Teaching a Samaritan Woman
ON THEIR way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus and his disciples travel through the district of Samaria. Tired from the journey, about noon they stop to rest by a well near the city of Sychar. This well was dug centuries before by Jacob, and it remains even down until today, near the modern-day city of Nablus.
While Jesus rests here, his disciples go into the city to buy some food. When a Samaritan woman comes to draw water, he requests: “Give me a drink.”
Jews and Samaritans generally have no dealings with one another because of deep-seated prejudices. So, in astonishment, the woman asks: “How is it that you, despite being a Jew, ask me for a drink, when I am a Samaritan woman?”
“If you had known,” Jesus answers, “who it is that says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” she replies, “you have not even a bucket for drawing water, and the well is deep. From what source, therefore, do you have this living water? You are not greater than our forefather Jacob, who gave us the well and who himself together with his sons and his cattle drank out of it, are you?”
“Everyone drinking from this water will get thirsty again,” Jesus observes. “Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.”
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may neither thirst nor keep coming over to this place to draw water,” the woman responds.
Jesus now says to her: “Go, call your husband and come to this place.”
“I do not have a husband,” she answers.
Jesus verifies her statement. “You said well, ‘A husband I do not have.’ For you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”
“Sir, I perceive you are a prophet,” the woman says in amazement. Revealing her spiritual interest, she notes that the Samaritans “worshiped in this mountain [Gerizim, which stands nearby]; but you people [the Jews] say that in Jerusalem is the place where persons ought to worship.”
Yet, the place of worship is not the important thing, Jesus points out. “The hour is coming,” he says, “when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”
The woman is deeply impressed. “I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ,” she says. “Whenever that one arrives, he will declare all things to us openly.”
“I who am speaking to you am he,” Jesus declares. Think of it! This woman who comes at midday to draw water, perhaps in order to avoid contact with townswomen who despise her for her way of life, is favored in a wonderful way by Jesus. Point-blank he tells her what he has not confessed openly to anyone else. With what consequences?
Many Samaritans Believe
On returning from Sychar with food, the disciples find Jesus at Jacob’s well where they left him, and where he is now talking with a Samaritan woman. When the disciples arrive, she departs, leaving her water jar, and heads for the city.
Interested deeply in the things Jesus told her, she tells the men in the city: “Come here, see a man that told me all the things I did.” Then, in such a way as to arouse curiosity, she asks: “This is not perhaps the Christ, is it?” The question accomplishes its purpose—the men go to see for themselves.
Meanwhile, the disciples urge Jesus to eat the food that they have brought from the city. But he replies: “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
“No one has brought him anything to eat, has he?” the disciples ask one another. Jesus explains: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say that there are yet four months before the harvest comes?” However, pointing to the spiritual harvest, Jesus says: “Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting. Already the reaper is receiving wages and gathering fruit for everlasting life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together.”
Perhaps Jesus can already see the grand effect of his encounter with the Samaritan woman—that many are putting faith in him on account of her testimony. She is witnessing to the townspeople, saying: “He told me all the things I did.” Therefore, when the men of Sychar come to him at the well, they ask him to stay and talk to them more. Jesus accepts the invitation and remains for two days.
As the Samaritans listen to Jesus, many more believe. Then they say to the woman: “We do not believe any longer on account of your talk; for we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man is for a certainty the savior of the world.” Surely the Samaritan woman provides a fine example of how we can witness about Christ by arousing curiosity so that listeners will search further!
Recall that it is four months before the harvest—evidently the barley harvest, which in Palestine occurs in the spring. So it is now probably November or December. This means that following the Passover of 30 C.E., Jesus and his disciples spent eight months or so in Judea teaching and baptizing. They leave now for their home territory of Galilee. What awaits them there? John 4:3-43.
▪ Why is the Samaritan woman surprised that Jesus spoke to her?
▪ What does Jesus teach her about living water and where to worship?
▪ How does Jesus reveal to her who he is, and why is this disclosure so amazing?
▪ What witnessing does the Samaritan woman do and with what result?
▪ How is Jesus’ food related to the harvest?
▪ How can we determine the length of Jesus’ ministry in Judea following the Passover of 30 C.E.?