The Woman at the Well

Thirsting for Love

Jesus said, “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.” John 4:13-14

Most of us know the story of Jesus’ encounter with a woman beside a well. Many assume that the woman went to the well at midday to avoid meeting other women to whom she was an outcast. The well closest to her home in Sychar was larger. But what if she chose the smaller well because she liked the idea that Jacob had dug it many years earlier? What if her water jar suddenly became empty at noon?

She was surprised when a stranger sitting by the well asked her for a drink. He obviously needed one, but he was a Jew, she a Samaritan, and a woman. Jewish men did not speak to Samaritan women.

He began to speak of living water. “Never thirst again . . . become a spring of water bubbling up” (John 4:13-14).

She saw immediately that he was different. “Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well?”

His next words stabbed her to the heart, “Go, call your husband.” He then told her about the five husbands she’d had and the man she was now living with. Jesus wasn’t trying to shame her. He was zeroing in on her wounded heart and offering her something that would quench her longings.

She changed the subject. Burning questions surged within her that no one else would explain to her. Women in those days weren’t allowed to go to school because men did not think women needed to study religious matters. But she always had questions.

And then the most amazing thing happened: he did not treat her rudely. In fact, he liked her questions. Not only did he answer them, but he also talked about true worship. He said he was the Messiah Israel was expecting!

Like this woman, we all have what has been described as “God-shaped holes” in our hearts. Human love will never satisfy our longings. Only God can fill that hole.

Dig Deeper

Read John 3:1-21. Compare the two encounters. Jesus’ theological discussion with the woman at the well was as deep, if not deeper than this earlier one with a Pharisee. How were Nicodemus and this woman different? How quickly did they recognize Jesus as Messiah?

Read John 4:39-42. What happened after she told the people of Sychar about her encounter by the well? How can we follow her example when we witness to others?

John 4:28 reveals that the woman left her water jar at the well. Why is that a significant part of this narrative?

Nancy J. Baker

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