In John 4 Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem through Samaria. At about noon he stops at Jacob’s well to rest and the disciples go into Sychar to purchase food.
A woman comes to draw water from the well. This is unusual since she is alone and it is in the heat of the day. Jesus asks her for a drink of water. The woman questions Jesus’ request. He is a Jew and she is a Samaritan.
John notes that Jews do not associate with Samaritans. In fact, a righteous Jew would not drink from the same container as a Samaritan had used. He would become unclean in doing so. And Jesus is breaking a cultural taboo in speaking to a woman without her husband present.
Jesus does not address the problem the Samaritan woman inquiries about and instead tells 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.”
The woman is confused. Jesus has no container. How will he get this living water? Who does He think He is?
Her built-in resentment of Jews kicks in and she asks, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”
Jesus ignores the implications of the woman’s question and answers, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Just what is this living water Jesus is offering to this woman? In Jeremiah 2 and 7 He identifies “the stream of living water” as God. Then Jesus clarifies in John 7 that living water is God, the Holy Spirit.
“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit.” (John 7: 38)
The woman has no clue what Jesus is really telling her, but the woman accepts the offer. Jesus tells her to get her husband and return. I have no husband, the woman says. Jesus replies this is correct, and points out that she has had five husbands and the man she is living with is not her husband. So the reason she is coming in the heat of the day by herself for water is that she would be among the shunned and rejected of Samaritan society.
But Jesus does not shun her. In love he embraces her with the offer of eternal life through the Holy Spirit despite her sinful state. That offer implies total forgiveness of her sins.
The love of God for all us sinners is unfathomable. It is difficult to comprehend how God can still love us and reach out to us with his free gift of the Holy Spirit no matter how deep in sin we have fallen. God’s love for mankind is unconditional. That love and willingness to forgive is there both before we become Christians and after we are Christians. After we become Christians, God has provided the means to deal with our sin again and again through confession, absolution and the sacrament of communion.
What was the response of this sinful Samaritan woman to the love and acceptance Jesus showed toward her and His revealing to her that He was the promised Messiah? She leaves her jar at the well and goes back into town, witnesses the experience to those who had been despising her for her life of sin, invites them to come to Jesus and asks, “Could this be the Christ?”
And the people of Sychar respond. Many believed because of her witness, and later even more believed because of what Jesus taught them over two days.
That love and acceptance the Samaritan woman felt is also the love and acceptance we should feel today as Christians. The love of God toward us today is still exactly the same love Jesus demonstrated in paying the price for our sins on the cross and atoning the wrath of God for that sin.
Our response to that love and acceptance of God toward us should be the same as that of the Samaritan woman. We need to tell others about that love. We need to let others know that the love of God is unconditional, that the gift of salvation is free! God will look after the response.
Jesus said our mandate is, “you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” (Acts 1:7B)