Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.
– John 4:1-3 (ESV)
Evidently, Jesus did not think the baptism controversy beneficial to John’s mission, so He put some space between the Baptist and Himself. He turned His face to Galilee and His disciples followed.
And he had to pass through Samaria. …
– John 4:4ff (ESV)
Samaria wasn’t considered a prime vacation spot. This was a journey most Jews took with a focus on the destination. Like driving through a bad neighborhood, you didn’t want to stop unless you had to. The stricter Jews would avoid the country all together, crossing the Jordan to bypass it to the east. But Jesus had to go through this land.
Around lunch time, the travelers arrived at Sychar. After walking most of the morning, they were footsore, hungry and thirsty. So Jesus sat down to rest at a well just outside the town while the others went into town to buy food.
The well was virtually deserted, the women having come and gone in the cool of the morning to draw water.
Shortly after the rest of the company had gone in to town, a woman came to draw water. She, for whatever reasons, was a bit late for this chore, and that made her job more difficult. But God had arranged it so that this particular woman had to come at a time when water of a different Source would be available.
“Give me a drink.”
A simple request that, to our minds, would warrant a polite ‘sure’ or curt ‘no’. But to the woman, it stirred up uneasy questions.
“Ah… sir… you are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink of water?”
Jews and Samaritans didn’t have dealings with each other and she knew it. This wasn’t something learned in sociology class; it was hammered in to her through life-long experience. No Jew had ever asked her for anything.
“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.”
Jesus spoke mysteries to the woman. She did not yet know that God had given His only begotten Son to die for her sins. Nor did she know that afterwards Jesus would send the gift of the Holy Spirit down on ordinary sinful men and women just like her (Luke 11:13). (This word ‘gift’, greek dorea, is mentioned only one time in the gospels, but is used four times in Acts, all in reference to the gift of the Holy Spirit.)
If she knew the gift of God, she would have asked the Fountain of living waters for the drink that would satisfy her thirst forever. She would never have to labor to draw this living water up – it would well up within her of itself.
“Sir, obviously you’re not familiar with this well. It’s very deep and you’re unequipped. You need something to get the water up. But no need to try. I’ve been drawing water from here for years and I can tell you, there’s no ‘living water’ here. …”
What Jesus said hadn’t clicked yet.
“You know this water won’t quench your thirst permanently. But I speak of water you haven’t tasted. If you drink of the water I give you, then you’ll never be thirsty. It will forever well up within you to eternal life.”
It sounded too good to be true, but what if… ? Can’t hurt to ask.
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
– John 4:15 (ESV)
She had taken the first step: she asked.