Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
Tonight we are going to be looking at Jesus interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4.
As I have mentioned several times, I greatly enjoy reading about Jesus conversations with specific people in this Gospel.
As we looked at Jesus conversation with Nicodemus the well educated and powerful Pharisee, this week we will see how Jesus interacts with someone at the opposite end of the social pendulum.
Here we are going to see Jesus on the wrong side of the tracks, according to human standards.
Before we dive into the text, it is necessary to give you some history and geography so that you will better understand this dialogue.
What we currently call the Holy land is a strip of land, about 120 miles, that stretches along the Mediterranean. At the time of the writing of this Gospel the land was divided into 3 regions; in the north was Galilee, in the south was Judea, and in the middle was Samaria. These different regions had their own history, their own religious and national identity. Up north in Galilee were Jews and down in the south were Jews, but in the middle were Samaritans who had their own hybrid religion that was mixed with pagan rituals and beliefs. This group was despised and often times hated by the Jews in the north and south. It was very uncommon for them to have any friendships with the Jews, because the Jews looked at them as dogs and spiritual adulterers.
The history of these people can be traced all the way back to the Old Testament were Jacob purchased a piece of land in Genesis where he dug a well for his family and livestock to draw water from. There at that plot of land Jacob raised his family and was one of the great patriarchs of the Jewish faith. He then handed the land over to his son Joseph. Joseph, as you know, was taken off into exile in Egypt where he lived for the duration of his life. If you remember the story, the Jews began to grow in numbers in Egypt and were eventually ordered into slavery, where they stayed for 400 years until they were delivered by God, through the leadership of Moses.
Joseph’s only request was that if the Jews were liberated, he wanted his bones to be brought back to this plot of land, which was in the land of Samaria at this little place called Sychar that grew prominent by the time Jesus comes to the Earth.
Josephs request was granted as the Jews eventually were freed and his bones were laid to rest at this piece of land.
This land was important to the Jews, because this land was were Abraham and Isaac built altars to honor God’s provision in their lives.
The town called Sychar was basically at a fork in the middle of that region. This was also where a mountain called Garazene was where the altars had been constructed and where people came to worship. You can read in the book of Deuteronomy where the people had come to Garazene to worship.
Everything was dandy until about 720 BC, when the Assyrians, who hated the Jews, invaded that area and conquered the people that lived there and deported the people that lived in the land. This is the same thing that happens in our day in Sudan or Bosnia, where the invading power wins militarily and after the victory deports those individuals that live in the conquered land and forces them into exile. This deportation takes people from their family, their history, their livelihood, their culture and religion and transplants them to a different land. Usually, the victorious government will leave some behind in the land for a variety of reasons. At times the expense to transport them is too high, or there are key people that know the land and its terrain and agriculture so well that they are kept in the area, but have to give up their homes and land to the captors.
This is usually a horrible act of continued violence on the conquered people. Usually, and this is no different than today, the invading army will try to kill all of the men, rape the women, steal their goods, destroy their religious buildings and artifacts, so to destroy their identity in hopes that they will forget about their past and stay under the subjection of the new rulers.
As the new rulers take over that land, they send in civilians and government and military officials to live in the new land and begin to create a culture that was similar to their own.
This new introduction brings with it their music, art, religious beliefs, language, food and any other significant piece of that culture so that it is the dominant ruling culture.
The people that are left behind find themselves in a quandary. Either they fight this new culture, often with their lives being lost, or they try to syncretize this culture by mingling it with their own history and religion and try to create a hybrid culture or religion. For God’s people this is not an option, yet this is exactly what occurred with the Jews at this time.
Think about how this would work in our time. Mexico invades San Diego, and defeats our Army. Mexico then takes over our land, kicks us out of our homes, takes our money and business, kills the men, rapes the women, and then brings in pagan rituals and satanic beliefs and forces us adopt these beliefs or face death. Their objective is to rid us of any trace of our heritage as they establish their own culture and they intermarry so that their race is promulgated.
This introduction of sorcery and divination and witchcraft is welcomed by most of those that were left behind who called themselves Christians. Would this shock you? Do you think that you would be faithful to the Lord or would you do the same?
Almost immediately the Jews began to adopt their new invaders rituals and beliefs and began to marry those that were new in the land.
So much so, that they were even offering child sacrifices to their foreign god Molech.
Can you imagine how angry that would have made those that were deported and remained faithful to their history and beliefs in the one true God? This is what happened, and this is why the Jews despised the Samaritans.
The Samaritans kept the first 5 books of the Old testament, but threw out the rest and then blended it with this pagan religion. The Samaritans thought that they were being faithful by keeping some of their beliefs, yet we know that God is not impressed by only adopting or believing or following “some” of His Word. He wants all or nothing.
So the Samaritans were considered dogs by those that considered themselves “true Jews” and were mocked and cursed and despised.
Sadly, even those that considered themselves “true Jews” at this time in Christ’s history, were far from it. Yet their hatred remained intact for the Samaritans, even though they were doing exactly what the Samaritans were by not truly worshipping the Lord in Spirit and in Truth.
When the Jews took to the task of rebuilding the temple, the Samaritans wanted to assist in the building of the temple and the Jews said no. The Jews considered them heretical traitors that were unsaved and heathens. This deepened the unrest and hatred between the two peoples.
A renegade Jew at that time, took advantage of the schism and married a Samaritan woman and told the Samaritans that they didn’t need the temple, they could go to Mount Garazene and build their own temple.
This continues for around 300 years until about 120 BC., when the Jews get so tired of this competing temple that they march through Sychar and the mountain of Garazene and declare war and destroy the temple.
So at the time Jesus comes on the scene, the hatred for one another was still relatively fresh and definitely present.
It is a racial, cultural, ethnic hatred.
If you were a Jew and wanted to travel to Galilee, it would take you about 3 days walk, but if you were like most of the Jews that considered the Samaritans to be filthy dogs, you would travel around Samaria adding another 2-3 days onto your journey. You would not want to be considered ceremonially and ritually unclean by coming into contact with Samaritans.
If you think about the kind of hatred that the Klu Klux Klan had towards blacks, you can understand that if you lived north of where you wanted to go and there was a black town you had to pass through to get south, you would go around.
First off, you would not make it, you would die if you were Klan, second you wouldn’t want to be seen in a black area or come in contact with blacks because of your hatred for them and their race.
This traveling mans racism allows him to think of blacks, not as children created in the likeness of God, but of something between an animal and a human, they would be sub-human.
This is the same concept the Jews had for the Samaritans, racist, unloving and hateful.
I want you to understand this history as we pick up in chapter 4 tonight.
Chapter 4 verse one tells us “(1)The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, (2) although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. (3) When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
So here we have Jesus picking up and moving on to Galilee. Jesus is going to travel from south to north.
Verse (4) “Now he had to go through Samaria. (5) So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. (6) Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was bout the sixth hour.
So it was about 12 noon. And he decides to rest by the well, which was about 120 feet deep and was located about ½ mile to a mile from the town of Sychar.
Noon is not a good time to sit out in the sun by the well. If you lived in that area, you would not want to be out in the open under the sun, this is an extremely hot time of day.
As Jesus is sitting there, verse (7) “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (8)(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The fact that this woman comes at noon tells a great deal about her. We never learn her name, but we can learn quite a but in this interaction with Jesus.
That she would come out at noon, and not morning, to draw her water tells us that she was an outcast.
In this culture, the well was the common meeting place for the women, it was like a coffee shop or a laundry mat, and they would come out early in the morning to get their water for the day. They would carry these heavy buckets of water from the well which was anywhere between ½ mile to a mile away from their home. If you were a Samaritan woman, you wanted to do this in the morning, not at high noon.
This Samaritan woman was probably not welcomed by the other women to socialize at that time of day, so she was forced to come at noon.
We are going to learn why everyone hates her. This is sad. If you were kicked out of socializing with the Samaritan women, things are about as bad as they can get. These people are considered the lowest of the low on the social ladder and even they didn’t want her around.
Has that ever happened to you in school? Remember in high school when you would try to befriend certain groups or individuals, only to have them completely dis you and force you to socialize with people you really didn’t have a lot in common with? This is like those people (we’ll call them the nerds), wouldn’t even want to hang out with you. Even they would call you a loser. This is bad for this woman.
The Samaritans are the most rejected people and even they hate you. This means your social life is over. You are done. This is a pathetic lonely life.
So we see the disciples are gone, it obviously takes 12 men to find a sandwich, and Jesus is alone at the well with this woman.
When the woman sits down Jesus starts the conversation. She hasn’t said a word and here we see Jesus engaging her with a conversation that is natural and not spiritual. “Can you give me a drink.”
To us, this doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but to this Samaritan woman, this is a complete shock.
In this culture a most men would never speak to a woman. They thought that women were less than men and were just necessary.
There was an extreme group of Pharisees called the bleeding Pharisees. They didn’t want to lust after women, so every time they would see a woman they would bow their head down and run into things like walls or posts or doors. They would force themselves to trip and hurt themselves just so they wouldn’t lust after a woman. They would end up beating themselves silly.
Some of them wouldn’t speak to their wife, mother or daughter in public.
If you are legalistic in your religion about your piety and laws, you end up doing some pretty stupid things, and creating some ridiculous rules to follow that even God has not commanded.
To think that Jesus would talk to a woman, and not just a woman, a Samaritan woman, and not just a Samaritan woman, but very sexually confused, loose and wicked Samaritan woman, is almost incomprehensible at this time in history. Not only does he talk to her, but he speaks to her kindly and extends a hand of friendship.
Most of the Jews would pack their own utensils and dishes so that you would not become unclean by using or eating from or out of someone that is unclean hands or pots and dishes.
This is like the whites in the 50’s would not drink out of a “colored” persons fountain.
This may be the first meaningful conversation that this woman has had in quite some time. This may be the first man in some time that didn’t want to have sex with her but simply wanted to have a conversation.
What Jesus has just done here is completely obliterate His reputation. I think it’s great. He doesn’t care. We live in a time when our reputation is so important to us. Even more so, was your reputation considered important in this time and He simply blows it by this single act. Does Jesus care? Not at all. Jesus cares about doing the will of the Father. He doesn’t care about reputation, he cares about Holiness and the will of God. He cares about God’s grace and wants to share it.
Verse (9) “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you as me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Verse (10) “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.”
What Jesus does is to use a metaphor to begin a conversation into spiritual things. He did this with Nicodemus when talking about being born again. He uses a metaphor that is somewhat complicated so that the person will need to think and listen to what he has to say. Often times Jesus doesn’t given easy how-to answers to peoples questions. And often Jesus will begin a sentence that seems totally and completely confusing to the listener.
(11) The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?
Great question. Where does Jesus get His living water? From the Father. He is the wellspring of life eternal.
(12) "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?"
(13) Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,
Jesus is saying to her that no matter how much she drinks, it will never fill her. Her thirst will remain. He is moving from a physical conversation to a spritual.
(14) "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."
Here he begins to expose His identity. He is speaking to her again about eternal life and that He is the one to give this water that gives everlasting life.
(15) The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."
The woman desires this water. She is tired of having to come everyday alone to draw water. She begins to thirst for this water that Jesus describes to her.
(16) Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here."
Here we see Jesus gently drawing out her sin. He tells her to go get her husband so that they can finish this conversation.
(17) The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,'
Here is her partial confession. She admits that she has no husband, yet doesn’t tell Jesus the full story. She postures herself to keep some sense of self worth.
(18) "for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly."
Here Jesus exposes her half hearted confession to surface her sin. She worships men. She has been married 5 times and is now with someone that isn’t even her husband.
(19) The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
She begins to acknowledge that He is something other than just a normal every day guy.
(20) "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship."
Here it seems as if she is changing the subject. But she is not. She is asking Jesus where to worship. Why would you go to the temple? To worship God. How? By brining a sacrifice. For what? Her sin. She is asking where she can go to know God and to deal with this sin the Jesus has just exposed. What a great question she asks.
(21) Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. (22) "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
(23) "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
(24) "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
(25) The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things."
(26) Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."