Have you ever felt empty? Like nothing could satisfy the longing to be loved, the hunger for happiness or the craving for community?
Jesus shares the answer to those desires when he talks with a Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
A little background information is needed to understand this passage. Hang with me as I share the important historical context.
“The bitter hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans was long standing. In 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom and swept Israel away in captivity to Assyria. During those years, the Jews dropped all their regulations against intermarrying with the Assyrians and they lost their ethnic purity. In 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom, Judah. During their captivity, they did not intermarry with the Babylonians. When the Israelites returned back to their homeland the Israelites from the southern kingdom considered those from the northern kingdom who had intermarried to be half-breeds – Samaritans. A popular prayer among some of the southern kingdom Jews was, “Lord, do not remember the Samaritans in the resurrection” (an excerpt from the Dr. David Jeremiah study Bible).
John 4:4 “He had to go through Samaria on the way.”
As the years passed, the animosity grew between the Jews and Samaritans and their interactions became more hostile towards one another. When the Jews would travel they would take a longer commute around the city to avoid Samaria. Instead Jesus said he needed to travel through the city, not around it. A divine appointment was scheduled and the location was in Samaria! I’m sure the disciples scratched their heads, puzzled, and wondered why Jesus, a Jew, would want to go through the city of Samaria! Not only was it culturally improper for Jews and Samaritans to co-mingle but it was unacceptable for men and women to talk openly in public.
John 4:6-7 “Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water”
Most women in the village would go to the well at dawn and dusk. Not only was it a necessary chore but a social event, a time for women to gather and socialize. But in this story we find the Samaritan woman going to the well in the middle of the day. We can assume that she went to the well later in the day to avoid the crowds of women, along with their criticisms and judgemental glares.
John 4:9 “The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?””
Another important cultural note is the role women had in that time of history. Two thousand years ago women lived in a patriarchal society. Women didn’t get to vote. Women didn’t attend school. Women’s testimonies weren’t even valid in court! Yet, Jesus took the time to talk with a woman, a single woman, who had previously been married five times. He acknowledged her presence and showed her dignity. Many Jewish men in that time would pray and thank God he was not a Gentile, slave or woman. But Jesus, a Jewish man, openly talks with a Samaritan woman. This is so radically counter-cultural! Moreover, the fact that John records this story is of significant importance! “The Samaritan woman was the first person to whom Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah in the Gospel of John. This is the first “I Am” statement in the gospel as well.” Shawna R. B. Atteberry shares in The Samaritan Woman.
But why would Jesus talk to a Samaritan woman? In that time she was seen as an outcast and one of the lowest positions in society. But Jesus loves all! There is no one outside His reach for forgiveness, salvation and redemption. Jesus seeks the lost, comforts the lonely and loves the social outcasts regardless of race, gender or relationship status. All people are valuable to God.
John 4:13-18 “Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!””
Jesus looked beyond her past mistakes and saw her heart. He saw that she was going from guy to guy looking for attention, affirmation and affection. It never says she was divorced. It says she has had five husbands. She could have been widowed. But other commentators say she may have been barren. When a woman couldn’t produce children that was grounds for divorce. So when one relationship didn’t work she moved on to the next man. She was satisfied with a drop of love from a man, a man who was using her and her body for his own gain but not even married to her. She was in a sinful relationship looking for unconditional love and acceptance in all the wrong places. This scenario happened over 2,000 years ago but isn’t it the same place we find ourselves in today?
Jesus is offering much more than to quench her thirst for love. Speaking with compassion, He told her- You don’t need a man to satisfy you. I offer you something richer, so much sweeter and much more enduring. That love you have been seeking? I offer if to you freely because I love you. Jesus was offering the free gift of salvation.
John 4:28 “The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone”
She then left the jug beside the well because she found what she had been looking for all along. Her heart was overflowing!
I remember the deep longing to be seen, know and loved. I craved the companionship of a relationship. I thought finding the “right person” was the right answer. However, the relationship inevitably would end and I would look to get my next “fix” that my heart was yearning for.
God sees us all the same- the rapist and the grandfather, the athlete and the academic, the entrepreneur and the high school dropout, the Samaritan woman and the Jewish man. We all fall short of God’s standard for holiness. That is why Jesus came to Earth, fully man and fully God, to pay the penalty of our sins. Jesus came from Heaven to pursue you (I don’t think any other man could travel that far to pursue you)! He endured torture and a gruesome death to defeat death. Nothing, no one, no mistake or dirty secret could ever separate you from His love. You are pursued, chosen, forgiven and loved. I promise you nothing can compare.
Trust me girlie, I’ve sipped and sampled what the world offers. I bounced from relationship to relationship and went on date after date to find “The one”- the one who would complete me and fulfill my every desire. Yet, they didn’t measure up. Nothing and no one on this earth can quench our thirsty soul’s longing for love.
Only when I surrendered my life to Jesus was my heart secure and satisfied. Do you know about the free gift of salvation Jesus generously offers? Have you accepted it and tasted the Living Water?
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life” John 3:36
“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink!” Isaiah 55:1
“Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8