Jesus was not supposed to talk to the Samaritan woman at the well, according to first-century culture. But the moment all heaven and earth waited for was drawing near—the time for a new order of worship for all people, for all eternity.
God the Father was seeking true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth. It was about a relationship, not rules. Starting with Jesus, He began breaking the man-made culture rules.
Speaking to a Samaritan.
Jews hated Samaritans.
Speaking to a woman.
Women were not spoken to in public.
Speaking to a divorced woman who lived with a man who was not her husband.
Jesus broke every cultural rule speaking to a rejected, diminished woman.
So why her? Why did Jesus choose to talk to this woman?
View the full message here . . .
Or, read the story found in chapter four in the Gospel of John.
Consider the Culture
Let’s look at the context and culture that existed when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. Women during this time of history were:
- given no rights;
- not listened to (e.g., a woman’s testimony was not recognized as legally binding);
- married in their early years; and
- viewed as property.
Women’s identity and value were defined by their connection to their father, their son, or their husband. And, husbands could divorce their wives at any time, for any trivial reason.
If a woman was rejected, her options for safe employment to sustain herself were few. Her only hope was to remarry, and if not, something worse might happen to her.
In this culture, concubines were not recognized as married, which could explain the comments Jesus made about who she was living with was not her husband (John 4:18). And if she were an adulterer, she would have been stoned to death (John 8:5).
While some details surrounding her life are vague, we know nearly all ancient readers would have looked negatively toward her circumstances.
Regardless of how these marriages ended, this woman experienced a lifetime of disappointment, sadness, and suffering.
No One Escapes Suffering
I think we can all relate to this marginalized, oppressed woman in some way—no one escapes disappointment, sadness, or suffering. Do you agree?
We live in a broken world, and the Bible says that even the earth groans (Romans 8:22-24). That’s why it’s remarkable to see what length Jesus took to reach this forgotten, rejected woman. Someone the world cast away time and time again.
Take a closer look at how it unfolded:
“So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
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 dido not associate with Samaritans.) 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.”
Think about the scenario here—Jesus asks her a question, and she responds with a question.
You can imagine her thinking, “Why are you asking me?” Of course, this conversation probably made her feel uncomfortable because the Jews thought the Samaritans were contaminated.
Jesus was lifting all the cultural barriers. He did not allow her ethnicity, gender, or social status to stop Him from giving her the greatest gift ever.
Until this point in her life, her culture told her that she was rejected and worthless. She questioned Jesus:
Do You Question Jesus?
Just like this Samaritan woman, we sometimes question Jesus. He says, I forgive you, and you respond, “Are you talking to me? How can you forgive me for all that I’ve done?” or “You may forgive me, but I cannot forgive myself?” So often, we respond to Jesus emotionally.
Jesus moves past her emotional barriers by offering her a gift of water. And, she responds with a gift of water—Jacob’s well (John 4:11-12)
It is important to understand that this well was no ordinary well. Given to her people more than 1,500 years earlier, Jacob’s well tied the Samaritans to the chosen people and tied her to the Samaritans.
But even more than her identity, Jacob’s well may have provided some consistency through her turbulent life of five broken marriages.
So she questions Jesus’s gift of water with Jacob’s gift of water and does not understand the life change He is offering her. Something far more faithful than an old well.
We Respond Like the Samaritan Woman
Jesus offers us salvation and fullness in life, but often we respond just like the Samaritan woman. We doubt His ability to provide us with what we need. That’s because the world tells us that our ability and willpower bring change. We hear messages like, “dig deep, pull ourselves together, acquire more resources, or be disciplined.” God calls us to trust Him, but we may respond . . .
God, how can you ask me to trust You through suffering?
God, how can you ask me to share my faith?
God, how can I serve in ministry or give sacrificially?
Jesus invites us to turn from our old ways of doing things and put our faith in Him—not only for salvation but also for our everyday life. Trusting Jesus and experiencing God is how we are changed.
We see this transformation demonstrated when Jesus offers the Samaritan woman the gift of Living Water, which leads to eternal life. We think of “eternal” as forever, but eternal life means unending friendship with God, starting now.
Warning—If anybody drinks this water (attempting to be satisfied with the things of this world) he will be thirsty again. And, if we are trying to earn salvation or satisfy our souls in our strength, nothing will change.
What Does Jesus Mean That You Would Never Thirst Again?
Jesus’s promise to never thirst again means that your “deepest spiritual longing to know God will, amazingly, be satisfied forever.” You can be complete in Him.
The Samaritan woman does not have to look to her family status or occupation to complete her, but can look to Jesus to fill all her needs.
That’s exactly what Jesus is offering her and to you.
It’s through God’s grace (His undeserved loving-kindness) with forgiveness and mercy that you can experience real change to satisfy your heart’s desires (Psalm 37:4).
The world will never satisfy you. No amount of wealth, success, accomplishments, possessions, or degrees will give you the indescribable peace and joy that comes from experiencing God. You do not have to keep drawing from the world’s well to quench your thirst—you can receive all you need from Jesus.
Born again by the Spirit of God (John 3:3) and led by the Son of God—the truth (John 14:6), we become true worshipers of God. No matter our status, position, gender, ethnicity, or location, we are all designed as worshipers. That’s why Jesus came to reveal the Father (Matt. 11:27)—to turn us into true worshipers.
Yes, Jesus talked with her because she was not only spiritually thirsty, but also she was chosen to know and worship the One True God.
Jesus revealed He was the Messiah, not just to any woman, but to a Samaritan woman. And not just any Samaritan woman, but a rejected, oppressed, marginalized Samaritan woman. A woman who probably asked a thousand times, “God, where are you?”
Jesus shows up and seems to say, “I see you. I know you. I’m right here in the middle of your difficult circumstances because I love you…and now it’s time for you to know Me.”
Change Begins Now and Lasts Forever
The story of the Samaritan woman is about a heart change that began in a moment of belief. It is about experiencing an eternal friendship with God, which leads to true worship in Spirit and truth. You see her change immediately.
Divorced, betrayed, rejected…all that did not matter anymore. She encountered Jesus, and Living Water flowed in and through her. She could not keep it to herself. She wanted to—or maybe she had to—tell others. Because when you encounter Jesus, you can hardly contain yourself. You want others to experience Him.
Is there anything you need to leave at the well with Jesus, like the Samaritan woman?
- Your insecurities or doubts
- Your fears or worries
- Your sadness or heartbreak
- Your pride or pain
Bring it to Jesus, leave it at His feet. Let nothing hold you back from your purpose as a true worshiper of God.
Know that you do not have to work harder, pursue more, or pull yourself together. You can rest and drink deeply from the well of Living Water, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and Jesus to lead you.
If you are spiritually dry, and your soul is thirsty for more, if you are tired of trying, striving, or working to earn salvation or completion or satisfaction, now is the time to invite Jesus into your life—to drink deeply from the Living Water. Or, if you want to learn how to have a daily friendship with Jesus, take our 50-Day journey through Your True Story: The 50-Day Essential Guide to Your New Life with Jesus.
You and I are like the Samaritan woman. We have a choice. We can fill ourselves with the water of the world, or we can fill it with Living Water and never thirst again.
 Crossway Bibles. 2008. The ESV: Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2027.