The Woman Whose Day Didn’t Turn Out Like She Planned

There was once a somewhat bold and saucy Samaritan woman who lived on the outer edges of social convention. As a result, perhaps, she went to the well at midday to draw water and ran into a strange man, resulting in one of the most surprising conversations in history… John puts it like this:

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:27-29 NIV)

More Unusual Than You Think

Why does John point out that the disciples were so surprised? Today, it may be common for conversations to occur like that. But Jesus’ conversation with the woman by the well in Samaria is one of his most interesting and intriguing encounters in history. It is a passage full of surprises.

woman claim

By even having this conversation, Jesus breaks all kinds of social barriers and engages in a conversation that ends up changing the lives of an entire village. Because Samaria was considered apostate, devout Jews would often journey far out of their way to avoid going through there. Jesus intentionally walked through Samaria and even stopped to rest. Stepping outside of accepted social convention, he talked to a (socially) lowly woman, which was forbidden for a Rabbi. Not only that, but she was a SAMARITAN woman.

To top it all off, the woman had a morally questionable background (which apparently Jesus already knew), because she had had several husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband. She went out to the well at midday rather than in the morning (ostensibly to avoid the other women who would be getting water); so she was probably not very popular with other women in the village.

But the Thing That REALLY Stands Out…

The disciples were surprised to find Jesus talking to this woman for all of these reasons. And in the aftermath of the conversation, there is an additional surprising and interesting detail in these verses that I had never noticed before; did you catch it? The woman left her water jar! She was so excited about her conversation with Jesus that she totally forgot why she had gone to the well in the first place.

In America we take drinkable water for granted, but people value it greatly where it is scarce. Water is incredibly important in the trans-Jordan area, and water jars aren’t cheap, so it is not surprising that she was going to the well. But, she was so motivated by her conversation with Jesus that she just took off for the village and left it all behind.

When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman, He crossed cultural boundaries and broke down social barriers. He surprised her by knowing details about her life, things for which she had been judged and scorned; yet he showed her no condescension or scorn. She responded to this remarkable man not only because of what he told her, but HOW he told her as well.

On that fateful afternoon, she couldn’t help it– she left everything, went back to her village and told everyone what she had discovered about this man! Yeah, the disciples were surprised to find him talking to a woman; but the woman was surprised even more. She snuck out to the well at midday to avoid judgment and awkward conversations, and was instead surprised by wisdom, acceptance, and love. If you have been avoiding God because of guilt or judgment, have your own conversation with Jesus. He might just surprise you, too.

The Woman at the Well

The scarlet woman snuck out to the well,
Because the other women put her down;
They’d all decided she was going to hell,
And no one even wanted her around;
Until a stranger asked her for a drink,
And told her every thing she’d ever done;
Surprised, she didn’t know just what to think,
But wondered, somehow, if he was the One…

He wasn’t prejudiced like all the rest,
And she could only look at him and nod;
He seemed to call her out to be her best,
And introduced her to the Living God.
You and I have both been there,
Struck by hatred, hopelessness and lies;
Until we looked and found an answered prayer–
Until we looked in Jesus’ eyes.

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What if Somebody Knew Everything You Ever Did?

What have You Done?

It’s an intimidating thing, thinking about “Everything You Ever Did”. I mean, stop and think about how you’d feel if someone knew everything you’ve ever done– not just the good sweet things and the highs and lows, but every single lie, every bit of secret pride, all your bad choices, the times you cheated or gossiped, or the hateful thoughts… John tells us about a woman who was told “everything I ever did”, and yet still saw it as a positive experience. When she spoke to Jesus and he candidly acknowledged the mistakes she’d made and her sinful lifestyle, you’d think she might be offended, and accuse him of being insensitive; but instead, this is what she did:

“The woman then left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me everything that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:28-29 KJV)

everything she did

Not Just the Good Things…

Hmm, what if someone knew everything YOU have ever done? Are there things you regret? Things that no one else knows about? For me, I have often thought that if people knew the real, evil me, they would not, could not look at me the same way. (Would you see him in that light? Would you, could you? If you might—surely you would get a fright! You would say, “That’ boy’s not right!”) But, really, if anyone was aware of “everything I ever did”, they would certainly reject me. And I would be terrified that they were going to turn around then and tell EVERYONE ELSE all of the bad stuff I’d ever done.

I feel sure if you knew EVERYTHING I’d ever done, you wouldn’t be reading this and you wouldn’t like me. (Ha, but it’s funny in a way–I know you’re thinking, “So what has he done that he is so ashamed about?”, but at the same time if you stop and really apply the inverse of that to yourself I bet you’d feel the same way, and I bet if all of us knew, nobody would like YOU, either…)

No Condescension or Condemnation

Jesus had never met this person or been to this place before, but he told the Samaritan woman accurate details about the sin in her personal life. But the way he did it was very matter-of-fact, not condescending or rude. The woman responded fearlessly to what Jesus knew, and when she went back to the village she described Jesus in a unique way: “come see a man who told me everything I ever did.”

She made poor choices in men. She failed in several marriages and was “living in sin” with a guy, which are just the obvious things Jesus told her about. I’m sure there were lots more seedy details. Here’s my point: if Jesus knew some of the bad things, it stands to reason he knew ALL of them. Yet, he never chastised her, never condemned her… He engaged her, intrigued her, and elevated her.

It’s not about her

Her life, and that of her entire village, was changed by an encounter with Jesus. That’s great, you say, but what does this have to do with me? Well… Jesus knows all the things YOU ever did. Not just the big stuff, but all of the seedy details. He does not chastise or condemn, but looks at you with a mixture of both love and disappointment, forgiveness and grace. As he offers himself, are you engaged and intrigued? The Samaritan woman found forgiveness, acceptance, and something worth telling her whole world about! What about you?

Through Jesus’ Eyes

The Scarlet woman snuck out to the well,
Because the other women put her down;
They’d all decided she was going to hell,
And no one even wanted her around.
She’d slept around with men, she lived in sin,
And the village women wouldn’t let her in…
One day a man discussed her wayward life,
And she could only look at him and nod…
As she saw the love in Jesus’ eyes,
He introduced her to the Living God.
What if everything you ever did
Was talked about, and none of it was hid?
What if God just opened up the lid?
Jesus would look directly in your face,
And say: “Don’t feel alone or out-of-place;
Rejoice, my child, in God’s Amazing Grace!”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here:
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here:
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: