Jesus and the Samaritan woman



A reflection upon:


"Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again.

But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again.

In fact, the water that I will give him will become a well of water

springing up in him for eternal life."

- John 4:13-14


It is with little doubt that God [the Father] should purposely [in His sovereignty] guide His Son to Jacob's well in Sychar to Jacob's well in order that He might converse with this "unclean" Samaritan woman. For although John recounts our Lord left Judea en route to Galilee in the context of verse 3, devout Jews who desired to make this journey would often take a less direct route by crossing the Jordan in order to bypass Samaria because in the eyes of the most religious and devout Jews, there was the ideology that one would become defiled simply by entering into Samaria. Yet such ideology originated in the minds of man failed to bother God, as Jesus hastily made His journey to Galilee. As for the motivation for Jesus leaving, some believe it was due to the tensions which may have arose in response due to Jesus' disciples baptizing others- more in number than John, which may have caused Jesus to seek to minister elsewhere lest He diminished John the Baptist's role. However such a statement holds little validity when taking into consideration the narrator [the apostle John], and more importantly the manner in which he presents both our Lord and John the Baptist in his synoptic gospel. Of John he writes of his purpose as such:


"There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through Him. He was not the Light,

but he came to testify about the Light."(John 1:6-8)


Aside from fulfilling Malachi 3:5-6 [preparing the way for Christ], John the Baptist additionally had a more predominant and vital purpose: To testify before Israel of the true Light, that is the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. If John's sole purpose was to prepare the way for the Christ, he too would be hesitant/uneasy at the growing popularity of Jesus of Nazareth [should John have no divine insight]. Yet the apostle John reaffirms and solidifies that John had accomplished his purpose by ensuring to include John the Baptist's own response to his dwindling support and the growth of Jesus' disciples:


"You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Messiah, but I've been sent ahead of Him.' He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom's friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom's voice. So this joy of mine is complete.

He must increase, but I must decrease."(John 3:28-30)


This seemingly disproves the presumption that Jesus leaves for the sake of John's dwindling ministry, which leaves another conjunction: That Jesus left Judea because of the scribes and Pharisees' response to Jesus' growing popularity. This idea holds a lot more validity, as John 4 opens as such:


"When Jesus learned that the Pharisees had learned He was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were),

He left Judea and went again to Galilee."(John 4:1-3)


The apostle John has already made it known that the Pharisees both examined and investigated John the Baptist while John's ministry and favor in the sight of men grew at a fairly quick rate [John the Baptist preached for six months, and became so popular that crowds were flocking to him in the desert rather than the temple], and their examination is recorded in John 1:19-28, so naturally it would only make sense for them to do the same- if not more so to Jesus, seeing as His prominence came at a more rapid pace and overtook John's. It is no doubt that although there were other contemporaries baptizing within the same region, no other teachers received more scrutiny as John and Jesus. One of the inquiries made to John was to testify whether or not he was claiming to be the Messiah, Elijah [who would come before Christ] or the promised Prophet. If Jesus were to have been "cornered" and forced to give a response in a similar situation, He would have had no choice but testify prematurely that He was in fact both the Messiah and promised Prophet. It is also worth mentioning that Jesus had already gained a sort of notoriety, as John records in John 2:13-25 how Jesus cleansed the temple- that is, He made a whip and drove people out of the temple, making it already tense between Jesus and the Pharisees- John 3:22 states that Jesus withdrew from the vicinity of Jerusalem for the Judean countryside before beginning to teach and "baptize."


Whether or not we choose to accept this as the motivation that caused Jesus to seemingly walk out of Judea altogether en route to Galilee [where the Pharisees probably wouldn't have followed, as they considered it be "clean"] this seemingly "detour" is no doubt for our benefit. Jesus was sent to the Jews. Jesus' purpose was to save the Jews [Matthew 1:21]. In fact, in His interaction with the Samaritan woman concerning the topic of worship, Jesus says:


"You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know,

because salvation is from the Jews."(John 4:22)


This undoubtedly justifies the Samaritan woman's response to the start of their conversation, in which Jesus asks her for water to which she responds:


"How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?' She asked Him.

For Jews do not associate with Samaritans."(John 4:9)


There are also some who uphold the belief that in fact was Jesus's motivation to leave Judea and enter through Samaria: to have a conversation with this woman. The defense is that aside from Jesus' abrupt withdrawal from Judea, Jesus' response to the disciples bringing Him food [as He stopped due to being to tired] evidently gives proof which solidifies their claim:


"I have food to eat that you don't know about. The disciples said to one another,

'Could someone have brought Him something to eat?'

'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work."(John 4:32-34)


The suggestion is that Jesus purposefully left Judea for Samaria so that He could converse with her- that is conversation was a divine appointment of sorts, in which Jesus chose to pass through Samaria not because it was the most direct route, but rather because He needed to talk with this woman. Whether we agree or not, as I said before I now say once more: it is for our benefit. After giving some background, it seems good to discuss why it is for our benefit.


To hunger and thirst are innate human responses. A human cannot survive without food and water, yet cannot even acknowledge the necessity for food and water without one's hunger and thirst reminding them of their basic needs. Also, it's imperative to consider this: Aside from being essential to life, hunger and thirst are ingrained responses which are instinctive to all living creatures- it is inherited within God's blueprint for creation, not taught. Take the newborn baby for instance- who teaches them to hunger? Who instructs them how to thirst? When we go prolonged amounts of time without food and water [whether it be by choice or not], our body has a natural instinct to ensure that we are aware of what it needs to continue functioning [hunger and thirst]. This hunger and thirst is our innate reaction to the realization of the insufficiency of our basic needs, and our body's way of informing us that those needs have not been met.


Although this applies to all living creatures, it is primarily more so for us as humans- You cannot claim to be human if you never experience hunger and thirst. In fact, in order to show Jesus' humanity, or identification as a Man [apart from His identity as God] we see John recounting in his narrative what caused Jesus to stop from His journey at Jacob's well:


"Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, worn out from His journey,

sat down at the well."(John 4:6)


While also mentioning why Jesus had asked her for a drink of water in the first place:


"[B]ecause the disciples had gone into town to buy food."(John 4:8)


Due to the journey He was making [roughly 30-40 miles], and the lack of food and water He had [unlike the disciples who had enough strength to go forward] Jesus, being physically exhausted sits down and asks for some water. And this conversation which at the beginning appears to focus around this Samaritan woman giving Him a cup of water shows a deeper meaning. Just examine the way the conversation plays out:


"Give Me a drink,' Jesus told her... 'How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?' she asked Him.. Jesus answered, 'If only you knew the gift of God, and who was saying to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.' Sir,' the woman said, 'You don't even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do You get this 'living water'? You aren't greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock."(John 4:7b,9a,10-12)


Whether or not we believe that Jesus purposely left Judea to talk to this woman, one thing that we can surmise by looking at the conversation unfold is that Jesus was purposeful when talking to her. He doesn't ask her "Can you give Me drink?", but rather says "Give Me a drink", and we can see that the purpose for such a statement was to open the door for the opportunity to discuss a more pressing topic. This is evident by the remainder of the conversation- a transitioning into something else altogether:


"Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."(13-14)


Jacob's well was not Jesus' interest nor was it to get a cup of water to drink, these were nothing more than a means of getting the attention of this woman in order to discuss the living water which Jesus has to offer. And that may be easy enough to comprehend, yet may pose a different question altogether- "Why does Jesus do this? What would motivate Him to talk to this Samaritan woman about living water which He could offer her?" Jesus' purpose for initiating the conversation in the first place becomes crystal clear in the following verses:


"The woman said to Him, 'Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.' Jesus said to her, 'Go, call your husband, and come here.'

The woman answered and said, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said to her, 'You have well said,

'I have no husband; for you have had five husbands,

and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly."(15-18)


It is specifically this revelation [that this woman was married five times and currently committing adultery] which reveals the purpose: Jesus was not interested in Jacob's well nor the cup which this woman could provide Him inasmuch as He was interested in addressing the apparent insufficiency of satisfaction within her heart. This Samaritan woman as a human being has natural occurring needs aside from just nutritional- emotional, spiritual, and even sexual. And much like food and water, when these are not met there is an innate response which is produced to remind us they have not been met. And sometimes it is beneficial to deprive oneself of these things- practicing fasting from food, abstaining rom sexual lusts produce discipline and self-control, whereas with emotions it is written:


"A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back."(Proverbs 29:11)


And it is also imperative to note where we are receiving this information from- the apostle John's narrative within his synoptics of the Gospel. This is important because John is the only one to include this occurrence, no one else did. But also the significance of knowing that John writes the disciples had let in town looking for food to bring to Jesus, implying that John himself was not present to recount all the details. How long do you suppose Jesus sat by the well for? How long do you suppose He watched her drawing water from the well whilst simultaneously examining her heart before addressing it? She, like everyone else had these basic needs however sought to quench and fulfill them with relationships. There is even a modern day slang-"thirsty", which means to be desperate, and oft has a sexual connotation to it implying lust. Yet as Jesus alludes to by comparing the well to the source which she sought to satisfy her heart and soul, "Whoever rinks of this well will thirst again.." And this become evident with this woman. Perhaps she thought to find meaning and purpose in a relationship so she got married, and intended to satisfy her innate responses from him. However, because we as humans are finite and imperfect, after her source was no longer able to satisfy, she moved onto the next one, and onto the next one, and repeated this cycle.


Perceiving this Jesus offers her the opportunity to receive living water which He could give- a source which can never be depleted. Now it seems fitting and best to remind those who may be reading, that this is by no means something "new" which Jesus introduces. In fact, the Spirit of Christ speaking through Jeremiah testifies of Israel during his time as such:


"My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn for themselves cisterns- broken cisterns that can hold no water."(Jeremiah 2:13)


This illustration which the Lord [by way of Jeremiah] gives to Israel was one which was undoubtedly understood at the time in which it had been given:


1. Israel had rejected the glory of God by choosing idolatry over adhering to the Law which had been given them [Forsaking God, the fountain of living waters]


2. They constantly reassured themselves that they were in the "right" by trusting in their decision to forsake God for the works of their hands, to which God likens as trusting in broken cisterns. During the times in which Jeremiah ministered, Israel would use Palestinian cisterns- or underground tanks used for a reservoir of water made of limestone.


Though the Lord testifies this of Israel around 640bc and as such we may claim it no longer holds relevance, we must consider: human nature never changes. Compare this to our text concerning the Samaritan woman, and you could surmise that she undoubtedly exemplifies what Jesus said of Israel sum 600 years prior, and Jesus' message remains seemingly the same. Samaritans are group of people who [while occupying Israel] intermarried with the Jews [the tribes of Ephraim and half-tribe of Manasseh] causing a group of people who had left their idols and adopted the Jewish religion. Our text of John chapter 4 even shows us that she even identifies with a Jewish background: "You aren't greater than our father Jacob, are You?"(12) And yet, like Israel before her and many professing Christians after her, she had built her cistern by which she sought to draw from and satisfy her thirst. Jesus had validity when saying, "You Samaritans worship what you do not know", because although she exhibited some knowledge of worshipping God [albeit flawed], her manner of life did not reflect a life of true worship.


If this proclamation applied to Israel, how much more so does it apply for us as Gentiles? After all, Israel was intended to act as a "beacon of hope" of sorts, and failed miserably despite having received the Law and ordinances of God. So now, we must ask ourselves to what was Jesus trying to teach with this? The same thing He was trying to tell Israel: that God Himself is the sole source of a truly fulfilling and satisfying life, and everything/anything that is compared to Him as the sole source is the equivalent of comparing a fountain of living water to a broken cistern of water which cannot hold any water whatsoever.


It is here that I would attempt to provoke you to thought. After all, this is undoubtedly included in the Gospel synoptic for our benefit, and again as I said before I say once more: human nature does not change. Take a moment to evaluate your heart. I needn't bring up your needs, as you have an ingrained response which will innately tell you when they have not been met. How do we respond to urges and impulses? Do we practice and excercise self control and self discipline, or are we led by them, like the Samaritan woman seeking fulfillment and satisfaction in relationships- five marriages and the man she was currently with was not her husband making her an adulteress? Perhaps it's not something which is as "shameful" as being married five times and committing adultery, but I would ask in the love of Jesus Christ not condemnation, what drives you?


I speak not at one who condemns- though, even if I were to condemn you I would direct your thought to our passage as a reminder that although Jesus "exposes" this Samaritan woman's lifestyle, He fully knew her lifestyle prior to talking to her and initiated the conversation nonetheless. And as the conversation plays out, Jesus does not condone nor condemn her for her lifestyle choices [albeit mistakes] bur rather invites her to a new manner of life found in fellowship with God- a life that finds it's meaning, purpose and satisfaction in God alone as nothing else will suffice.


To those professing to be devout followers of Christ I ask all the more in love as you are to be a representation of our Jesus Christ Himself, what motivates you? In all seriousness and sincerity, what motivates you to start your day? What motivates you to follow after Jesus in the first place? The reason why I ask is not an excuse to attempt to lay hold of your thought and grip you with conviction, but because Jesus Himself testifies in the Beatitudes:


"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they shall be filled."(Matthew 4:6)


Use what Jesus says as a test. When giving the beatitudes [and this one specifically] Jesus turns the attention of those who follow Him to uprightness. Now, everyone has the knowledge to do good and to do evil, all have the capacity to carry out both good and evil actions, and even someone who may consider to be the most vile, cruel, evil person are capable of doing good. But it is not so for His devout followers, they are called to emulate Jesus Himself, of whom it is written:


"Went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil,

because God was with Him."(Acts 10:38b)


Does the desire and urge for good works come as an innate reaction, or is it something that needs to be taught to us by another? Because it shouldn't. For those who desire to excercise their thoughts more in order to test themselves I would encourage [not demand] that you read John's first letter [that is, I John] as John confronts this very issue. Read accounts the saints who walked before us. Read of David Brainerd and his devotion to God- A man who died at the age of 29 due to tuberculosis, yet dedicated himself to a life of mission to Native Americans, of whom is recording saying:


“I love to live on the brink of eternity.”


“I have received my all from God. Oh that I could return my all to God”


“Oh that I could spend every moment of my life to God's glory.”


“It is sweet to be nothing and less than nothing that Christ may be all in all.”


“Oh for holiness! Oh for more of God in my soul! Oh this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God”


Yes, read of Amy Carmichael, a woman who devoted herself to over fifty five years mission work despite being "unfit" due to being prone to illness, who has been quoted as saying:


"When I consider the cross of Christ, how can anything I do be considered as sacrifice?"


"If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, than I know nothing of Calvary's love."


"I would rather burn out than rust out."


Now in love, examine yourself. What have we been quoted as saying when we discuss righteousness and spiritual things? Has it been about us: our "goodness", our "sacrifice", how much we do, how much we're involved in. When we discuss our "calling", how much of it revolves around Christ and His already established will- resulting in sacrifice, or how much of it in all honesty revolves around us- our desires which we attribute to being God's will. And we undoubtedly bear witness against ourselves. We go and testify [whether it be in front man or God- who never forgets] how we are able to "lose everything for Him", "sacrifice all for Him", "devote ourselves entirely to Him", only to have it quenched shortly after when getting offered a promotion, or for a relationship, a position within a ministry, or something else. Do not mistake what I say- these are not evil things, nor am I advocating abstaining from them. Yet as I fool I would ask all the more- do you truly hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Jesus Christ? What profit is it to possess all these yet not have Christ?


Know that I intend not to belittle, condemn, or malign you. What I have transcribed is nothing more than my inner dialogue when reflecting upon this text in light of commentaries of tested theologians who have walked faithfully with our Lord for many years before me. My desire is to lead to a self-examination- one which I myself have been led to, and to ask: "What is my life? In what do I strive to find my purpose and meaning?" Or better ye, "Am I content and happy? Or is my joy and motivation for a life of worship and walking in obedience to the gospel dependent upon something other than Jesus Christ Himself?"

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