Conversation at a Samaritan Well, Part 1
Grace Poured Out

The story opens as Jesus and his disciples arrive at the town of Sychar (John 4). The midday sun beats down as Jesus rests at the Samaritan well, weary from the journey, while his friends head into town to buy provisions. Along the way the men pass a woman heading toward the well in the heat of the day. She's a solitary figure who prefers to draw her water in quiet solitude. Though the men are oblivious to her presence and her countenance, the one who rests by the well is not.

Jesus observes her for a bit, discerns her pain, and addresses her. His request for a drink startles her in its lack of convention, but before long it is she who is asking him for a drink. More than conventions are to be tested here today. And more than water will be tasted.

Jesus’ words of revelation are spoken between gulps of cool water, freshly drawn by the woman’s hospitable hands from her Samaritan well.

If you knew who I am, you’d be the one asking for a drink, and I would give you living water. Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water which I will give will never ever thirst, into eternity. This will become in him (or her) a spring of water welling up into eternal life. (John 4:10)

His words quicken her heart. The rich theology which we pull from Jesus' self-revelation could hardly have begun to sink in, but it is an irresistible invitation nevertheless. “Sir, give me this water so that I will not thirst and will not need to come to this place!” It is more than relief from the daily labour which appeals to her. A much more important matter lies close to the surface of her soul. What a welcome relief it would be to escape the daily ritual of avoiding the judgmental looks and insinuations at this gathering place.

The woman’s words have merely hinted at her shame, but the Master goes right to the source as he prepares to pour out a big portion of grace. “Go call your husband.” “I have no husband.”

Well said, for you have had five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband. You have said this with truth. (John 4:17-18)

Confronted by the truth of his words, she acknowledges Jesus as a prophet. His gaze into her soul confronts what she would rather leave hidden away. But once it's brought into the open, the shame is disarmed. Grace is poured out in a flood this day at the Samaritan well.

The conversation continues on but before long the woman leaves her water jar and heads back into town. She goes not just to bring her partner, as Jesus has suggested, but to proclaim to the whole town, “Come see the man who told me everything that I ever did.” Something significant has transpired within this woman to give her the courage to admit that to the people she has so meticulously avoided!

Grace Poured Out

The conversation at the Samaritan well imparts priceless gifts to this woman. I notice five gifts of grace which Jesus extends to her.

Woman at a Samaritan Well
  1. Value Jesus is the one who seeks her out. Though a woman and a Samaritan, and in spite of her sin and shame, Jesus addresses her. Note too that Jesus communicates value to her by the depth of the conversation they share. There is hardly another recorded conversation in the gospels which surpasses this one in length or depth.

  2. Salvation Jesus offers her living water which is able to fully satisfy her thirsty soul.

  3. Forgiveness Jesus helps her to acknowledge her sin. Once it's brought into the open, she is relieved of the burden it has been to her.

  4. Spiritual insight He opens her eyes so that she can proclaim, “Could this be the Messiah?” as she points her community to him.

  5. Honour She is the person through whom the townsfolk come to believe in Jesus. Bestowed with this honour, it’s hard to imagine that she doesn’t gain a new status in the wake of Jesus' visit to her town.

Grace for Today

Jesus' conversation with the woman at the Samaritan well poured grace into her life, and this grace overflowed into the life of her community. Jesus offers these same gifts to us, yet they often slip through our grasp.

I invite you to take a look at these gifts which Jesus offered to the woman at the Samaritan well. Consider the accompanying questions as you reflect on each one. If you find that you have difficulty in receiving these gifts of grace, reflect upon the Bible passages and ask God to help you to embrace them by faith. You may also find strength in sharing your reflections with a spiritual friend or mentor.

  1. Value Am I secure in my knowledge that I am valued as one made in God’s image, addressed by him, and precious to him? (Romans 5:6-11, 1 John 3:1-3, Eph 1:3-6)

  2. Salvation Am I drinking—deeply and consistently--from the living water which Jesus gives, allowing it to well up in me and to flow from me? (John 7:37-39, Isaiah 55:1-3, Isaiah 58:9-11)

  3. Forgiveness Do I bring my sins into the open, being truthful with myself and with God, so that they can be forgiven and their burden removed? (Psalm 32:1-5, Isaiah 43:24-25, Luke 7:44-50)

  4. Spiritual insight Do I seek to know God ever more deeply, aware that the depths of his being are knowable and yet ever beyond my mastery? (Col 2:2-3, Phil 3:10, Romans 11:33-35)

  5. Honour Without seeking my own honour, am I faithful to reflect Christ to the world around me, compelled by his love, glory and praise? (Mt 5:13-16, Rev 4:10-11)


Part 2
Worship in Spirit
Part 3
Worship in Truth
Spiritual refreshment page

Author's note: I wrote this series of meditations following my a course of study in NT Greek. I drew extensively from the English Standard Version which prioritizes a literal rendering of the original language. I also tried to bring across nuances which are often lost in translation because they make for poor English.


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