The woman at the well appeared surprised to be approached by Jesus as she was a Samaritan and Jews did not have relations with Samaritans. As the longest documented conversation Jesus had with anyone continued, Jesus tore down barriers as she focused on division.
For Jesus to approach her was unseen of at this time, not only because she was a Samaritan. He was a rabbi and a rabbi would not speak to a woman in public. He was sinless and she was a sinner. Barriers and more barriers. As the conversation continued, the barriers can be seen again and again. She was focused on physical human limitations. She was focused on her physical needs, on what would make her life easier. When Jesus mentioned her living arrangements, rather than address the sin she switched the subject. She again put up a barrier. She addressed religion when Jesus addresses relationship.
Each of us have a choice to have a relationship with Jesus Christ or to focus on something or someone else. We can put up barriers again and again. Jesus still reaches across the barriers and invites us to do life with Him. Today evaluate your life and look for any barriers you might have that keep you from your walk with Jesus. Are you drowning in sin? Are you following God’s will? These items are barriers to your relationship with Jesus. Are you spending time each day in the Word? Do you pray daily? Do you listen to the Holy Spirit? Are you serving? Are you actively involved with a church? These items are bridges that bring you closer to Him. You can build up barriers or build up bridges. Choose life.
“For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach–if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.” – Colossians 1:19-23 [NASB]
Reading John 4:4-42
Beyond the Text: Samaritans
Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. but was resettled by pagan people to replace the Israelites. “Each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled… They worshiped the LORD, but they also
served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.” The Samaritans stemmed from a mixture of surviving North Israelites (Jews) with various foreigners – people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (see 2 Kings 17). The Samaritans were forbidden to help build the temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:3-4) so they set up their own temple on Mount Gerizim (the site actually commanded by Moses for the temple according to their understanding of Deuteronomy 12:5. These bad feelings continued—in 128 B.C. John Hyrcanus, a Jewish high priest, invaded Samaria and destroyed their temple. Later the Samaritans sneaked into the temple in Jerusalem and defiled it by scattering corpses all around. In the days Jesus walked the earth, the Jews had no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9). Many strict Jews would walk the long way to get to their destination to avoid walking though Samaria. The Samaritans considered themselves Jews but they worshiped in their own distinctive way. They were devoted to the Law and kept the festivals. They expected the coming of a prophet (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19). They did not acknowledge the Jerusalem temple. The used their own version of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible). Some scholars believe they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.
The story of the Woman of Samaria or the Woman at the Well is the longest documented discussion a person had with Jesus that we find in the Bible. What does this say about salvation?
What was the woman’s response when Jesus asked for water? Why? (v. 9)
When Jesus spoke of living water, what was the woman’s focus? (v. 11)
When the woman asked for the water Jesus offered, what was her reason? (v. 15)
Jesus mentioned the woman had five husbands and was now living with a man that was not her husband. How did the woman react to His statement? (v. 19-20)
The woman stated that she knew the Messiah was coming. Jesus’ response was “I who speak to you am He” (v. 26). Jesus did not travel around professing that He is the Messiah. Why was this situation different than others?
Theme Discussion – Barriers
Peter, Andrew, James and John were fisherman. They left behind their fishing nets to follow Jesus. In verse 28, we read that the woman left her water jar and went into the town to tell people to come and see Jesus. The water jar was valuable to the woman (for daily water needs, costly to replace). To be in a closer relationship with Jesus, one must leave behind the past (sin) and remove any barriers. One of the devil’s greatest joys is to keep us surrounded by barriers to keep our eyes off of Jesus, to keep our eyes out of the Word and to keep our mouth from proclaiming the Good News.
Approaching this woman at the well broke many barriers. What barriers did Jesus break?
We can see two sides of the spectrum when we look at Jesus and the woman from Samaria. Jesus represents grace, the woman represents law. Jesus represents everlasting life. The woman represents everyday life. When Jesus mentioned her situation (living in sin), she changed the conversation from relationship to religion. How do we put up barriers? How can we be a bridge?
When she understood Who Jesus is, what did she do? What happened when the barriers were removed and the eyes were opened? (v 28-30, 39-42).
What barriers keep you from being in a closer relationship with Jesus?
The story of the woman by the well always has been one of my favourites for so many reasons. After studying John 4 more closely, I read up on verse 29 and it got me thinking. Verse 29 says, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done, this is not the Christ, is it?” The woman asked this question when she returned to her people to tell them about her encounter with Jesus. What is important to note about this question, is the lady asked the question expecting a negative response.
I started to think about how we interact with Jesus in prayer. When we come to Jesus, do we ask expecting a negative response? Or do we believe He can do the impossible? When we are going through our day, do we believe God will provide us with the necessary provisions to do His will, or do we think that we will have to find another way? Our attitude has a lot to do with our actions and reactions in life. Our attitude also is a demonstration of our faith and of our relationship with Christ.
Now the woman by the well grew in faith. She went from not having any faith to having some faith. Then she ran to the others and she shared what had happened. Then they believed. What a journey! And this is the same journey that each one of us is on in life. We come to know Jesus and then we embark on a journey of faith. Little by little, we become stronger in our faith. At the same time, we begin to share this faith with other people. After the people of Samaria heard Jesus, they said, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world” (v. 42).
Maybe you are having a bad season in life or simply a bad day or week. Perhaps you are at a place where you are thinking negatively. Don’t be hard on yourself by limiting God. Don’t get discouraged and allow Satan to cause you to think that God has forgotten you or doesn’t care about you . Allow God to show you who He is and the faithfulness He has to His children. You never have to go thirsty.
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” – John 7:37b-28 [NASB]