Salvation is of the Jews but for the World: The Story of the Samaritan Woman

by Emmalie Ellis, DBU Student

Day 4 of Advent

Today's Reading

John 4

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he spoke to, healed, and transformed too many sinners to count. Why is it, then, that out of all of these stories, there seems to be one about whom almost every Christian has heard? What about the Samaritan woman at the well resonates so deeply with us that it is impossible to neglect?

Perhaps we are drawn in by the sheer peculiarity of the whole situation. Maybe, it is Jesus’s knowledge of this woman’s life that astonishes us. Or could it be that we are simply in awe of the Messiah’s offer of eternal life without thirst to this shameful woman?

Jesus and His disciples were on their way from Judea to Galilee. Most Jews would reroute their travels so that they would never have to pass through Samaria, even though it made the trip much longer. But Jesus led his disciples right through the heart of Samaria. Many viewed these Samaritans as half-breeds, not worthy of the love of God, forced to be outcasts, neither fitting in with Jews or Gentiles. The very fact that Jesus Christ was in Samaria is, in itself, profound.

While the disciples were away getting lunch, Jesus was resting at Jacob’s well. There, he came in contact with an unnamed Samaritan woman who was coming to draw water. It is worth mentioning that it was about noon - the hottest part of the day- when this encounter occurred. Why would this woman choose the most inconvenient time to collect water?

Jesus Christ, a Jewish male, initiated a conversation with this Samaritan woman by asking her to give him a drink (Jn. 4:7). This was unheard of! The woman, knowing this, asked Jesus, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jn. 4:9). This launched a discussion between the two where Jesus eventually offered this woman water that quenches the deepest of thirsts from a well that never runs dry. Astounded, the woman pleaded, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (Jn. 4:15).

“Go, call your husband,” said Jesus (4:16). Panic, embarrassment, and discomfort washed over the woman like a flood. She answered back, “I have no husband” (Jn. 4:17). “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,” replied Jesus (Jn. 4:17-18). It was no wonder why the woman came to the well in the heat of the day. She was the outcast of all outcasts, and yet Jesus chose to reach out to her.

Perceiving that the man before her must be a prophet (and in an attempt to change the subject), the Samaritan woman asked Jesus about the separation between the worship of Jews in Jerusalem and Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. The answer that Jesus Christ gave this woman was about to change everything: “The hour is coming,” Jesus said, “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” (Jn. 4:23). At this moment Jesus declared that the gift of salvation would be available to all - not just to the Jews. Jesus declared Himself to be the replacement of all holy places - true worship is not tied to a building or a particular land, but a way of faith and life (“in spirit and truth”) for anyone who believes. The mission of God in Christ was going global, and it started in a significant way with this shameful Samaritan woman!

It was to this woman, with all her baggage and all her questions, that Jesus first revealed Himself to be the Messiah (Jn. 4:25-26). Something within this Samaritan woman clicked - a woman who was afraid to be seen in public drawing water was transformed into a messenger of Jesus. “Come,” she said, “see a man who told me all that I ever did” (Jn. 4:29). After hearing word from the woman and meeting Him themselves, many in this town believed that the Messiah truly was in Samaria and said, “we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the World” (Jn. 4:42).

The baby born in the manger would one day break through all barriers, bridge the gap for all sinners throughout the world, and triumph over death, hell, and the grave. The beauty of Christmas is found in the celebration of the long-awaited Savior coming into the world for all the world. This is why He came: to offer living water to each and everyone, so that we, too, may never thirst again.