(A retelling of John 4)
Another day, like any other day. The house is already swept clean, well, it usually is. There isn’t really anyone around to make a mess. There’s no light chatter, no rough voices, no encouraging cries. No, it’s not noisy at home; it’s just a house with a roof that contains who I am. Who am I? I’m a Samaritan, from the city of Sychar. I know my heritage well – how we were deported from the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, how King Rehoboam split the kingdom in two, how Judah choose Jerusalem, and Israel replaced it with Bethel and Dan. King Jeroboam told us Jerusalem was too far to travel and so, we choose Mount Gerizim as our place of worship for we said “this is where Abraham sacrificed Isaac.” I’m a woman. I know my place, and I know the rules. I abide by them and my life continues. Each day, I eat, I drink and I’m satisfied for a little while longer. Almost time for the midday meal, the sixth hour – I thought to draw myself some water for the preparation.
As I came closer to the well, I saw a man sitting there. He was weary, perhaps from some long journey. His feet were dusty and he was alone. The stranger (for his robes informed me) did not move away as I came closer. He simply stayed by the well, leaning against it. “I’ll just draw my water and go on my way,” I thought. Yet, barely had I reached the well when He looked directly at me and said, “Give Me a drink.” Holding on to my waterpot, I paused for a moment, taken aback by His abrupt request and the fact that He had spoken directly to me. “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” Perhaps He was confused, yet surely He knew that Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. The man seemed not to care for this social manner as He answered me, “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.” Really, I should not have spoken to the man but He had spoken to me first and now I was curious. What gift of God? What living water? And who did He believe Himself to be? “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?” We were standing next to the well that Jacob had given to his favourite son, Joseph. He was our ancestor, the one from whom our cities and culture found their root. Was this man suggesting that He had in Him, greater ability and anointing from God to provide a more enduring provision and life source for our people? The well had been here for many generations and had never dried up. The names of Jacob and Joseph lived on in our culture as men who laid the foundation for our people. “Are You greater than our father Jacob,” I asked him, “who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” He answered and spoke to me, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Truly I understood that He spoke not of physical water, but of something that would seep down to my very heart and nurture my life for eternity. I said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
He replied, “Go, call your husband and come here.” I felt a sharp pang in my heart, for I knew I was, in truth, alone. “I have no husband,” I said. Death, or divorce – it made no difference. If I had been an adulteress, it would not have mattered, for I was still alone. Death, divorce, adultery – in any case, I was removed from these men and they from me – I was without husband, without a protector, a provider, a faithful lover.
“You have well said. ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
He spoke without reproach, like He knew me entirely. His eyes were gentle and it seemed as if his gaze beheld my whole life, from the time I was in the womb and even, as if He saw my future. When I looked at His eyes, I saw a hope for my life that I had not seen before. Surely, this was a man of God. “Sir, I perceive You are a prophet.” I thought to test His view on our place of worship, a topic of great dispute between the Jews and Samaritans. “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where we ought to worship.” He gave me an answer I did not expect.
“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.” He continued, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” Could it be that the Messiah was indeed from the tribe of Judah, and not of Joseph or Levi as we had always thought? “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” I didn’t completely understand, but I knew that when the Messiah came, He would explain everything. Who did I worship? And how did I worship? I followed the precepts of my people, laws passed down from generation to generation. The Jews followed the precepts of their own people. Would there be a time when our people were united in the Lord. I did not understand how it could happen since there was a history of such sharp discord between on people. “I know the Messiah is coming,” I said, “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” We were all in waiting for the Messiah, called Christ – both Jew and Samaritan understood that all would be made known by Him. Then, the man said something extraordinary. He said, “I who speak to you am He.”
Had I not just said of the Messiah that He would tell us all things when He came? Had not this man told me everything about myself, and everything about what was to come? Surely He spoke the truth when He revealed to me His identity. I believed and I worshipped Him. Just then, His disciples returned with the food they had bought. They must have been surprised to see us – a Jewish man, and a Samaritan woman, talking at the well. Yet, they said nothing against me. Perhaps they knew this man had authority to transcend the laws of old. Even as He spoke to me, I sensed that He was setting down a new way, an unshakeable, infallible foundation for eternal life. I left my waterpot at His feet. What need had I for this water when I had found the eternal spring of life? “Give me a drink,” He had said. My heart echoed His words now, “Lord, give me a drink. I am thirsty for You.” A drink He gave me, of His grace and of His revelation. A drink I gave Him, of my sincere love. I had no husband, but I found a husband in Messiah. He promised protection, provision and faithfulness. I left the men at the well and went into the city. There, I found the men of my people and I told them of my testimony – “Come, see a Man who told me all the things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” The people listened to me and many came out of the city to see the man. They urged Him to stay and He taught us many things. They listened to His word and they too, believed. Joyfully they came to me and said, “Now, we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” What joy it gave me to see my people rejoice our God’s promise. That the Messiah would speak to us, though we were unworthy, and place upon us His worth to make us sons and sharers in His eternal inheritance with the Father.
I’ll never forget that meeting by the well. Messiah must have known I would come to the well. He rested there and when I came to draw water, He spoke to me. He ignited a pondering in my heart, and awakened a deep thirst in my soul, one which surpassed my physical needs. He dissipated my loneliness with His acceptance, and traded my foolishness for His wisdom. Messiah, Christ, came to me and to my people. His love redeemed us to God, just as He had redeemed the Jews. And, if we all are one in Him, then the Gentiles too share in this inheritance. He is the cornerstone and foundation, and it is in Him that we find all that we are. “My Lord, My Saviour,” I declare. “My God,” I call Him. His voice resounds in my heart as He replies again to me, “My daughter.”