By Stephanie Englehart, Crosswalk.com
We live in a culture where we are highly focused on the next best thing. We focus on the next best way to organize a closet. The next best item to buy. Our lives are always looking to the next thing. When someone upsets us, or they no longer fulfill our happiness, we walk away, looking for our next relationship. Our souls rarely settle, as our lives are planned, priced out, and seeking perfection. Sadly, we do not even notice the aching question behind our search for the next best thing.
We desire a fulfillment, rest, and joy that cannot be found in another person, place or project. Yet, we often don't see that the satisfaction we so desire can only be filled by a Messiah who speaks in spirit and truth. The Samaritan woman in John 4:1-29 reveals this truth about us: that we are blind to our own need until the Anointed one opens our eyes.
Who Is the Samaritan Woman and Why Was She Alone at the Well?
The story of the Samaritan woman begins as Jesus is in the Judean countryside with His disciples (John 3:22). The passage tells us that Jesus had to pass through Samaria (John 4:4) as He was going from Judea to Galilee. This, in and of itself, was uncommon for Jews to do, as Samaritans were part Jew and part Gentile, and greatly disliked by both parties.
John 4:5-6 says:
“So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field ethat Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water…”
The sixth hour would have been our modern-day noon. It would have been the heat of the day and most people during that time would have been resting. Most women would come early in the morning or late in the evening to collect water. However, Jesus had sent His disciples away (John 4:8), and we see the woman approach the well for water.
As the story progresses, we learn that this woman regularly comes to the well at this time of day (John 4:15). She has been married 5 times, and is currently living in unrepentant sin, by living with her boyfriend (John 4:16-18). These circumstances point to her desire to avoid the shame that would come by attending the well when other women were present. And yet, Jesus, in His divine intentionality sought to meet this specific woman at this specific time.
How Is Jesus Revealed in This Story?
Through conversation with the Samaritan woman, we see Jesus reveal Himself three times throughout the story. First, Jesus is revealed as the Living Water (John 4:13-14). After asking the Samaritan woman for a drink, He responds to her by offering her something greater. He says:
“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.” - John 4:10
He is the Living Water that she needs, the well spring of life. Next, Jesus is revealed as a prophet. John 4:16-19 says:
“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.’”
Shocked by the truth of His words and exposure of her own sin, her eyes are beginning to open to the truth of who He is. Through this statement, he shows her that His word is true. Finally, we see Jesus revealed as the Messiah.
“I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” - John 4: 24-26
Jesus is the Messiah. He has now explicitly told the woman that He is the final anointed King that has come to seek and save the lost. The ESV Global Study Bible says it this way:
“The terms Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) both mean “anointed.” In the NT and early Judaism, “Messiah” combines many OT expectations about an “anointed one” who would lead, teach, and save God’s people” (John 1:41 study note, cross-referenced from John 4:25).
Jesus’ encounter with this woman brings to light four core beliefs or exhortations that modern-day Christians can learn.
4 Things Christians Can Learn from The Story of the Woman at the Well
1. Jesus alone is the Living Water that fills our void.
Just as the Samaritan woman was looking to men to satisfy her soul, we also look to things outside of Christ to give our hearts meaning and purpose (John 4:14). However, as Jesus revealed Himself to her, he sought to show her that He was the never-ending water she was so thirsty for (John 7:38).
Jesus is the living water that we need. When we put our faith and trust in Him as the Living Water, we can bank on the fact that the well will never run dry (Psalm 37:4). He will never tire of us. He will never dissatisfy. He will never turn us away. He is the unending source of peace, joy, love, self control, truth, hope, and satisfaction (Galatians 5:22-23). Abundant life can only be found in Him (John 10:10).
2. Jesus is not fazed by our sin.
The woman perceived Jesus as a prophet because He gently called out her sin and “told me everything I ever did” (John 4:29). Jesus is sovereign and sees the sin within our hearts (1 Timothy 5:15). He knows our desires, and yet He still pursues us and loves us (Romans 3:23). He is not surprised by our evil desires, but rather He seeks to reconcile us to the Father in spite of them (Hebrews 7:25). Colossians 1:19-20 says:
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
Jesus saw our sin and was willing to shed His blood and endure immense suffering for the sake of our satisfaction and eternal life.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” - Romans 5:8
3. Jesus is our Savior-King.
Just as the Samaritan woman did not fully understand who Jesus was at first, we also need Jesus to open our eyes to the reality of who He is (Psalm 146:8, Ephesians 4:18). It is only in Jesus that we will be saved from our sins and made new in Christ (Titus 3:5, Galatians 2:20). Jesus puts our sin and shame to death on the cross and calls us to walk in His light (John 8:12, 1 John 1:7, Psalm 27:1). He gives us new desires and a new purpose, that will not be found in any earthly thing, but only in His kingdom (Colossians 3:4-10, Matthew 6:33, Romans 8:28).
4. Our life should overflow into the exaltation of the Messiah.
When Jesus is our Messiah, He becomes the Lord of our life. We are called to daily take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24-26). We submit our desires, gifts, talents, time, and money to Him (James 4:7).
Philippians 2:9-11 says:
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Because of His magnificent sacrifice, our life should exalt His name (Matthew 5:16). The living water that is given to us so freely in Christ becomes the well-spring of our life (John 4:13-14). We come to Christ to be filled, to be forgiven; and the void that is filled by Christ in our life overflows so that we desire to proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9) and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus becomes such a treasure to us, as He had become to the Samaritan woman, that we can’t stop ourselves from telling others about the joy He has bestowed in our life (John 4:28-30). We no longer need the next best thing, because Jesus is the greatest thing that will ever happen to us.
Photo credit: Guercino [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons, (original image cropped).