A Common Experience
You and I long to be known. It is a real and constant craving of our hearts. We have had moments of contentment when we have been able to enjoy the companionship of great friends and the wonderful presence of family. Yet these moments are sooner or later marred by the reality of sin in the world. True intimate relationships are hard to maintain when sin rears its ugly head.
We see this reality in one of the most talked about people in the Bible. Even though she is often talked about we do not know her name. We know her as the woman at the well. As we go through the text try and imagine, based on your life experience, what life was like for this woman before she met Jesus.
Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn't baptize them—his disciples did). So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.
He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Please give me a drink." He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food (John 4:1-8; NLT).
Here we notice that the woman was an outsider. She came to the well to draw water when she hoped no one else would be there. This poor woman had had her fill of disapproving looks, the constant whispers, and being disrespected. In short she was tired of being the outsider. She decided that it was easier to avoid people than to deal with all the drama, and so she came to the well when her chance of running into other people was greatly reduced.
Have you been there? Have you skipped an event or even gone to Walmart at midnight because you didn't want to run into a certain person or people? You feel embarrassed on how your life turned out or you don't want to re-live the heartache for the thousandth time when, once again, you are asked, "What happened?" I think we all can recall times when we were on the outside looking in, and so we can imagine what this poor woman's life was like.
The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?"
Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water."
"But sir, you don't have a rope or a bucket," she said, "and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you're greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?"
Jesus replied, "Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life."
"Please, sir," the woman said, "give me this water! Then I'll never be thirsty again, and I won't have to come here to get water."
"Go and get your husband," Jesus told her.
"I don't have a husband," the woman replied.
Jesus said, "You're right! You don't have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!"
"Sir," the woman said, "you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?" (John 4:9-20; NLT)Here we notice that there were no cultural expectations for Jesus to talk to her. The cultural expectation was the opposite. The woman expected that this Jewish man would ignore her. Culturally Jesus should have ignored her because she was a Samaritan and because she was a woman. Bad blood existed between Jews and Samaritans so the two groups avoided each other whenever possible. Women were viewed as second class citizens, and it has been said that Jewish men wouldn't even talk to their own wife or daughters in public, so to talk to a strange woman wouldn't have happened. By talking to the woman Jesus was broke cultural norms.
Think about how we allow cultural norms determine how we treat people. When we are hurt or harmed by another we hold a grudge because we feel justified in holding on to the hurt. We might keep someone at arms length because they have a different skin color, belief system, or political party and our culture says it is okay to do so. To follow Jesus requires that we break down the cultural barriers which prevent us from loving people.
We also notice that Jesus got straight to the point and made a promise that he can help the woman find the satisfaction she is looking to have. What is the craving she has in her heart? It is the craving of intimacy. For whatever reason she was not able to hold on to a husband. They continued to reject her, and this has left a broken place in her heart. A place that has only gotten worse with the rejection of the community.
Notice what she did when Jesus hit close to the wound, she changed the subject. The woman shifted the conversation from her marital status to a discussion on the proper place for worship. Don't we do this? God begins to raise up an issue that we need to deal with and we respond by focusing on theology. What does the Bible say about women in the ministry? What does the Bible say about the End Times? It isn't that these question are unimportant, but that we use them to block the real need in our lives.
Jesus replied, "Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it's here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."
The woman said, "I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."
Then Jesus told her, "I AM the Messiah!"
Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, "What do you want with her?" or "Why are you talking to her?" The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, "Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?" So the people came streaming from the village to see him (John 4:21-30, NLT).
This woman was excited about the opportunity to have true intimacy. She discovered the first taste of satisfaction of being able to open up her heart and she was accepted. It put a smile on her face and a spring in her step. She was so excited that she ran into town and proclaimed to the very people who had disowned her the difference Jesus made in her life.
The woman is a testimony of what can happen when we begin to discover just a little bit of satisfaction for the heart craving of intimacy that we have. When our desire for intimacy begins to be met through Jesus it will make us excited.