Divine Encounters with Jesus: The Woman at the Well (Part I)
In John 3 Jesus encountered a ruler of the Pharisees whose name was Nicodemus. In this encounter Jesus tried to get him to see his need to be born again. It was a difficult message to hear and he struggled to understand who Jesus was and what he was offering to him. In John 4, Jesus encounters a Samaritan Woman at Jacobs Well in Sychar. These two people were very different from one another. Nicodemus was a Jewish male who functioned as a ruler of the Pharisees in Jerusalem. The woman was a gentile Samaritan whose reputation was either not well known and whose character was questionable. However, Jesus came to both of them to offer them salvation. They had many differences but their common need was the same. They were in darkness and were spiritually dead. It is almost painful to read the beginning and middle portions of these two accounts. They both struggle to move from the natural to the spiritual aspects of the conversation. Jesus is patient and relentlessly directs them back to primary spiritual matters.
In the beginning of John 4 Jesus is on the move. He has left Judea to embrace the three-day journey to Galilee. The road he and his disciples will take leads directly through Samaria and near the town of Sychar. Jesus is tired from the journey and sits down at a famous well in Sychar of Samaria at noon. This weariness indicates his humanity and evidences his incarnation. It is also a reminder, as Jesus engages the woman, that even when we are tired, we must still do the will of the Father in Heaven. The sun is hot on the Son of God’s head and the cool well water would bring great satisfaction to him in dry Samaria. The disciples are sent into town to find food and Jesus encounters a woman of Samaria. In their absence, Jesus engages a woman next to the well. It should be no surprise that he encounters a woman who is in darkness. Jesus was intentional in the steps that he took while on earth. Many times, as he did in the beginning of John 4, Jesus would leave a place to avoid controversy or if he sensed that it would come in the way of the mission from his Father in Heaven. However, we must not think that this encounter with the woman was happenstance or mere coincidence.
The conversation alone is shocking to the first-century Jewish reader. Jesus initiates the conversation by asking her for a drink. She is shocked by this because she is a woman and a gentile Samaritan. In that day, as John notes, “Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans”. It is here that we must stop and explain how the geography, heritage, and theology of the Samaritans differs from the Jewish people. First, Samaria was a region that was captured by the Assyrians in 722-721 BC. Most of the well-to-doo Jewish people were deported away from the region. Some Jewish people were left in the area. Many of them intermarried and worshipped other Gods. In 400 BC a temple was erected on Mount Gerizim. However, this temple would later be destroyed in the 2nd century BC. In the first century BC the Samaritans redeveloped their religious heritage based on the Pentateuch (First Five Books of the OT Scriptures). They rejected other books of the Hebrew Canon. Furthermore, they continued to focus their worship on Mt. Gerizim and rejected worship at Jerusalem. This geography and landscape surrounded Jesus and the woman as they spoke to one another. Mt. Gerizim towered in the background and represented the belief system of the Samaritan woman.
As the conversation continued Jesus begins to reveal more of his identity to the woman. He introduces the idea that the gift of God he has to offer is not water from Jacobs Well, but Living water from himself, the Messiah. The woman is still not ready to entertain such spiritual thoughts. She asks him where his water bucket is and where she can find this living water. Jesus redirects the conversation back to primary spiritual matters; the living water that is connected to eternal life.
These 14 verses are the beginning to this Samaritan woman’s spiritual journey with Jesus. Jesus teaches us much about his desire to transform and change all those he encounters. Also, it is reminder to us that if we have had life-changing encounter with Jesus, we are to try to help others to experience that same encounter. It will not be easy. We can expect that those who we speak to about spiritual matters will not understand or may object. However, we must persist and resist the temptation to pursue secondary or tertiary conversations. I want to remind you that A divine encounter with Jesus is a mind and heart transforming experience. Believers in Christ should seek to share this encounter by intentionally sharing their faith with those God puts in their daily path.