The Woman Whose Day Didn’t Turn Out Like She’d 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. (Not too unusual to folks today, but certainly a big deal in that culture and at that time…) 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, the inference is that 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.

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:

The Astounding Claim That’s Worth Investigating

Tucked within the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well, Jesus makes an astounding claim. “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” (John 4:25-26 NASB)

Not One of the Seven

While there are 7 great “I am” statements that Jesus makes in the book of John, this is not generally considered to be one of them…The “I am” statements are some of the strongest public claims Jesus made about his identity, but they are often symbolic or ambiguous, and stop short of making a literal claim to be the Messiah. Here, even though this statement is not one of the traditionally listed seven, Jesus removes the ambiguity.

woman claim

A Surprising Revelation

In this conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus makes perhaps the most direct claim recorded about who he is and why he came. Given the social climate of that day, it is interesting that he chose to reveal this claim to her. The Pharisees challenged him about his identity, but he never answered them as directly as he answered this woman. She was a despised Samaritan, a mere woman without status or importance. She was immoral by the standards of her day, probably on the fringes of polite society.

A lot of us feel too unworthy to approach God, or too far away from him to ever go back; the woman at the well proves that this is never true. Just like her, we can draw near to Jesus without recrimination or condemnation. If anyone approaches him with an open heart, Jesus never limits someone by what they know or where they’ve been.

Leaving no Doubt

This woman knew all about religion. Her perspective was colored by Samaritan heresy (indicated by the fact that she tried to draw Jesus into a discussion about whether Jews will worship in Jerusalem or on Mt Gerizim). But she does know something noteworthy: she mentions the coming one, who will answer all questions and settle all disputes.

Jesus’ reply is unequivocal and astounding: I am the Messiah. (He didn’t take two thumbs and point back to himself and say “Who has two thumbs and is the Messiah? This guy!”–but he could have.) He doesn’t use imagery like “I am the bread of life” or word pictures like “I am the door”, he just makes a simple, direct statement which is an astounding claim. “I who speak to you am He.” Jesus replies to her statement by saying, “I am the Messiah, I am the Christ.”

Is there prophecy about a savior? I am he. Are people looking for a coming king? It’s me. Did God send a Messiah to answer all questions and settle all issues? You’re talking to him. Jesus says in effect, if you’re wondering who is providing wisdom, leadership, and salvation: I am. So what does this claim have to do with you? If you have never investigated who Jesus said he was, and who he ACTUALLY was, you owe it to yourself to find out.

Who He Said He Was

Maybe you’ve never thought about it, men have even fought about it,
Whether a Messiah came to earth on God’s behalf.
Some folks try to underscore it, skeptics pretty much ignore it:
Some folks take it seriously while others only laugh.
Don’t Messiah’s all make claims? Really, aren’t they all the same?
You don’t have to listen to Messiahs, just because…

But if you would investigate, you’d find one you could validate:
What if Jesus was exactly who he said he was?
That’s a question for the ages. Read about him. Turn the pages,
Think about the things he taught, and whether they are true;
Most agree they’re pretty good. Think about them. If you could,
Just ask yourself: What does this Jesus have to do with YOU?

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:

A Shocking Conversation That Was Full of Surprises

The disciples thought they knew Jesus pretty well, but they sure didn’t see this conversation coming… While walking somewhat uneasily through Samaria, they left Jesus by a well to go find some lunch. When they came back, they were utterly surprised to find him talking to a woman…

There’s Much More to This Story

[Jesus said] “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24 KJV)

In this chapter (a great one to read, BTW) John records one of the most fascinating conversations in history. According to all religious and social standards of the day, it never should have happened. On the way from Judea back to Galilee, John says that Jesus went through Samaria. It looks like the logical path on a map, since Samaria lies right between Jerusalem and Galilee, and it may have been that Jesus was in a hurry and just took the most direct route. But most religious Jews would travel far out of their way before going through Samaria.

Breaking Boundaries

Rather than walking straight north, good Jews would go east through Jericho, then over across the Jordan River, north around Samaria, then back over to Galilee–a route that added hours of walking to their journey. They avoided Samaria altogether since it was considered to be a hotbed of heresy, and the Samaritans were considered to be beneath them culturally, socially and spiritually.

When the rulers and upper class Israelites were taken captive by the Assyrians in 721 BC, those Jews who were left behind a) were left from the tribes who revolted and pulled away from Judah; and b) intermarried with locals, participating in pagan worship and setting up their own temple on Mt Gerizim. Orthodox Hebrews knew that the ONLY place to worship was Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, and they despised the Samaritans as half-breeds and idolaters.

An upright Hebrew would normally shun a Samaritan; he certainly wouldn’t have a conversation with one. So while it seems like an everyday occurrence, Jesus taking his disciples through Samaria was a big deal. He was going into territory no righteous rabbi would have traversed.


Breaking Barriers

Then, while his disciples go to find food, Jesus shatters social and religious convention by talking to 1) a woman (talking to a strange woman was against all existing culture and convention for a Rabbi) who

2) is a lowly Samaritan (considered unclean and impure by pious Jews), and who also happens to be considered

3) immoral and socially outcast (She came to the well at midday, rather than in the morning with all the other women; she probably did this because, as a fallen woman, even the OTHER Samaritan women looked down on her).

Any one of these considerations would have made this conversation socially unacceptable or scandalous, and it explains why John said in verse 9 that “the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” and why the disciples “were surprised to find him talking with a woman” in verse 27 when they returned. When you consider all these factors, it’s clear that Christ’s participation in this conversation broke all kinds of social and religious barriers.

Breaking Ground

The subject matter of the conversation itself is also ground-breaking. He pulls no punches about her life and issues, and yet she never seems to feel judged or abused… And then he tells her that we should worship God in Spirit and in truth. She tries to stir up the argument about where to worship, but Jesus points out that the Father (much like the prodigal’s father, who saw him coming home from a long way off), is SEEKING us to worship him!

How do you think she felt about that? How do YOU feel about it? Do you think the Father would appreciate your worship? Do you worship with your spirit? Enthusiastically, whole-heartedly, deeply? And is there any deception influencing you that could cloud the truth? Any prejudice or assumption or half-truth that keeps you from yielding to the Father? Have your own conversation with Jesus. Maybe it’s time to break whatever conventions are keeping you from being honest with him. Your spirit will be glad you did!

The Scarlet Woman

The disciples never saw it coming. Jesus talked to a scarlet woman
Who happened to be a Samaritan, alone there at the well.
Although she wasn’t Abraham’s daughter,
He boldly asked her for some water! The disciples thought
He shouldn’t ought to talk to her a spell…

But Jesus knew the how’s and why’s, he didn’t believe society’s lies,
And Jesus didn’t marginalize the woman, just because…
He knew about her wasted youth; He sat with her and spoke the truth
But never once was he uncouth as they spoke about who she was.
She heard the things He had to say about his being the only way,
and the woman left redeemed that day! Her neighbors started to buzz!

And you and I are at that well:
we’ve done more things than we like to tell
(We might be headed straight to hell!)
But when we look at Jesus: we see a friend who doesn’t judge,
but sees through all our sin and sludge,
And he gives our hearts a gentle nudge
Towards the faith in Him that frees us.
If you’ll just talk to Jesus, you might find
That He can change your heart, and change your mind…

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: