5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 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.)
10 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.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 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.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 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.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
The Samaritans were a monotheist cult that recognized the Pentateuch and not much else; neither the prophets nor priests of the Jews. They were also used as a political pawn against the Jews by the Romans, who appointed them to Judean towns. They were fairly despised by the Jews in Judea. Jesus decides that three out of three taboo subjects are just the thing wherewith to capture a heart.
“Yes,” says the Samaritan woman, “I want that living water to make my life easier.” Now that he has piqued her curiosity– after He obviously startles her political/racial prejudices by merely speaking to her– Jesus keeps her off-balance with yet another tack and brings her gently, if quickly, to the post: “I know everything about you, and it’s not good.” He could not have pierced her heart more deftly had he been a modern-day surgeon.
I think she is scrambling for some sort of high ground as she challenges His legitimacy as a Prophet. I don’t see her as immediately rapt with His method; she isn’t asking Him where to worship, she is pointing out that His prophetic gifts possibly may not apply to her casual sexual morality. Perhaps it’s a desperate ploy to get out of the shame and bring up some rather large theological difference to point out the gulf between them. So Jesus has to get direct with her.
“You don’t know what you worship.”
For the Samaritans, their god had spoken once and that was good enough for them. They were an erudite, urban culture that was quite open-minded and influenced by their pagan neighbors, and so it was all a nice “religious” thing. Something to identify with, but certainly not make a big deal about except as a point of pride. Think about that: a static faith, a static idea of God. Jesus says to her, “You don’t know what you worship.”
During the Lenten season, take some time to discover just how far away and long ago you may have buried your sense of worship, your sense of the Spirit of God’s nature and where He dwells within your heart and mind. He calls us to repent, He reveals our sins, He pierces our pride, and then tells us He’s seeking for something within us: Spirit and Truth.
It may be hard, at first, to open up to the Living Water that quenches all thirst, but harder still to find it has become a stagnant pond where nothing really grows or thrives. We don’t dismiss it entirely as it provides a lovely reflection of our cultural identity. But lacking an outlet and an inward spring of fresh life, it eventually strangles all life within it and becomes useless to others who are thirsty. Water is basic to physical life just as the Spirit is basic to a life of faith. Might be time to let God to strike the hard rock of our heart and command living water to come forth. “Spring up, oh, Wellspring.”
A final thought: The Samaritan woman had only just then breathed a hope for revelation, for knowing the answer to her own inward doubts when the Messiah revealed Himself to her.
What are you waiting for? Ask!
Evermore give me this water!