Meditations on John 4:1-26
"Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. So He *came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. There *came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus *said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman *said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." She *said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? "You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." The woman *said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw." He *said to her, "Go, call your husband and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus *said to her, "You have correctly said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly." The woman *said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus *said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman *said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Jesus *said to her, "I who speak to you am He. " " (John 4:1-26)
At times, it seems that our modern lives and families are filled with so much instability and insanity that we can barely survive.
Desperate people and desperate times seem to be the “new normal” of the 21st century.
Yet in every age, behind that thin disguise of things being “fine” have always been human lives drowning in the mess of losses, wounds, rebellious lives and unlawful relationships. People tend to make a mess out of their lives and suffer from the mess of others. Life “East of Eden” is often solitary, poor, bad, cruel, and short.
The woman at the well is a person suffering a messy life.
She is a Samaritan, a group that in which intermarriage between Jews and Assyrians took place and who had developed a competitive religion with Judaism. While the Jews rebuilt their temple on Mt Moriah, the Samaritans built a counterfeit temple on Mt. Gerizim in Samaria, they took the five books of Moses and deleted any reference to Jerusalem and changed Mt. Moriah to Mt. Gerizim They eliminated all other books of the OT, since they refused to recognize any of the prophets sent to the other Jews, they created their own priesthood. They developed their own theology. 
This woman then was part of a sect of Judaism that was not orthodox and was rejected by most Jews. Born into this religion, she simply had followed the beliefs of her parents.
In addition to the theological differences with the Jews, there had developed a type of racism and prejudice that was even greater than the religious differences.
One of the characteristics of the mess we make of human relationships is that we begin hating people just because of the color of their skin or the race in which they were born. So, this woman belonged to a hated minority that was not really accepted by the Jewish or larger Gentile cultures.
As our story begins, she is coming to get water at noon. Most likely she has come at midday, to avoid the social dynamics of other women who would have come in the cool of the morning hours to get water. Her life had been hard and filled with chaotic events that placed her outside the empathy or sympathy of others.
Jesus is weary and sitting by the well waiting for his disciples to bring back food for lunch.
There are no crowds coming to get water. It is only the two of them. The woman who had sought quiet solitude now must tolerate a Jewish man being in this place where no one is supposed to be, at this time, of day.
So, she most likely felt some irritation, frustration, and perhaps fear since the relationship between Jews and Samaritans were very hostile. But she needed her water.
Here in this conversation, we have all the dynamics of human interactions in honest conversation.
Jesus is breaking all socially accepted behavior as a Jewish man asking a Samaritan woman for a drink. This would have been unheard of and for those who first read this a scandal. The woman herself is shocked by this conversation.
Jesus begins instantly to hint that she really does not know who HE is and what HE could offer her. HE is not just a Jewish man. HE is the gift of God and while HE has asked her for a drink. HE has “living water” that would take away thirst forever and produce eternal life. One greater than Jacob is sitting with her. How can all this be true?
His words spark some hope in her. Maybe she could find a way out of her social isolation and the need to come at noon in the heat of the day to draw water. Can it be that she could escape that “normal” life which was filled with daily regrets and pain?
Then Jesus asks the question that she does not want him to ask. He asks about her husband. Her face blushing and embarrassment come rushing in she attempts to keep her complicated story simple. I have no husband she truthfully replies. But this is only a half-truth.
Jesus then demonstrates his power in a small but personal way.
The secrets which only the people in her town know, HE knows. She has had five husbands and now simply lives with a man outside of marriage. Five divorces, five deaths, or a mixture of both. We don’t know.
She is a widow and/or divorcee, now not considered worthy enough to be committed to in a regular marriage. Shunned by others, alone, abandoned, and rejected. Apparently, with no children from any of the marriages.
Jesus knows her. Know her pain and her shame. Yet, is asking her for water. How can this be?
Her mind rushing, she decides to pick a fight about religion.
It is time to find a good reason to turn this conversation hostile and have it end in a normal way for a Samaritan and a Jew, in anger, argument, and rejection. These are things she knows and can handle.
Fighting over where the right place to worship was a sure-fire way to get a Jew and Samaritan into a heated debate. She is attempting to start a fight and get out of this conversation with this strange Jewish prophet.
This conversation she had well-rehearsed and felt she knew how it would end in hostile disagreement.
But Jesus cuts to the heart again. The Father is seeking true worshipers. What? The all-powerful Creator is seeking, looking, and desiring?
Neither Mt Moriah or Mt. Gerizim will matter but rather the true temple will be in the hearts pf men and women who in passion, sincerity, truth, and filled with the Holy Spirit will give praise and honor to the true living God in every nation under the sun.
What is this man saying? This was not the planned script she had in her mind. The one that would divert from the overly personal revelation about her loses and sins. She falls back on a core belief.
When Messiah comes, he will know the right answer.
Then she hears the impossible. The hope she has that Messiah will come has been fulfilled. She, a Samaritan woman, has been talking to the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah, and she has been encountered by HIM.
Her life changes from this point on. Everything changes. She who has been abandoned, rejected, and seen as unclean has become chosen, accepted, and loved by the Messiah Jesus. HE has changed everything.
She becomes an evangelist and the spark that brings her whole community to faith.
In Christian tradition, the unnamed woman is given the name "Photini." She is celebrated as a devoted disciple who spread the gospel to many people.
As further recounted in John 4:28-30 and John 4:39-42, she was quick to spread the news of her meeting with Jesus, and through this many came to believe in him.
Historical tradition tells of her continuing witness who is said to have brought so many to the Christian faith that she is described as "equal to the apostles" in spreading the good news about Messiah Jesus.
Eventually, having drawn the attention of Emperor Nero, she was brought before him to answer for her Christian faith, suffering many tortures and dying a martyr after being thrown down a dry well.
If this is true, then truly this encounter with Jesus changed her life in a radical way.
Have you had an encounter with Jesus?
Have you been trying to keep your messy life from being revealed to HIM?
Just like this woman we need to have an encounter with the living Messiah Jesus.
It can come at unexpected times just like it came to her in the middle of her everyday “normal” activity. She was not in a holy place or active in religious activity. Just doing the chores of life while suffering the agony of her “normal” life.
It was in her “normal” desperation that HE encountered her. She was not seeking HIM, but HE was seeking her. Speaking to her. Waiting for her. Knowing the normal pattern of Messiah Jesus, HE would have been praying for her.
Do you hear the voice of the Messiah calling YOU to such a conversation, such an encounter, and such a transformation today?
May the Lord give us ears that can see, eyes that can see, and hearts that can feel HIS presence, power, and purpose to meet with us today.
LORD, meet with us today and change us as YOU changed her.
Here is another story for us to ponder as we hope to encounter Jesus today which has always touched my heart. Shoemaker Martin by Leo Tolstoy.
Lord, let me see YOU more clearly, that I may love YOU more dearly, and follow YOU more nearly day by day. Amen
There are about 800 Samarians who still follow this faith today in Israel.