A Woman, a Well, and…?

The story of the woman at the well, as it is known, is very common in Christian circles. It is not a parable, it is a record of an actual event that took place. While we can read the story in a few minutes understanding something of the cultural context will help us better understand what took place. The basic facts,

  • The woman was a Samaritan,
  • Samaritans do not interact with Jews
  • Jesus was a Jew
  • The woman had five different husbands
  • She was now living with a man who was not her husband
  • The whole community knew who she was and were familiar with her history

An important factor is that in the culture of the day woman had no right to divorce men. Men initiated the divorce. This tells us two things about this woman. The first is that all five of her husbands must have found something desirable in her to marry her, particularly as one went further down the husband list! The second is that they all found some reason to divorce her. We don’t need to speculate on what that was, we just need to know that she experienced ongoing rejection from everyone who married her. It would strain credibility to believe they all just dropped dead and that is why she kept remarrying.

So what can we learn from this scene. Let’s start with the key verses.

1  Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2  (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3  He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4  But He needed to go through Samaria. John 4:1-4 (NKJV)

Jesus needed to go through Samaria. Why? The religious people of the day went out of their way to go around Samaria (see verse 9). Jesus needed to go because He was not religious, He was free, and because He had an appointment at a well.

6  Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7  A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8  For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9  Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10  Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11  The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12  Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 15  The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” 16  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” 19  The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25  The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” John 4:6-26 (NKJV)

39  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40  So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41  And many more believed because of His own word. 42  Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42 (NKJV)

We know that as a result of this encounter with Jesus this unnamed woman moved from religion to life, she found living water, and she found the freedom Jesus modeled as she became a passionate evangelist sharing openly the good news of her heart issues being revealed, which means her heart must have also been healed. Something about Jesus drew her into the conversation. We know it was not His appearance as Isaiah said there was nothing in His physical appearance to draw us to Him (2  For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. Isaiah 53:2 NKJV). It must have been her heart that was drawn.

So, how many of us are like this woman? We have had to deal with issues of religion, rejection or conflict, sometimes all interrelated, and need our hearts healed. Are we ready like her to come and drink of this living water and let it flow through our hearts bringing cleansing and healing? We may have been a Christian for years but still need our hearts healed, or we may have at one time had a free heart that now needs to be healed. Whatever the case there are two things I know for sure.

  1. He is able
  2. He is willing

Come drink – not once but continually.

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I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

2 thoughts on “A Woman, a Well, and…?”

  1. I’ve always found it remarkable how this woman chose to respond to Jesus when faced with the truth of her situation; rather than denying or defending, attempting to justify or defend, she discerns and acknowledges His prophetic anointing. When faced with the truth of my situation, I have not always chosen to respond so well!

  2. Randy,

    There were aspects of this story that I never saw and your revelations have deepened mine. Thank you for taking the time to teach through your writing. Blessings!

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