The summer after my Junior year in College I went to the Holy Lands with 43 other students from my college. 2 weeks in Israel, 1 week in Turkey, 2 weeks in Greece, and 1 week in Italy. I am often asked what my favorite part of the trip was. I always say the same thing.
“Israel is the only place I have ever been homesick for that wasn’t my real home. Jerusalem was my favorite part of the trip, but Greece was the most beautiful. I would go back in a heartbeat.”
My favorite site that we visited was the only place that made me cry. It’s not my favorite because it made me cry, but because this site in particular was the location of my favorite Bible story (read, historical event). It can be found in John 4:1-26, and is commonly labeled Jesus and the Woman of Samaria.
So Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that 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. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on 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 the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “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.”
The picture above is the actual site that we visited…Jacob’s Well. Of all of the Biblical sites that can be verified to be the undisputed locations still existing, this is the one that they are 110% sure about, this well is exactly what the Bible speaks of. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, and I was glad, because at every other site I had been clicking my shutter like a maniac, but at this one I didn’t even have the strength to lift my arms. I was undone. Suddenly, I was the woman at the well in the middle of the day, and I was waiting for Jesus.
Let me tell you what I see when I read this story, and what I was thinking about that made me cry that day.
Jesus is in Samaria, and he is dealing with some pretty serious physical thirst. It’s the 6th hour of the day, which would be around noon, so the sun is beating down like a sauna, and the Son of God needs some water. A woman approaches at this time, which is unusual, because women come to fetch water as early as they can to avoid the heat. For some reason, this woman was willing to bear the hottest part of the day in order to come, draw water alone, and leave unbothered.
She would have been surprised to see Jesus, not because she knew who he was but because he was a man, and also a Jew. As the passage states, Jews and Samarians were not exactly close friends. Jesus asks her for a drink of water, and she expresses confusion as to why a man like him would be speaking to woman like her. Jesus completely disregards her statement of cultural norms, and moves on to more important things. He says that if she knew who was asking for water, she would be the one begging for what He can give her- which is living water. Jesus tries to make it clear that he’s talking about something of eternal substance, not liquid substance. Her interest is peaked, and she says, “Tell me where to get this stuff! I’m tired of coming here in the heat of the day. I could use some water that doesn’t run out!”
Jesus asks her to grab her husband, and when she says she doesn’t have one, Jesus uses her own language to speak the truth.
“I know you don’t have one. You are certainly right about that fact. I know that you have way more than one, and that the one you’re living with now isn’t actually your husband.”
CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE? You just met this guy, he’s talking about water that lasts forever, isn’t liquid, and has something to do with eternity, and now he’s telling you he is FULLY aware of who is sleeping in your bed at night.
You have to love her response. I imagine her, mouth wide open as she stutters…”You must be a prophet to know all of this.” Rough translation: HOW IN THE WORLD DID YOU KNOW THAT?”
They then have a conversation about worshipping in spirit and in truth, from the heart- Jesus indicates that it isn’t so much where we worship but the content of our worship, and who our worship is heading towards, that matters.
The woman says, “Well, Christ will clear it all up when He comes. I’m waiting for Him.”
Jesus has the ultimate rock star response for her.
“You’re talking to him.”
Her heart skips a beat. And she SEES it. She sees him for the first time, with her spirit and in truth, and she knows. She knows that Christ has come. To all of the people He could have come, He came to HER. The Bible records that she immediately runs into town and tells everyone she sees, “Come see the man who told me everything I ever did!”
I could go into a long section here about how crazy outside the cultural box it was for Jesus to be in the same area as this woman, let alone talking to her, let alone having an entire conversation with her, let alone making it clear that he KNEW her and KNEW her intimately, at that. There are books on books on books written about that topic, and I recommend you read them. Jesus was not supposed to be talking to this woman.
What impacts me most about this story is that Jesus totally calls this lady out. He puts together the pieces and lets her know that He gets why she has to come in the middle of the day to draw water. She has more husbands than any woman needs, and she is seen as the “girl who gets around.” Jesus doesn’t care a lick about that. He cares that she sees that He knows her. He doesn’t tell her to go kill all of her husbands, or rebuke her because she’s a bad person, but instead just states that he knows the kind of life she’s living. It’s as if Jesus stood in front of me and said, “Nice try getting around that one, Claire. I know exactly who you are, and I know all of your stuff, and this is what I want to say: I know you. I’m still here. I don’t care who thinks I should or shouldn’t be talking to you. I want you to worship me in spirit and in truth.”
He says to us, I have living water for you. I have better than 6 husbands, better than performance anxiety, better than a pornography addiction, better than sleeping around, better than isolating yourself in depression. I have it for you if you want it. And the one that you’ve been waiting for? He’s standing right here in front of you.”
He knows everything I ever did, and he didn’t run. He wants to talk about it, and he wants to send me into the world to tell everyone that the Christ has come, that He knows everything I’ve ever done, and that now that I’ve tasted and seen the goodness of God, there’s not a chance in heck I’m going to return to those crap things to put my trust or identity in. You’ll never be thirsty again if you drink the water that leads to eternal life.
When you’ve got living water standing right in front of you, you don’t have to hide under the blistering sun anymore. He will come, right into the place of your shame, let you know that He sees it, and call you to Himself. And He won’t run, no matter how bad it is, no matter how bad you think you are. You don’t have to hide anymore.
When we visited Jacob’s Well that day, I didn’t hear a single word the guide was saying. With tears in my eyes I reached out and ran my finger along the side of the well where Jesus sat, and I wept. I wept because He was never going to stop until He found me in the middle of the day and replaced my shame with the balm of His love.
I am the woman at the well, and He’s everything.