9. The Woman at the Well

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I don’t know about you but I find the story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well fascinating. There are lots of things going on in this story that are easy to overlook, like the parallels between this story and the one right before it about Nicodemus or the parallels between the woman and the disciples later in the story. And there are lots of practical lessons we can apply to our own lives. Let’s not waste anymore time then and dive in to the text itself:

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

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.)

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.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 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?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 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.”

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.”

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. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

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?”

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?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world,” (John 4:1-42).

I know, I know… It’s a long section we are studying.  Because of the length I am going to split the study between two days and break the passage up by verse groupings to help break it into more manageable bites.

 Verses 1-3

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Jealousy- it’s an powerful monster and yet God uses it to advance the gospel here. The Pharisees heard that Jesus was getting pretty popular and they didn’t like it one bit. It’s probably because of this that Jesus left Judea with his disciples. There would be a time and place for a showdown but this wasn’t it so Jesus leaves the area. But not only are the Pharisees jealous of Jesus and his increased popularity, we know John’s disciples were green with envy, too (John 3:22-26). They were upset that John’s followers were leaving John and going to Jesus. Like the woman in our story, they didn’t realize who Jesus was at first. The interesting thing to me is that because he had to leave, it caused him to go to an unlikely place that was ready to hear the Good News.

Verses 4-9

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

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.)

The shortest way from Judea to Galilee was through Samaria. Now we need to do some background investigating about the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. The short story is this: Israel split into two kingdoms, Israel (Northern Kingdom) and Judah (Southern Kingdom). King Jeroboam of Israel was afraid that the two kingdoms would reunite and he would be out of a job so he set up idol worship to encourage the Kingdom of Israel to stay separate from those God worshippers. Sometime after Jeroboam, Omri became king and set up a capitol city named Samaria; eventually the whole kingdom of Israel became known as Samaria too.  After a while God had enough and punished Israel/Samaria by allowing the Assyrians to come and invade the place. After the Assyrians invaded, Jews were scattered across the land and intermarried with the pagan worshipping women of the land. This is a detestable thing to the Jews of the Kingdom of Judah as Jews were not to intermarry with anyone outside the faith.

When the Jews of the Southern kingdom, Judah, were allowed to rebuild the Temple after their Babalonian captivity was over, the Samaritan Jews offered to help. They were summarily refused because they weren’t pure Jews and so they built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim. At the end of the second century B.C., John Hyrcanus of Judah destroyed the temple on Mt. Gerizim and caused a further rift between the Samaritans and the Jews of Judah. So they didn’t get along because they were half-blooded Jews and because of the history of the destruction of their temple. But there were other reasons that the Southern Kingdom Jews didn’t care for Samaritans. For example, the Samaritans only accepted the first five books of our Bible, also called the Torah, as Scripture. They also had a tendency to modify the law to justify their actions. For a more detailed history of this and the entire passage we are studying please read Bob Deffenbaugh’s article by clicking here.

So the Jews and the Samaritans didn’t really care for each other. In fact, devout Jews like the Pharisees would have gone way out of their way to travel around Samaria rather than taking a shorter route through it. I know, it doesn’t make much sense to me either but that’s just how it was back then. Jesus didn’t care either and he and his disciples travel through Samaria to return to Galilee where they stop by a well to rest. The disciples go off to find lunch as it is noon. Jesus stays behind and  hangs out at the local watering hole when an unsuspecting woman stops by to draw water. Jesus simply asks if he can have a drink of water and the woman is shocked that a Jewish man would talk to a Samaritan woman. Not only did they not intermingle but if Jesus drank from her water vessel it would have made him ceremonially unclean. Not only would this have been a big no-no for Jews, it would have meant that Jesus would have had to undergo special rituals to be made ceremonially clean and to be honest the rituals were a bit of a pain in the butt.

verses 10-12

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.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 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?”

Jesus doesn’t answer her question but makes a statement instead. He says, “If you knew who I am, you wouldn’t be trying to get this stagnant water, you would be asking me for living water and I would’ve given it to you.” He’s setting her up! She thought that living water was a reference to fresh, flowing spring water and asks first, how does he plan to get this water because he has nothing to draw water with and second where she could get this fresh water. And then she asks an innocent question, “Are you greater than our father, Jacob?” Little did she know who he really was or what he was really offering…

verses 13-18

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 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.”

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.”

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.”

Jesus tells her that he has water that will quench her thirst forever! That it even gives eternal life! Now we can look back on this passage and realize that Jesus is talking about something deeper and more profound than H2O. But our poor friend the woman is still hung up on drinking water. She wants his water but she just isn’t getting it so Jesus decides to switch gears and go another route in order to show her need for salvation. He makes a simple request, “Go, call your husband and come back.” Back then it would have seen normal for Jesus to request to speak to her husband instead of the woman. So it’s an innocent question… or so it seems. Without batting an eye she says, “I have no husband,” which is true, kinda. Jesus already knows the answer to his question and he calls her out on it, “You are right, you don’t have a husband, in fact you’ve had five husbands and the guy you’re sleeping with now isn’t one of them.” Wow! What a way to cut right to the heart of an issue. She wasn’t understanding his talk about living water so he moves onto something she does understand… her sin.

verses 19-24

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

All of a sudden the light bulb starts to flicker in this woman’s brain. This is no ordinary man, at the very least she considers him a prophet. We will see in a minute that she quickly sees that he could be more than a prophet.

Some people think that the woman’s next comments are out of frustration or indignation with Jesus and she is trying to change the subject. Others think that she since she had a prophet in her presence she wanted to ask a burning question on the minds of all Samaritans. Regardless of why, she makes a statement about where the is proper place of worship, Mt. Gerizim or Jerusalem. Jesus being a Jew, she probably expected him to answer, “Jerusalem.” Instead he gives a different answer all together. He doesn’t give a place because there is coming a time when the place is inconsequential. The Jews don’t know it yet, but in 70 AD the Temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed. The temple at Mt. Gerizim is already destroyed. There will be no special designated place for corporate worship as was once known in Judah or Israel/Samaria. Jesus continues with the errors of the Samaritan version of Judiasm. Remember, they only accepted Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy as Scripture- they were missing a good chunk of the Good Book. Jesus said they, “worship what [they] do not know.” Because they only knew a limited amount about God because they only read a limited amount about God. The Jews worship what they do know because they study the full Scripture and because the Messiah was to come from the Jews.

This is a long passage so we will finish tomorrow if I have wi-fi. I’ll be at the beach so I’m not sure if I’ll have internet access or not but I’ll be home the following day so stay tuned for more the conclusion of the the Woman at the Well!

The End.

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One response »

  1. Pingback: Verse of the Day 7-3-13 John 7:1-9 | ricklee's poetry plus

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