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The Woman at the Well

November 11, 2009

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” 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.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

John 4:1-26

The Unexpected Conversation

Map-Judea, Samaria & GalileeIn Jesus day Israel was divided. The division resulted from groups of people being removed from Israel by the Babylonians and the Persians who displaced the Israelites with their own people when they conquered Israel. They did this to attempt to destroy the culture and nation of the people that they conquered. Those who remained often intermarried with the conquerors. That was who the Samaritans were – Half Jewish, half Gentile. When the Israelites returned from captivity, they settled in the North in Galilee and in the South in Judea.

The Samaritans were despised by the Jews. They so despised the Samaritans that when they travelled between Judea and Galilee they would travel around Samaria thereby adding four days to their journey. When Jesus left Judea to return to Galilee he travelled through Samaria. When he arrived at Jacob’s well, he stopped to rest and sent his disciples to town to buy food. It was the sixth hour (noon) and a Samaritan woman came to the well where Jesus was resting. Women came to the well in the mornings to gather water for the day. The well was a place of social gathering where the events of the day would be discussed. This woman came to the well in the heat of the day to be alone because she was a social outcast in her town.

Jesus asks the woman for a drink. This was entirely unexpected. Jews didn’t use Samaritan dishes; Jews didn’t speak to Samaritans; men didn’t speak to women in public. Even the Samaritan woman was startled by what Jesus did. Jesus offered her living water (a metaphor for the Holy Spirit) then asked her to bring her husband. The woman had no husband because she was living with a man who was not her husband. Jesus knew this so she perceived that he was a prophet.

She asked Jesus whether the Samaritan approach of worshiping at Mt. Gerizim or the Israelite approach of worshipping in Jerusalem. Perhaps she was changing the subject away from her sin or maybe she was truly seeking how to obtain forgiveness for her sins. I think the later is more likely. When we think of worship as giving ourselves completely to something or someone, then she is seen as having worshipped the man that she was with. Maybe she wanted to know how to be forgiven of that sin and how to worship God the way he wants to be worshipped. Jesus tells her that God is seeking worshipers who will worship him in spirit and in truth.

Perhaps the Samaritans were a spiritual people who didn’t understand who God is and how he is to be worshipped. Maybe they were like Americans, the vast majority of whom claim to believe in God but seek after every religious fad under the sun. In our country people are chasing after false religions like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Baha’i, Wicca, Scientology, New Ageism and Atheism. All of these are false religions that cannot save. Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) No one can be saved apart from Jesus and what he did in his death, burial and resurrection.

Jesus then revealed something about himself that he revealed to no one else in the Gospel of John until the start of his trial in Jerusalem. Jesus revealed that he was the Messiah, the promised Christ who would die as a substitutionary sacrifice for us. The outcast Samaritan woman had been speaking with the Savior, the one and only Son of God!

Are you worshipping Jesus, the one way to God or are you seeking after false religions? But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

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