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.)
~ JOHN 4:9
John 4 details a surprising conversation Jesus has while traveling from the region of Judea to Galilee. This conversation is surprising for a few reasons. First, it is between Jesus and a Samaritan in the region of Samaria. At that time in history, Jews and Samaritans despised each other for both religious and political reasons. Because of this mutual animosity, Jews traveling from Judea to Galilee would often go out of their way to bypass Samaria, which was located in between the two regions (see map on page 7). In John 4, Jesus chooses to walk straight through Samaria. In fact, verse 4 says, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” It may be that Jesus “had to” walk through this region for logistical reasons, but perhaps He was compelled to take this route for divine reasons: Jesus wanted to have this conversation.
This conversation is also surprising because it is between Jesus and a woman. During that time and place, it was frowned upon for men, especially those of Jesus’ stature, to converse with women. This was perceived as a waste of time and a potential source of trouble. As John 4:27 indicates, even Jesus’ disciples “were surprised to find him talking with a woman.” Jesus had little regard for how culture viewed women, and instead invested in this woman because He saw her true value.
Lastly, this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is surprising because she was an ostracized person, rejected by her own community. Jesus encounters this Samaritan woman when she comes to draw water by herself at noon. Typically, women would draw water with other women at dawn or dusk, not during the heat of the day (Genesis 24:11). This suggests that she was a woman who lived on the margins of society, likely because of past mistakes. But Jesus isn’t derailed by her history or social standing. He speaks with her and even explicitly reveals His messianic identity to her because Jesus wants His community of followers, His church, to include people like her. Jesus’ example here ought to challenge us to have a more expansive view of the church, and to invest in people we might normally neglect. Jesus didn’t come to save just certain people. He came to save the whole world.
JESUS TALKS WITH A SAMARITAN WOMAN
1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 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.”
THE DISCIPLES REJOIN JESUS
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?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 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. 36 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. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 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.”