The Woman at the Well

It was the middle of the day and Jesus was tired from his long journey, having walked from one city to another so he sat down beside a well while his friends walked further into the nearby town to buy some food.

A woman came to the well to get draw water. “Give me a drink please.” Jesus asked her. She recognizes that he was not from the local area because of his accent and the way he was dressed.

“I am surprised that you ask me for a drink! Your race of people have nothing to do with my people” she answered him.

The reason she was puzzled that Jesus would ask her for a drink of water was that her people were despised by his race and considered ethnically “unclean”. They usually never talked to, let alone use the same drinking utensil belonging to someone from her race. Anyway, in her culture, a man did not generally talk to women in public. But, Jesus often spent time eating and spending time with people that his people rejected.

He answered, “You don’t know what God can give you. And you don’t know who I am. If you knew, you would have asked me, and I would have given you living water.”

“Sir, where will you get this living water? The well is very deep, and you don’t have anything to draw the water with.” She thought for a moment and then continued proudly “Are you greater than our ancestor? He is the one who gave us this well. He drank from it himself, and his sons and all his animals were given water to drink from it”.

Jesus didn’t defend his status or question the importance of her ancestry but continued to talk to her about this ‘living water’ that he wanted to give her. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I give will never be thirsty again. The water I give people will be like a river of water continuously flowing inside them. It will bring them eternal life.”

“Sir, give me this water. Then I will never be thirsty again and won’t have to come back here to this well to keep drawing water”. She thought that Jesus was talking literally about water. In her language ‘living water’ meant running water. How could he offer her running water when there was no stream near the well?

“Go get your husband and come back” he instructed her. She paused before responding, “I have no husband.”

“You are right to say you have no husband. That’s because, although you have had five husbands, the man you live with now is not your husband. That much of what you have said is true.”

Suddenly, her whole life is laid out and exposed to this stranger. As was the custom then, she had been married from 14 years of age. Only men could divorce women and divorce was very common and easy for a man to obtain. So, she had been married, betrayed, and abandoned by five husbands. Two to three divorces were considered the average, but 6 times was unusual.

Everything about her life shouted of personal rejection. On many levels, she was a social outcast. Her ethnicity, her numerous broken marriages and her loose morals. Her own community knew of her troubled life. Normally women gathered together at the wells to collect water in the cool of the evening, but she chose to collect water in the midday heat by herself.

Who was this man? Has someone told Jesus about her past? Her race believed that a prophet had the ability to know secret things about people. She says to him “Sir, I think that you are a prophet. Our fathers go to church in this place. But your people say that your city is the place where people must go to church.” She said quickly changing the subject away from herself.

Jesus answered, “The time is coming when you will not have to be in that city or in this place to worship the Father” he said informing her that God is The Father of all the ancestry fathers.

“Your people don’t understand what you worship.” Even though the women’s race believed in the one true God, their knowledge of God was very limited.

“We understand what we worship, since salvation comes from my people.” Jesus explained to her. They both knew that his race had access to much more information about God than her people did.

“But, the time is coming when the true worshipers will worship God in spirit and truth. In fact, that time is now here. And these are the kind of people God looks for to be his worshipers. God is spirit. So, the people who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one is coming and when he comes he will tell us all things.”

Then Jesus said, “He is talking to you now—I am that One. I am he. You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

Stunned and silenced, she put down her water jar and stood reverently before him. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one of God Almighty that she and all who worshiped God had been waiting for well over 400 hundred years.

What did it matter if she was thirsty, what did it matter how shameful her past was? How trivial the disharmony between her race and the Jews over where to worship now seemed. All that mattered was this moment that had changed her life.

The anointed one sat before her drinking from her course earthen bowl instead of a smooth goblet made of gold, sitting under a tree instead of sitting on a king’s throne. Her longing for honour and faithfulness with a husband was no longer her motivation for now God had visited her. He would quench her spiritual thirst. She would soon learn that he was the groom preparing the bridal feast for his chosen people.

Just then Jesus’ friends came back from the town with some food. They were surprised to see him talking alone with a woman. But none of them questioned Jesus or the woman about it. They were used to him talking to people who society rejected. Though they were surprised to see Jesus talking to a woman of her race. They knew that he would have been talking to her for a good reason.

The woman left her water jar at the well and went back to her town. When she arrived in her town she told the people “A man told me everything I have ever done. Come and see him. Could this be the Christ?” So, the people went out to the well to see Jesus. Many of the people in that town believed in Jesus because of what the woman had told them about him.

They begged Jesus “Please stay with us”. So, he stayed there two days. Many more people became believers because of the things Jesus taught them. Spending time listening to the teachings of Jesus brought them further understanding and knowledge of God’s loving gift of salvation.

The people said to the woman, “First we believed in Jesus because of what you told us. But now we believe because we heard him ourselves. We know now that he really is the Saviour of the world.”

About thirty years earlier than the time of this story, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, who was engaged to be married to Mary saying “She will give birth to a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Watch this story on video (5 minutes)


John 4:6-30,39-42 Matthew 1:21

The New International Commentary on the New Testament Gospel According to John. Leon Morris.1971. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company USA

The Gospel According to John An Introduction and Commentary. R.V.G. Tasker, M.A., D.D. 1972. The Tyndale Press

Backgrounds of Early Christianity Second Edition. Everett Ferguson. 1993. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. USA