She laughed to herself as she ran, stumbling in her haste. Could it be? Is it true? Her feet could not move fast enough for the joy that spilled from her heart. She tripped on a stone, and she giggled at her foolish joy. No more waiting? No more thirst! She could not remember the last time she had laughed with such childish abandonment. Not since childhood, no doubt.
She thought back to that moment when He had called out her sins, her failings. The scarlet letter of shame she had worn her entire life was known even to this man Jesus. But He had not accused her as everyone else always did. He did not condemn her or belittle her.
She remembered her response, feeling so confused by His knowledge of her life. She attempted to turn the focus of the conversation with flattery and religious talk. “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet," she had said. "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship” (4:19-20). She had pointed out their differences, the religious and ethnic divide that left her people as outcasts. Surely He would drop the act then, acknowledging the impossibility of them ever sharing any type of friendly relationship.
“Woman," He replied, with a gentle tone of respect she had not known before. "Believe me, the hour is coming when neither on 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 the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (4:21-24).
She had forgotten her insatiable thirst from just a short time ago, the empty jar lying beside the well. She slowly turned His words in her mind, processing their meaning. Was He saying that she, a Samaritan, might be considered a true worshipper of Yahweh, as if she were a true Jew? Was He implying that there might be acceptance for her and her people after all? Still not sure of what to think of His words, she had tested Him once more: “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things” (4:25). Her response was once again safe, distancing the conversation from the turmoil within her heart.
But He had not hesitated. Jesus was not so easily distracted from His mission. He looked in her eyes, piercing her heart, and with confidence and compassion, He spoke. “I who speak to you am He” (4:26).
The power of His words had hit her with such force, like a wave from the ocean. The impact was strong, washing over her entire being. Him? The Christ? "I Am," He had said. "I Am He." He had used of Himself the very same Hebrew name as the One True God, the Great I Am! How dare He...but He dared!
And the wildest thing of it all was that she believed Him. She knew it to be true. She believed!
His disciples had returned at that moment, but she did not pay them much attention. She could tell that they looked at her with arrogance, the same disdain she usually received from others. They were not pleased that their leader would speak to the likes of her. But she had been unmoved be their judgments, for her understanding of life had grown immensely over the last several minutes of conversation. She believed in Jesus' message, and she knew she had to tell the others! So she had made haste, forgetting her physical thirst, abandoning her water jar, and she ran from Jesus, the Messiah, to tell of His Living Water (4:27-29).
She laughed again in delight. The moment of realization, of believing, playing over and over in her mind. He was Messiah. He had come, and He had chosen to come to her! Her city came into view. Sychar. Samaria. The land of mixed people.
She ran into Sychar, shouting her news. "Come!" Her people spilled into the streets to see what was causing this disturbance. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” She could tell they did not understand, and she tried to slow her words, to explain her encounter so they too could marvel at this One. She told her story, watching the looks on people's faces. Some faces held the same innocent hope and belief she held, while others were hardened, disbelieving already.
The people all rallied together to see this Man she spoke of. They found Him at the well, and they listened to His words. Many had already believed because of the woman's testimony, but many more believed as they heard Jesus' words. At their request, He stayed two days in their small city. They told the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (4:39-42). She treasured their words. No one had ever believed her testimony, her stories. No one had ever thought her words valuable enough to consider as truth. Yet here she was, being used to change the very story of her people. For they had once been a mixed people, never good enough, always rejected, but now they too could worship God, in spirit and in truth.
While we will never know her name, we will always know her story. This woman, condemned and rejected by most, stripped of all dignity, was lifted high on that day and honored by God for her belief. And by her testimony it is known that Jesus brought salvation to Sychar, to Samaria, to the world!