The scorching sun beat down on her shoulders. Her dry, cracked feet ached from the burning sand that kicked into her worn sandals. The evening would eventually come, with its relief from the unbearable heat, but for now the unforgiving sun exhausted her. She hated being thirsty. No servant to do her biddings, she walked, as she did every day, to the well outside of town. It was time to draw water to quench her thirst for one more day, at which point she would once again wait until the time came for her to return to the well tomorrow. Thirst always came back more quickly than she hoped. She wouldn't have to wait long for that.
Her entire life had been spent in waiting. Waiting in misery, waiting in rejection. Waiting for love, waiting for acceptance. She was the outcast of the outcasts: a Samaritan by nationality, considered a people of mixed blood, hated by the Jews; a woman by gender, lower than any man, and an immoral woman at that. There was no hope for her, but still she waited. She had waited as a child for a marriage that might bring her promise, bring her dignity and contentment. She had waited through marriage number one, then marriage two, then marriage number three. So her waiting went, all the way through five marriages total, but also many other men beyond that. She had waited for children that never came, and the only thing she ever bore was the shame of being infertile. She had waited for religion to fill her, and she longed to be considered a religious woman, an accepted woman, "good enough," but she knew that would never happen. Still, she waited and hoped her meager religious offerings might solve the inner desires of her heart.
She sighed deeply, draining the frustration from her body. Who in their right mind chooses to walk to the well at the hottest time of day, anyway? Only the likes of her...her, the immoral woman, along with the other prostitutes and outcasts of her people. She bitterly wiped the sweat from her brow and moved her dry tongue over her chapped lips. The well came into view, and she saw a man resting on the rocks of the well. She groaned, annoyed by his intrusion. It was her favorite time of day, usually. Her only time alone, quenching her aching thirst, pretending her life made more sense, and he had to be there. A traveler, no doubt. She hoped he would move away so she could draw her water in peace.
He didn't move as she came closer to the well. She ignored him and pulled her head covering more tightly over her face as she prepared to draw that tantalizing water from the well. She attached her jar to lower it down.
“Give me a drink,” He requested (John 4:7). She jumped, stopping in her tracks. Anger burned in her. All men are the same! Takers, users. She assumed He would want more than just water when this interaction was over.
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” She spewed (4:8). The nerve. He would defy every social rule to make her give him water. This arrogant Jew, was he trying to mock her? She glanced at his eyes.
He smiled gently, a tender look in his eyes, kindness, even. It stirred a foreign feeling in her spirit, a longing for the compassion he dangled before her. She nearly felt guilty for speaking so harshly. He answered softly but directly, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water" (4:10).
Now she just felt confused and irritated. Who is this Man? What is His motive here, anyway? He made no sense. Exasperated, she asked Him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?" She waved her hands around, indicating the lack of other water resources in their immediate area. "Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock” (4:11-12). This Jew, she thought again. He would know her reference to Jacob. While she referenced Jacob as their father, she knew the Jews did not consider the Samaritans as having any part in the family bloodline.
He was not phased by her attempts at provoking Him. He continued to talk of this Living Water. “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again," He said, pointing down toward the well. "But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (4:13). His voice held an excitement and joy over the news He bore. His eyes danced as He spoke.
She shook her head in disbelief. Does He think me a fool? There is no other water here. He is a crazy man. She considered her options. Ok, she thought, I can play His game. “Sir," she bowed, waving her hands to indicate a fake humility. "Give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water,” she challenged (4:15). She hated being thirsty, but even more than that, she hated being mocked.
Jesus looked at this woman, broken in her fear, lost in her shame. He recalled His recent encounter with Nicodemus, the Pharisee, and He contrasted them in His mind. They could not be more different from an earthly standpoint, but He knew their needs were the same in His Father's eyes. They both needed what He had to offer, though He explained it in different terms so that each could understand. He nodded toward town and replied to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here" (4:16).
Her blood ran cold, and she inwardly withdrew from this Man. Always it came back to her failings in life. “I have no husband,” she answered with a breathy whisper, turning her eyes from His (4:17). She prepared to run from this encounter, troubled by how it made her feel.
But as she turned to leave, He spoke softly, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true” (4:17). Jesus waited, allowing His knowledge to pierce her worn, battered heart.
All of her defenses fell. How does He know this? This foreigner, this Jew! He had read her like a book. She could not pull her head covering down enough to cover the shame she now felt as it warmed her cheeks. He knows it all.
To Be Continued...