before the Sea of Galilee. Much of the extra distance needed to take the detour was already taken. In fact, to go back to go through Samaritan territory would have been a detour.
So it should strike us a bit strange that the text says that Jesus had to go through Samaria. If Jesus was concerned about the opposition of the Pharisees, then taking the longer route through Samaria would not be the first choice. Perhaps there might be a bit of safety in going through Samaria if the Pharisees refused to enter such wretched country. But they would be waiting when Jesus came out the other end.
But the Greek makes it clear that the need to go through Samaritan country came from God. The woman was unaware of the encounter she would have that day, but Jesus was perfectly aware. He knew of His noonday appointment at the well. So, he and his disciples entered into Samaritan territory. The temperature can get quite hot, and drinkable water is a scarce commodity in Samaria. There were a few wells here and there, and to drink from one of them was to drink after a Samaritan. There were no McDonalds to get a bite to eat. One would have to get food from a Samaritan village in case of an emergency, as it was not harvest time, there would be no occasion to glean from the fields. Respectable Jews did not want to face such a dilemma. It was better to buy pork from a Gentile vendor than have to submit to begging or buying from the Samaritans.
I don’t know what the disciples were thinking, but the actions of Jesus must have seemed a bit unusual. And as they went along, they noticed that Jesus was getting weaker and weaker. Perhaps the forty day fast he had taken in the wilderness some time earlier had made him physically weak in addition to His hectic lifestyle of ministry and having to do extended prayer at night had worn him down more than the disciples. Here is one of the great mysteries of the faith, where the omnipotent God has to deal with the impotence of human flesh. The spirit was indeed willing, but the flesh was weak.
Finally some hope for the ailing Jesus showed up on the horizon. A well was seen in the distance. This well held an important place in Israelite history. It was the well that Jacob the ancestor of both the Jews and Samaritans had dug. Totally exhausted, Jesus collapses beside the well. To the shock of the party, the well was deep, and there was no rope or bucket to get life-saving water for Jesus. The party was now in crisis. How were they going to save Jesus? I am sure it took the eating of some crow, but the disciples reasoned that the only hope for Jesus was a desperate and humiliating journey to the Samaritan village nearby for food and sustenance. Surely God would forgive them considering the dire situation.