John 4 = Jesus and the Woman at the Well
Bible Background: In John’s Gospel, Jesus has just had a short, odd conversation with Nicodemus-an insider, leading to the claim of John 3:16. Now, he has a unique conversation with an ‘outsider’ of outsiders: A Samaritan; a woman; of questionable status. Read carefully! This is powerful!
Digging Deeper: 1. John’s gospel includes several long dialogues. This one is the longest one Jesus has with another person! It’s good to ask: What does this encounter reveal about Jesus? What might this surprising encounter teach us about neighbors who seem like ‘the other’ to us?
2. Samaritans and Jews were long at odds with each other. Samaritans had intermarried with non-Jews; they worshipped at Mt. Gerazim (whereas a devout Jew would see the Temple in Jerusalem as the only place to worship.) For Jesus to have a rich and transformative conversation with this woman seems very much an eye-opening experience for both him and her!
3. The woman’s tragic history of relationships has led us to assume she has a bad reputation. Even coming to the well at noon-the heat of the day-and alone, leads many to think the other women shunned her. Neither may be true! The woman could have been widowed or divorced 5 times (She could not have initiated divorce!). “Noon” in John’s gospel has symbolism, like “light” (i.e. believing in Jesus) or “darkness” (not believing.) Nicodemus in contrast came to Jesus by night, and left by night…curious, but not really believing. This woman may be a completely honorable person, victim of many misfortunes! She becomes a believer!
4. Jesus’ willingness to engage her in conversation surprises her and surprises his disciples when they find out! How is that good news to an ‘outsider’? How is that a lesson for us? When are we prone to pre-judging people? What do we do about it?
5. She came to the well to draw water. He offers her ‘living water’. Even though she doesn’t understand exactly what he speaks of, she wants more! She is very open to what Jesus offers! She leaves her water jug behind! Do we want all that Jesus offers? Or are we too easily satisfied by earthly/physical things?
6. The woman becomes the first evangelist in John’s gospel! She invites her neighbors to “come and see!” They come and see and hear and experience Jesus themselves. They ask him to stay! They believe he is “the Savior of the world!”