He had to pass through Samaria

I rearranged the scarf around my head so that I could see only straight ahead of me: I couldn’t bear the disapproving looks of the townsfolk. There was nothing I could do about the verbal insults, however. I hurried along the path for the day (I used a different route each day) thinking about nothing in particular.

I came round the corner and looked down the slope towards the well and saw a man—a Jew[1]— sitting there. I wondered what the stranger was doing at the well at that time of day, but then again the same question could be asked of me. I self-consciously adjusted my head-scarf again before reaching to uncover the well.

“Give me a drink.”

I might have jumped back a little from the surprise, I don’t know. My response tumbled unbidden out of my mouth, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?”

He let my question linger in the air for a moment or two. As I awaited his reply, I got a chance to look at his face. He had a kind look about him which lessened my apprehension. His lips curved in a gentle smile as he replied, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

Men had promised me numerous things before, but this was the first time I got an offer for a secret source of water. I pointed out the obvious. “Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do you get that living water?” I just couldn’t resist the urge to show up this Jew so I added, “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are you, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?”

He let the comment on Jacob slide. “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of his words for he said them with such… authority. I was drawn to him. I wanted to hear more. “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”

“Go, call your husband and come here.” He might have as well struck me physically. I’d not expected the conversation would take such a turn. My mind tried to come up with something to say to cover up the truth, but I found I couldn’t lie to this man. He was having a most unusual effect on me.

“I have no husband,” I feebly replied, focusing my eyes on a patch of dirt at my feet.

“You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

Blood rushed to my face as my head shot up. How did he know that? Who told him? Certainly, my life was common knowledge around these parts, but surely no-one would have been sharing the town gossip with a Jew! In the turmoil of my thoughts, I failed to notice that the tone of voice he’d used contained neither contempt nor condemnation. All I knew at the time was that I had to change the subject.

I suppressed the emotion and said, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” The scripture lessons Mother had given me as a little girl had now come in handy.

As before, there was a pause before he gave his reply. “Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

His words burned inside me, even though I didn’t fully comprehend them. So I fell back on an answer Mother often gave when she couldn’t answer my questions. “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when that one comes, he will declare all things to us.”

“I who speak to you am He.”

I looked intently into his tired and kindly face. There was neither hubris nor guile in its expression. I knew that he meant exactly what he had just said, and that I’d not misunderstood him. While I was still contemplating the import of that brief and loaded sentence, a group of men emerged into the clearing where the well stood. Their chatter died down when they saw me. None of them made to move or to say anything.

My eyes were still fixed on the man before me. Could he be Messiah? Right here in Sychar? Talking to me? I couldn’t contain the bubbling within me any longer. Leaving my water jar I ran back to the city, crying as loud as I could, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did! Can this be the Christ?”

That man—Jesus of Nazareth—stayed in our town for two days and taught us from the Scriptures.  Many among us came to believe that he truly was the Saviour of the world. I came to believe that the Jewish rabbi at the well was my Saviour.


Notes

  • [1] It is likely she could identify Jesus’ ethnicity by His clothing, though I’m not sure.
  • Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB and ESV translations.
  • I’ve been contemplating a post like this for a while, and got the final push from this talk.
  • I also thought that this story wasn’t as perfect as could be. Hope you liked it anyway 🙂