I’ve read the story of the Samaritan woman and her encounter with Jesus for years. John’s account in his Gospel is straightforward, but it needs some closer examination to really understand what’s going on there. The episode of the program The Chosen which deals with her helps broaden the picture of who she is and why one visit at a well made such an impact. It’s dramatic license but is consistent with the story told in the Gospel.
She’s first seen coming to her husband with a request for divorce. She’s currently living with someone else but her husband refuses her request, claiming her as his “property”. The people around her treat her as a pariah. She must go to the well to draw water in the heat of the day rather than in the morning because the other women will have nothing to do with her. She’s a Samaritan, as are all of her neighbors. Samaritans were outcasts among the Jewish people of Israel. They were considered half-breeds, having historically intermarried with non-Jewish people brought to the land during the Assyrian, and then the Babylonian, captivities. Jewish religious authorities taught contact with them was to be avoided at all costs.
So this woman was an “outcast among the outcasts”. She knows who she is and what she’s done. She’s beaten down, hopeless. She can’t approach God for comfort, help, or anything else because of her unworthiness. She despairs of anything good coming to her. Until one day at the well. There’s a man sitting there, a Jew no less, who asks her to give him a drink. Jews don’t associate with Samaritans, and Jewish men don’t converse with strange women, especially Samaritan women.
Naturally, she’s suspicious. He’s got no bucket, nothing to draw water. And then he starts talking about something called ‘living water’. He even offers to give her some of it. Still leery but intrigued by the offer, she asks him for some. If nothing else it will save her the back-breaking task of coming out to the well every day to carry water back to the house. But then he tells her to go get her husband and bring him back.
You can almost see her defenses snap back up. Here’s one more person, ridiculing and humiliating her. Just another Jew ready to belittle her; just another person to pile more shame on the unworthiness she already carries. Her answer is almost automatic: ” I have no husband”. But then something amazing happens. The stranger starts revealing uncomfortable details about her life. How does he know? She’s never met him before. Surely her rather sordid life isn’t that well known, especially among the Jews? She begins to sense there’s something bigger going on here.
Deciding he’s a prophet and so has connection to God, her hurt and frustration spill over about God never giving her anything because her people insist God must be worshiped here, the Jews in Jerusalem, and she has access to neither. How is she supposed to reach God, and how is he supposed to reach her? This ‘prophet’ tells her that the time is coming, and has actually arrived, when the ‘where’ no longer matters, but the ‘how’ is the important thing. He tells her God will listen if she comes to Him in spirit and truth. No restrictions to this place or that, no one else deciding if she’s worthy. Just her and God, spirit and truth.
She’s still not convinced and says when the Messiah comes he’ll straighten it all out.Then Jesus reveals himself to her. It’s at this point The Chosen helps to bring a little more depth to the picture. She wants to believe but just can’t get there. She starts to walk away, and Jesus begins to name each of her husbands and gives details no one could know about her own thoughts. He then tells her, ” I came here just to meet you.” She protests that everyone rejects her, to which Jesus replies, “The Messiah doesn’t reject you.” At that, she’s so excited she drops her water jars and runs back to the village, telling the others to come see a man that told me everything she’d ever done.
I believe this story was included in John’s gospel for a reason. It’s for the outcasts, the ones who have walked away from God because they’re convinced there’s no way He could ever love someone who’s messed up as badly as they have. They live in despair and hopelessness. They sometimes come across as angry and defensive. When you’ve been looked down upon for so long it’s best to keep people at arm’s length; it’s easier to live with yourself that way. But life doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s easy to think that Jesus doesn’t love you, couldn’t love you because of all you’ve done. But he does. Jesus knows every intimate detail about you. And just like that woman at the well, if you let him he’ll come just to meet you. He created you, and he loves you. He wants you to be his. And no matter what anyone else thinks, He doesn’t reject you. Jesus died to reconcile the world, but he would have done the same if it was only you or me. Because to Jesus, it’s personal. And if you’re willing, he’d love to have a chance to talk to you.