The Woman at the Well – Part 1

(John 4:1-30)

There are several lessons that we learn from this discussion between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. So much so that I have decided to split this post into two parts rather than cover it in one long post.

Jesus taught this woman much that we can learn from today and it is important that we listen to her story

Living Water

This woman was a Samaritan, and that is significant for a number of reasons.

The Samaritans and the Jews did not have dealings with each other. The Jews looked down on the Samaritans and it is evident from several passages in the bible that these two races were at odds with each other.

This woman knew of this tension between the races for she was shocked when Jesus spoke to her to ask for a drink of water. She said, “The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)” (verse 9)

She was amazed that this man sitting at the well, and clearly a Jew, would even consider asking such a request. But Jesus would have been aware of this for apart from the water, he was about to teach her a spiritual truth.

Initially the woman just considered Jesus to be a man in need of a drink, but her perception was soon to change as he spoke to her. Jesus said, “Jesus answered her, “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.” (verse 10) At this point the woman is starting to question and wonder what was going on here. But she still thought Jesus was talking about ordinary water in spite of her puzzlement, “The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” (verses 11-12)

Her mind is slowly beginning to take in that Jesus was not talking about plain old, garden variety water. And even though she did not understand what the Lord was talking about, she was starting to see a different perspective. She asked if Jesus were greater than the patriarch Jacob who had dug the well originally. She had never heard of living water and so she must have been connecting the dots and beginning to think that this must be a spiritual concept. So she continued listening and asking questions and the conversation continued.

“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 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.” (verses 13-15)

Now she is hooked. She wants this living water, but she still thinks it is like physical water and she still does not understand completely. Jesus is giving her a spiritual teaching about the truth of the new covenant and how it will lead to eternal life. Jesus as he so often did, uses a commonplace analogy so that the concept he was teaching could be understood by the hearer.


It's not about the flesh

Now we begin to see the dawning of understanding in the woman's mind. Now she begins to truly understand that Jesus is not talking about the stuff you drink. She begins to see that he is not talking about physical things of this world but is concerned about spiritual matters. The conversation continues.

“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” (verses 16-19)

Jesus tells her to call her husband, and when she says she has no husband, Jesus explains to her what her marital situation is. In shock and surprise the woman recognizes that this man she is talking to is no ordinary man as she says, “Sir, I perceive you are a prophet.”

Based on the fact that she was living with a man in an unmarried state, she was living in fornication. Did Jesus condemn her for this? No he didn't. Jesus came to call the sinners of this world and all of us at some time were convicted of sin and in a state just like this woman…a sinner. She was about to be even more surprised.

Knowing that Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with each other, she now turns to their religious differences. Evidently between these two races there was a kind of racial tension and often today we also see both racial and religious tensions arise.

But Jesus ignored and overlooked both of these issues. The fact that he was speaking with her, dealing with her and teaching her is evidence that the racial issue was non-existent for Him, just as it should be non-existent for those of us today who are Christians. He did not care who she was, how she lived or what she had done in the past. Jesus was only interested in what she would do in the future.

She said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, 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.” (verses 20-22)

She believed that they should worship on the mountain and that the Jews insisted on worshipping in the temple at Jerusalem. But Jesus shows that where a person worships would become immaterial. The place where we worship is not important. It is how we worship that is relevant now.

Today there are some who still place importance on places of worship, whether it is a church, synagogue, mosque or temple. They believe that these places somehow add to the worship and that in some way worship in these places is more relevant or worthy.

But Jesus shows in these verses that no place is more important or worthy than any other as a place of worship. Just as he taught the woman that the things of the flesh, water in this case, was not as significant as the living water, so too he now tells here that a physical place of worship is irrelevant because we are being called to worship God in Spirit and in truth. When we worship in these ways the place of worship is not important.

Worshipping in spirit and truth

God is spirit and the way he seeks people to worship him is in spirit and truth. The flesh is of no avail. Physical means of worship as carried out in various places with such things as the burning of incense, chiming of bells, music, an altar made by the hands of man, special cloaks, robes and collars and so on, do not even have a place in the worship of the Lord in spirit and truth.

God is seeking people who have changed their hearts to follow and obey his son, Jesus Christ. It's not the outward appearance of holiness and devotion, but the transformation of the inner man through the working of the Holy Spirit in the new covenant that matters. Anything of a physical and fleshly nature is irrelevant.

As Jesus said in his conversation with Nicodemus, you must be born from above to enter the kingdom of heaven. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, only those who have learned through practice and the leading of the Holy Spirit to worship in spirit and truth. And that. Is she challenge for us, to find the way to do this.

Jesus explains this to the woman in the next section saying, “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.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (verses 23-26)

Jesus tells the woman that the true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth, not in the showy ways of the world in special places built as places of worship. I dont believe he is opposed to these places being built, but in the total scheme of things they are unimportant. They become an issue when man places more importance on the place than the worship itself. The Lord will hear prayers just as well in your car, your shower or your workplace as he would in a church building.

Finally the woman gets the message. She is aware that the Messiah or the Christ is coming and that he will make all things known, and at that point Jesus reveals to her that He is the One. Hearing this she has now completely forgotten about why she came to the well, that is, to draw water, and quickly leaves to go back to the town and tell the people she has found the Messiah. We shall consider what happened next in the post that follows this one.

(Picture sourced from

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