One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is John 4, in which Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well (“and he told me all things that ever I did!”) and tells her of the living water she can get from Him. This song is about that incident.
Requested by Erlene, Living Water by Carroll Roberson from his new album, Unchanging Love.
It’s early in the afternoon, and Jesus and His disciples are passing through Samaria on their way to Galilee. Jesus is alone now, sitting on a well: the others have gone on ahead to buy provisions. Jesus is, the Bible says, “wearied with his journey.” And thirsty, too.
This is John 4, for me one of the most visual chapters in the Bible and fascinating for other reasons, too.
As Jesus rests, along comes a Samaritan woman from the nearby town, and He asks her to give Him a drink. It shocks her: He is a Jew, and Jews and Samaritans have nothing to do with one another. They’ve been feuding for centuries, and each considers the other unclean and heretical. Please don’t ask me to explain exactly who the Samaritans were. Suffice it to say that the Jews of Jesus’ time considered the Samaritans the lowest form of human life.
But one thing anyone can see:
Jesus and this woman have never met or heard of one another, but He, because He is the Christ, knows the intimate details of her life. She runs back to town and cries, “Come, see a man, which told me all the things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” For she was shacked up with some guy in town, and Jesus knew it. And all the Samaritans in this Samaritan town, after Jesus had stayed with them for two days–a shocking thing for any Jew to do–believed in Him: “not because of thy saying,” they told the woman, “for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
Some of you have already pointed out a few of the lessons we can draw from this incident. To me, what stands out about it is the contrast between Jesus’ reception by these Samaritans and His rejection by so many of those who should have been His own people. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:11).
In chapter after chapter, following John 4, Jesus reveals Himself and His mission to His fellow Jews–Pharisees, lawyers, and crowds of ordinary people–and they won’t believe Him. True, ordinary people who see Him perform miracles, they believe Him–although the crowd whom He fed miraculously with a few loaves and fishes, in John 6, they’re impressed by the miracle but completely fail to grasp its significance. One gets the feeling they think Jesus is all about them getting free stuff. That is an error that still persists in certain churches.
No matter what Jesus says or does, even when He performs miracles right before their eyes, His own people don’t believe Him. But the despised and hated Samaritans, starting with this woman who’s somehow gone through five (!) husbands and is now living in sin with a man who’s not her husband–these people hear Christ and believe Him!
In the Gospel of John, Christ tells us plainly who and what He is, and backs it up with the works He does, with Scripture, with the testimony of John the Baptist, and by the word of God. The Roman centurion with the sick servant, healed by Jesus: he believes Him. The Roman who hears His last words on the cross: he believes Him. The Syro-Phoenician woman whose daughter is sick: she believes Him.
God’s grace is astounding to behold.
And now I back out of the theology shop, before they make me pay for anything I might have broken.
There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water; Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink… John 4:7
There’s material in the New Testament that would shock us if we stopped to think about it. John Chapter 4 is a shocker.
In this chapter, Jesus and His disciples are going to Galilee and taking a short cut through Samaria. Jews would usually detour around Samaria, to avoid any contact with the detested Samaritans.
The disciples leave Jesus alone, sitting by a well, while they go looking for provisions. By and by, along comes a woman from the nearby Samaritan town of Sychar, and Jesus asks her to draw Him some water from the well. Read the chapter for the whole conversation–which has its climax in Jesus telling this Samaritan woman that He is the prophesied Messiah, the Christ: “I that speak unto thee am he” (v. 25).
This is completely unexpected. Remember, Jesus was not advertising who He was. He kept telling people to keep quiet about it, time and time again.
Now the Samaritans were despised by the Jews. The Samaritans were the descendants of assorted heathen people forcibly resettled there by the Assyrians, and assorted Jews who came filtering back from exile and didn’t mind intermarrying with pagans. The Samaritan religion was viewed as an insulting knock-off of Judaism.
It was odd that Jesus would even speak to a Samaritan, although He did so more than once. But this woman was more than just a Samaritan. Jesus knew all about her: “For thou has had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband…” (v.18) She has gone through five marriages, somehow, and is now shacked up with some guy.
And not only did Jesus talk with her, and tell her something that He was keeping secret from most Jews; He went into the Samaritan town, stayed there for two days, and preached to the Samaritans–who said, “Now we believe… and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (v. 42)
These actions of His must have freaked people out. Dude, look at the company He keeps! We think of Jesus as gentle, and so He was: but He also made a habit of shattering people’s expectations of Him, as we see repeatedly throughout John’s gospel. At one point His audience seemed to think He was advocating a form of cannibalism: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52)
Picture it: the silent, sunny mid-day, not a cloud in the blue sky, and Jesus and this woman all alone at the well, as if they’ve got the whole world to themselves–and He tells her everything. You can see it, if you try.
What we usually don’t see is how revolutionary, how shocking, this was. Maybe even worse than going to Matthew’s house to eat and drink with tax collectors and prostitutes (Matthew 9:10-13). But He was here as the Good Shepherd, here to reclaim what was lost.