We don’t know her name – it’s never given, but she went from immorality, to immortality, because she met Christ.
She went from “knowing” (the Hebrew verb “yada” – to know, in a sexual sense) the men of the city of Sychar, to “telling” them about this man who about everything about her life and everything she ever done.
The woman at the well – that’s all we call her in the Bible, because we never find her name. Yes, she’s given a name in the series The Chosen, however there’s no biblical reference of her name.
The setting is given in John 4:1-28, and specifically verses 3-4:
He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria.
Jesus is traveling to Galilee from Judea with the disciples. If you look at a map of the trip though, there between Judea and Galilee was Samaria, you either had to go through it, or like virtually all Jews – you go around it, to get to there.
Why take the long around? The Jews of the day wanted nothing to do with Samaritans. These were Jews who intermarried with non-Jews, against the strict prohibition of doing so laid down in the law found in Deuteronomy 7:3
Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son.
These people were considered “halfbreeds” if you will, and more importantly, law breakers. The bigotry was just as bad as today’s so-called racism, therefore, Jews from Judea would take the long way around, just so they wouldn’t have to associate with Samaritans.
Jesus, however, harbored no such bigotry – He took the direct route, right into Sychar. The geography was simple, Sychar was about 34 miles north of Jerusalem, and about 15 miles south of the city of Samaria.
Sychar was previously known as Shechem, as it is today – exactly where Jacob ended up after wrestling with God, where he set up an altar and the well which the Samaritans still used (Genesis 33:18-20). Jacob called this area “El Elohe Israel” meaning God, the God of Israel.
We also see in Joshua 24:32 that this land was left by inheritance to Joseph’s family. In fact, Joseph is buried there.
Now that we have the lay of the land, we find that Jesus was not only cross racial barriers, but also cultural ones as well – all to deliver the gospel, and He ends up at Jacob’s well. After that long walk, He’s hungry and thirsty.
Along comes this woman to draw water from the well. Do you think that Jesus’ arrival at this well, and timed this exactly, was by design? Of course it was! And Jesus asks for a drink.
Remember, He just walked 34 miles to meet this one woman.
What do we know of this woman? From the text, we can ascertain a number of things, and it would be good to compare to the person who Jesus ministered to just prior to this long trip – Nicodemus, the high level Pharisee who came to Jesus by night, lest his contemporaries saw him.
Let’s compare the two:
Where Nicodemus was almost too good to be saved, the woman at the well was almost too bad to be saved.
Where Nicodemus was very educated, the woman at the well was undereducated.
Where Nicodemus was upright and moral, the woman at the well was immoral.
Where Nicodemus was a pious Jew, the woman at the well was a despised Samaritan.
Where Nicodemus had high standing in the community, the woman at the well had no standing at all, she was looked down on.
Where Nicodemus was identified by name, the woman at the well had no identity in the Bible.
Where Nicodemus knew Jesus well, the woman at the well didn’t know Jesus at all.
Where Nicodemus was quite wealthy, the woman at the well was quite poor.
So Jesus goes from conversing with a very well known, well connected person, to a person who was looked down and despised, even by her won people.
Jesus was never embarrassed to be seen with anyone, regardless of their past. He came to heal the sick and He didn’t care what they had in the bank or their standing in the community.
To get through to this woman, Jesus had to break through several barriers.
He had to get through the Social Barrier. In Jesus’ day, Jewish men wouldn’t be caught dead speaking to a woman who wasn’t family in public. The only unmarried woman it was legal to even speak to in public was his daughter. In verse 27, when the disciples returned, they couldn’t believe it to see their Rabbi conversing with a woman!
He had to get through the Moral Barrier. Jesus was viewed by his students and others. Here He was, conversing with this immoral woman. He was upright and studious in His living, she had five husbands and was now shacking up with potential number six. She violated every moral code, but Jesus came with grace.
He had to get through that Racial Barrier. Jesus was a Jew, and she was a Samaritan. There was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans. Samaritans had their own temple because they weren’t welcome in Jerusalem.
But, Jesus didn’t see a Samaritan woman, He didn’t see an immoral woman, He didn’t even see a woman. He saw the need of the person, and He saw what she was about to do.
She hears about this “living water” where she’ll never thirst. She had to draw a lot of water – for everyone in the house as well as the animals. She had go to the well after all of the other woman left, in the heat of the day, as she was looked down on and harassed because of her reputation.
Jesus engages her in conversation, a spiritual conversation with someone who doesn’t have a spiritual bone in her body. Jesus zeroes in on her with laser like precision. He didn’t demean her, He didn’t criticize her – no guilt trips.
He asked made a simple statement, which caused her to confront her sin. It aroused her conscience. The statement was, hey, what I have to tell you is really important, go and call your husband.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that well, to see the look on her face when she had to admit, “I have no husband.”
Today, we call that doublespeak. Politicians use it all the time. It has some truth to it, but it tries to hide something unsavory. Yes, she had no husband, but she was divorced and committing adultery at the time.
Jesus however tells her that she speaks truth, but tells her of the unsavory part – the part she was trying to hide. He wasn’t trying to hurt the woman, but He needed her to confront the sin in her life.
He never met her, how in the world would He know this about her except for the gossip in town? Being a Jew, he wouldn’t be spoken to by any of the men in town.
She needed grace, not condemnation.
Now she became the subject of this spiritual discussion they were having … “You must be a prophet!”
Perceptive, isn’t she? She’s now backed into a corner. This guy knows it all, he’s got to be a prophet.
Jesus had her … she believed. She then ran back to town and corralled all the men that she “knew” and told them, “Come and see a man who told me I ever did! Could this be the Christ?”
She spoke what she believed – and she truly believed in Jesus. It says in Romans 10:9-10, “…that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
She believed in Jesus, he wasn’t yet crucified but she believed, and she confessed both her sin, and her testimony, and He was the Messiah.
Jesus met Nicodemus right where he was. Jesus met this woman, right where she was. Yeah, Nicodemus was all high and mighty, and this woman could’ve been the town lady of the evening for all we know, but Jesus didn’t play favorites here. He showed both the same love and compassion equally.
Jesus wants to show you the same salvation and compassion. All you need to do is to confess that you’re a sinner, believe that Jesus is Lord, and surrender your life to Him – just as this woman did.
Believe me, it’ll be the best decision you’ll ever make.