It was a hot day, like so many days before. The last thing she wanted to do was to take the long walk to the well. But, she knew that there would be little likelihood of anyone else going out at this time and that this was the right time to go out, when the sun was high in the sky. She lifted the empty jug and headed out of the city towards the ancient well, alone. Time and again, she longed for someone to talk to while walking the distance to the well, drawing the water and walking back to the village. Being treated as a stranger in the village where she grew up, with people gossiping about her and giving her stares as though they can’t tolerate her was the life that she became accustomed to. She knew she had made a lot of mistakes in her life and wanted to change and make things better for herself. But, she didn’t know how and was almost resigned to the fact that this is the way things will continue. “If only someone would talk to me, instead of talking behind my back. If only someone would try to help me“. She longed for a friend, for someone to walk with, someone who would care for her and try to understand how difficult her life has been and not point an accusing finger at her. It was a long walk towards the well. Shame and disgrace followed her daily and without some kind of miracle, she thought it would never change.
As the woman drew closer to the well, she became aware of someone standing near it. He did not look familiar to her. She thought to herself, “Who is that? Why is he sitting at the well? There’s no one else around. Maybe this isn’t the right time to come here, after all.” But, she was filled with curiosity and felt that she was being drawn to continue on the path to the well. As she approached, she quickly discerned that this man was a Jew. Again her thoughts began to race. “What is he doing here?“. As soon as she reached the well, the Lord Yeshua was the first to speak and said to her “Give Me a drink”. He, too, was alone, as those who traveled with Him had gone into the city from which the woman came. The situation allowed for open discussion. The woman was surprised at His request and quickly replied, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?”. It seemed strange to her that he would ask her for water, as Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with one another. The woman did not argue, but began to lower her vessel into the well, glancing curiously at the One Who stood before her. “He seems…different… even…kind“, she thought to herself. His eyes looked at her with compassion, with a kind of comforting warmth that replaced the pounding heat of the day. Then He added: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
This unexpected comment peaked the woman’s curiosity even more. She wondered how this stranger intended to bring not only water, but living water out of such a deep well without a jug or a bucket or another kind of vessel of some kind. She was totally unprepared for any discussion about God and couldn’t understand His statement regarding a gift of God. “Does God really care about me? What kind of gift is He talking about?” She needed to bring the conversation back to a human level and tried to compare the Lord Yeshua to our forefather, Jacob, whose ancient well supplied water to Jacob and his family and even his flocks, the well at which they were now standing. “Surely”, she thought, “this man is no greater than our father Jacob”. But, the Lord Yeshua was not there for idle conversation or for a discussion of man’s accomplishments or greatness. He brought the conversation back to a spiritual level and answered her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life”. The woman still did not understand. But, His words “shall never thirst” struck a nerve, particularly in the scorching heat of the day, when she made the trek to the well so that there would be water to drink in her home. She quickly answered, “Sir, give me this water so I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw.” Yet His response was the last thing she expected to hear. “Go, call your husband and come here.” Caught by surprise and with no small amount of embarrassment, she lowered her head and said she had no husband, thinking of the man she was living with who was not her husband. The Lord Yeshua confirmed what she said, mentioning her five husbands and the paramour with whom she was now living. What He said startled her. They never met, she never even saw Him anywhere and she didn’t know His name. “How could this man know so much about my life? Has he been talking to the people in the village who are always mocking me? No. He has to know all this from another source. He has to be a prophet! A real prophet and He’s talking to me. What is going on? I’m not comfortable with this conversation focusing on me.” The woman just wanted to change the subject from her sinful lifestyle, because every time the topic came up in the village, she became a source of shaming and mocking. All she ever felt from people was their contempt, their dumping guilt and reproach on her. She messed up her life, but there was no one who ever tried to help her to get her back on the right track, or even to speak kindly to her. So she changed the topic, bringing up one of the points of contention between Jews and Samaritans – the place of worship. Yeshua went along in the conversation, but made it clear that she and the Samaritans worshipped what they didn’t know, but the Jews knew that “salvation is from the Jews” and that God is more concerned with worship from the heart than worship from a place and that He was seeking those who would worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Those words penetrated her heart and she responded with a sense of understanding and an expectation long hoped for: “I know that Messiah is coming; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” She expressed what she knew, as well as what all hoped for. The Lord’s answer was clear and straightforward: “I who speak to you am He.”
The woman not only heard all these things but took them to heart as she realized what had happened. The relatively short conversation was now over. The Lord’s disciples were returning from the city. Now, it was her turn to go. But, in her excitement, over what she had heard, an excitement that she hadn’t felt in years, she left her vessel at the well and ran back into the village. In the heat of the middle of the day, she began to talk with everyone she saw. She knew they had to hear. “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Messiah, is He?” She believed He was. No, more than that. She knew He was. People were stopped in their tracks. They were commenting to one another, “Isn’t this that woman, you know, that one? What happened to her? She seems …different”. A handful stopped to listen to her, then a crowd and then multitudes. And now, she was leading them to the Lord Yeshua! Her brief testimony “He told me all the things that I have done”, provided the opportunity for people to hear for themselves. He accepted their invitation to stay with them and after two days, many said to the woman, “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.”
Their response to the woman was not meant to push her away, but was intended as an encouragement. They themselves heard and believed in the Messiah, the One they were waiting for.
The woman didn’t realize it at the time, but a change had taken place in her life as well as in her heart that day. After hearing the Lord Yeshua speak, the people in the village began to change their attitude towards her. When confronted with her sinful life, she repented and strived to honor God in her life. It was hard, and she struggled with it, but for the first time ever, she wasn’t alone in the struggle. Others now reached out to help her. They, too, were convicted of sin and repented. Their lives were changed.
Time passed and the woman was no longer the subject of gossip and ridicule, but of praise. News from Jerusalem reached her village. She heard that the Lord Yeshua was accused by the religious leadership, mocked, laughed at, put to shame and then, crucified. If she could understand Who He was, why couldn’t they? When she heard that He had risen from the dead, her joy could not be contained. She understood that this Man at the well needed to be worshipped in spirit and in truth and that could only be accomplished by a changed life. He took away her reproach and shame by becoming a reproach for her and for us, and in the process, granting everlasting joy that flows from deep down within us.
Final thoughts on the Samaritan woman:
Shaming and gossip are real and sad phenomena in society, and the believing community is not exempt from them. It is important for us to remember that admonishing and shaming are not the same. Shaming is talking badly of someone, showing how that person is in the wrong and putting him down without trying to correct or help either the person or the situation. Admonishing is showing a brother or sister their wrongful behavior according to God’s Word and trying to help them. While it is important to admonish brothers and sisters in the faith if they deviate from the Word of Truth and live in a way that is dishonoring to God, it should be done in love. Firmly, but lovingly, we should admonish them and encourage them with the goal of bringing them to repentance, not to shame them or gossip about them.
There are fundamental issues on which we should not be willing to compromise, and if a brother or sister refuses to repent in these matters, we should relate to them in accordance with the dictates of God’s written instructions and not in accordance with our emotions. But we should always strive to do our best to bring them back to a right relationship with God. This holds true even if the issue is not a matter of sin in a person’s life, but just a disagreement with something someone said or did. We should not stop communicating with one another and certainly not gossip about that person. Shaming and gossip will only bring about division and can do considerable, unnecessary harm in relationships. Let us strive to give honor and glory to God not only in speech, but in action as well. It is part of worshipping God in spirit and in truth.
© Hannah Kramer