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The story of the woman at the well is one of the most significant stories told within the pages of scripture.

Not only was the Samaritan woman the first person that Jesus revealed Himself as Messiah in the gospel of John, but she was also the first individual Jesus had such a long exchange with in that gospel.

Knee-deep in sin, a societal outcast living in a time where there was no regard for females, she was the last person people would expect Jesus to spend time with.

But our Lord intentionally chose this moment to meet and converse with this woman and leave us a rich story packed full of lessons and a revelation of His heart.

What is the story of the woman at the well say, and what does it tell us as people living in the present?

The Story Of The Woman At The Well In The Bible?

John 4 records that Jesus was on His way to Galilee from Jerusalem and passed through Samaria. Tired, He sat at the well of Jacob while His disciples went to buy food inside the village of Sychar. At the sixth hour, which was about noon, a woman came to draw water from that well.

Jesus asked her for a drink of water. The woman expressed surprise because Jews refused to have any dealings with Samaritans at that time. He was obviously breaking customs by even just speaking to her.

Jesus answered by saying,

“If you knew the gift of God, and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for a drink instead, and he would have given you living water.”

Doubting, she pointed out that He didn’t have any means of drawing water from the deep well and asked if He was better than Father Jacob who dug the well.

Jesus replied that she would always thirst if she drank the water from the well, but the water that He gives quenches thirst forever. Thinking that it was a physical thirst Jesus referred to and eager for this magic water, the woman at the well asked for it.

Jesus then asked her to go and get her husband.

 It is here in John 4:16-18 that we learn that she had had five husbands and at that time was cohabitating with a boyfriend. It would explain why she came to get water at noon when most women usually came to draw water early in the morning or in the evenings. Coming at those times would mean putting up with the shame of her lifestyle while other women were present.

Marveling at what Jesus said about her, she thought He was a prophet and proceeded to question Him. She asked why Jews thought Jerusalem was the only place for worship when their ancestors worshiped God in the mountains. Jesus simply told her in John 4:21-24 that there would be a time when people would no longer worship God in ignorance or out of religion, but in Spirit and truth. Jesus also admitted to her that He was the Messiah who she said would come to tell them about ‘all things’.

At that moment, Jesus’ disciples came back and were puzzled that Jesus was talking to a woman let alone a Samaritan, but they didn’t voice out their reservations. The woman at the well left her water jar and went into the town to tell everyone to come and see Jesus; the Messiah who knew everything about her. 

The Samaritans begged Jesus to stay with them and He stayed for two days, teaching the people about God’s Kingdom. Many of them believed in Jesus initially because of what the woman told them, but when He was done, they were convinced that He was indeed the Messiah.

Who Was The Woman At The Well?

The Bible doesn’t mention her name or age, but we do know that she was a Samaritan, didn’t have the purest of pasts or the best reputation. She was very well known in the town, probably as a result of her lifestyle because, so the townspeople believed her when she told them about her conversation with Jesus.

We also know that she was a very curious and bold woman. She freely asked Jesus direct questions and wasn’t concerned about the fact that He was a stranger.

What Is The Significance Of The Woman At The Well?

First, we must establish that Jews and Samaritans hated each other. They were both descendants of Israel, but the Jews regarded them as unclean because of their intermarriage with ‘pagan’ cultures. They also resented them because they had their version of the Bible and their own temple on Mount Gerizim.

The animosity between the two tribes was so bad that most Jews took a longer route from Jerusalem to Galilee, just to avoid running into a Samaritan. But Jesus didn’t care about that.

He broke three customs by talking to the woman at the well. First, He spoke to her even though she was a woman. Second, she was a Samaritan. And, third He asked her for a drink of water, even though using her jar would have made Him ceremonially unclean.

We also see that Jesus revealed Himself to this woman as Messiah and offered her a drink of living water which signifies salvation. What was the significance of this?

By reaching out to the Samaritans, Jesus showed that His mission was to all of mankind, not just the Jews. He came to save both those who lived in sin and those who didn’t think they needed saving. Ironically, the Sanhedrin who were supposed to be the best of religious Jews who were the first partakers in salvation rejected Jesus and His message. While the Samaritans who were thought to be pagans and cut off from God received Him with joy.

What Does The Story Of The Samaritan Woman Teach Us?

There are a couple of lessons we can glean from this story and they are;

  • Jesus alone can quench our thirst.

There’s a God-sized vacuum in the heart of every man and trying to fill it with other things will never bring us satisfaction or fulfillment.There will always be a question in the heart of man that cries, “Is this all there is to life?” 

Only the Living Water and the Bread of life can quench our hunger and thirst for something more than ourselves. True joy and fulfillment are found in Christ.

  • Jesus isn’t put off by our sins.

The woman at the well was surprised when Jesus gently told her of everything she ever did. But Jesus was all-knowing and saw her sin even before He told her about it, yet He still spoke to her in kindness. Likewise, He knows the sins within our hearts but it doesn’t take away His love for us. Rather his kindness brings us to repentance.

  • Racism and treating others poorly because of their background doesn’t reflect God’s nature.

As humans, we tend to judge others based on stereotypes, backgrounds, and prejudices. But Jesus sees people as who they are individually and accepts them with love and compassion. As Christians, we ought to emulate this. Racism and other forms of ill-treatment based on prejudice should not be present in the way we treat others. As His image on earth, we must let God’s love and compassion reflect to every person we come in contact with.

  • Jesus is our Messiah and Saviour.

Just as Jesus revealed Himself to the woman at the well, this story also reveals Him to us; His heart of compassion, and His role in our lives as our Redeemer and the One who gave us salvation.

Final Thoughts

The story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 is one of acceptance. God accepts us as we are, regardless of our flaws, shortcomings, or the things we’ve done. In His eyes, everyone is equal and He gives the gift of salvation, adoption, and His presence to each person, no matter their background, social status, gender, or race.