The morning sun was shining through the window, and she blinked against the brightness, as her eyes adjusted to the brilliance. The sound of even breathing told her that Claudius was still asleep. If she could rise quietly, she could prepare the breakfast meal, and have it waiting for him when he came downstairs. He moaned softly as she tried to raise herself from the level of the cot, but he did not awaken. She slipped on her morning robe, and padded silently from the room. Claudius was not like other men, she reasoned, he was kind and considerate. He was the kind of man that every woman dreamed of having for a husband one day. He was a good provider, and a thoughtful man, and she was so thankful for his companionship. No, he wasn’t like any of the others, and she thanked God that her life had finally taken on some meaning.
She entered the small kitchen, and began to go through the motions of preparing his breakfast. Thoughts of her last breakfast with Gaius invaded her mind. She had loved him also right until the end. There were times when she still remembered him fondly whispering her name, as he stroked back the wisps of hair that would creep out from under her shawl. Her mind recalled that terrible day, when the blacksmith had appeared at her door with the devastating news. Gaius had been kicked in the head by an unruly horse belonging to the Roman Centurion. Her heart had once again been wrenched from her as she considered what might have been. Certainly she had known more than her share of grief and disappointment in her forty-five years. Her once-beautiful raven colored hair was now streaked with strands of gray, reflecting the sorrow she had experienced. But, enough of the past, she was once again in the arms of a man who loved her, and gave her the protection that she needed in the demanding society of the day.
Today, she belonged to Claudius, a second cousin to Gaius, who had stepped forward as a family member, to offer her the security of a common-law marriage, when there was no one else to support her. Other members of her family had openly criticized her, and declared their disdain of her lifestyle, but none of them had offered to help, or to fulfill the duty of a kinsman. There were times in her life when she had questioned if she could love one man, or if there was one man who would fully accept her, and love her just for being herself. That was before Claudius had offered her the refuge of his home. Now she could at least hope for the future, even if it was tenuous. She would cook for him, she would do his washing, she would take care of all of his household duties, and he would provide her with a haven of refuge in an otherwise cruel world.
The water pot was empty again – she would need more water in order to have supper ready for Claudius when he came home. If she hurried, she would be able to fetch water from the village well before the other women came to fill their pots. Few of them even spoke to her any more, but they had a way of causing her to feel so uncomfortable, with their sullen looks, or their condescending smiles. It wasn’t hard to discern the thoughts that raced through their minds when they were in her company. She did not relish the prospect of having to make small talk with the busybodies that seemed to congregate around the well in the later part of the afternoon. With a little fore-planning she would be able to save herself the humiliation of having to face anyone else’s company.
Her heart dropped as she saw the lone figure standing beside the well. He had no bucket or water pot – what was he doing there anyway? She had never seen him around the town before, and her heart was racing now with the anticipation of having to confront him on her own. He was certainly not a Roman, he wore the robe of a rabbi or teacher. He was watching her approach now, casually glancing behind her now and then, as if he was expecting someone else.
“Good Morning”, he greeted her, “I am glad you came – I am thirsty, you see, and I hope you will help me.” She noticed his articulate Jewish accent, the voice of one familiar with speaking to large crowds. Such a realization puzzled her, surely he could tell by her manner of dress that she was a local Samaritan. Still, he addressed her publicly.
“Are you talking to me?” she stammered foolishly, realizing that there was no one else around. “Surely you can tell that I am a Samaritan. Most Jewish men despise me for that reason alone!”
“So, you recognized that I am Jewish”, he said with an amused expression, “if only you could recognize the gift that God is offering to you, and who it is that is speaking to you”…
“The gift that God is offering to me?” she repeated his comment with the wonder of a little girl at her birthday party.
“Yes” he ventured, “you could have asked me for living water, and I would have given you some.”
“But, Sir!” her voice was trembling now, “you have no pot to draw water, and the well is so deep, how would you be able to give me living water?” She emphasized the last words to indicate that she did not understand, in the least, what he was talking about. “Our ancestor, Jacob left us this well, it is simply drinking water. You talk now of living water – are you greater than Jacob then?”
“When you drink water from this well,” he reasoned, “very soon you become thirsty again, and you have to come back for more water. But, if you were to drink from the water that I could give, you would never be thirsty anymore.”
He had her attention now, as she considered the prospect of never again having to return to the well, never having to deal with the cold rejection of the other women. Life would be tolerable if she did not have to face the pharisaical looks that the majority of the townspeople cast in her direction. “Please Sir,” she stammered, “please give me some of this ‘living water’ so that I will not thirst anymore, and I won’t ever have to come back here to draw from this well!” The possibility was more than she could understand, but how her heart beat with hope.
“Why don’t you go call your husband?” he suggested quietly, “I want to talk to both of you about this.”
Her heart dropped, she hung her head. Somehow he knew! Someone must have told him all about her – but, how could that be? He was a stranger in town. “I don’t have a husband to call,” she mumbled, “I’m not married.”
“You are right about that,” he agreed, “in fact you have had five husbands, haven’t you? And the man you are living with even now is not your husband, is he?” She so wanted the earth to open and swallow her up! She wished that fire would fall from heaven and consume her! She felt so humiliated, she wanted to simply drop out of sight from his perceptive eyes. But he was a stranger in town – there was only one possible way for him to know all about her. “You must be a prophet!” the words were out of her mouth before she could consider what she was saying.
For the next hour, he stayed and talked with her – giving her answers to the many questions that had plagued her mind for so long. No one else had ever been able to explain to her the spiritual concepts that had escaped her understanding. No one had ever taken any interest in her thirsty spirit. This man knew all about her life, with all it’s disappointments, and was able to offer workable advice to give her hope for the future.
“You make it sound so logical,” she said, with wonder in her voice, “your instruction sounds like that which the Messiah will teach when He comes!”
“And that is who I am,” he confirmed. Her eyes grew wide with wonder, as the realization sank in, but before she could ask any more questions, a group of men approached him from the other side of the street. It was obvious that he was well acquainted with them as they vied for his attention.
“What did she want? Why are you talking to her?” the implications of their questions were clear. Before he was forced to explain his actions, she slipped away from his presence. But the more she thought of her encounter, the clearer she saw the significance of his conversation. Had he not plainly stated, “that is who I am”? She would need someone with more spiritual wisdom to confirm or refute her suspicions.
“Come, see a man,” that’s all she said, “who told me everything that I ever did. Could He be the Messiah?” Curiosity seekers came in groups to see this new teacher, in response to her excitement. Never had they heard such wisdom, and seen so many miracles – surely this man was the Messiah. Everything that He said and did testified to the fact.
“Won’t you stay with us, and tell us more?” they begged him. Finally, in response to their hunger, he agreed to stay in town for two more days. “Now it’s not just because we heard your story,” they told the excited woman, “it’s because we too have experienced his goodness!”
In the eyes of the society of the day, she was a reject. A ‘half-breed’ by heritage, she experienced the disdain of the ‘racially pure’. She was one who deserved their scorn in exchange for the lifestyle she had lived. In the eyes of the Teacher, however, she was a potential missionary. All she needed was a display of genuine love. Before we become too skeptical of any potential candidate for ministry, we should remember that many heroes of the faith were formerly objects of disdain in the mind of ‘the righteous’.
It appeared to be a ‘chance’ meeting, but as the story unfolds, we become convinced that it was the fulfillment of a divine-appointment. As we review the scenes of our lives, we are often surprised to realize that many of the ‘random events’ of our lives were actually ordained of God long before they became a reality to us.
The object of His ministry that day would have been scorned by many of His contemporaries, and would not have been given any notice by many of us today. In the first place, she was “from the wrong side of the tracks”. Her heritage made her unacceptable to the people of the community, causing her to be overtly cautious of any stranger’s approach. Others had rejected her on the basis of her nationality, but, with Jesus, there was only acceptance. Before we arbitrarily decide who would make the best candidates for our ministerial efforts, we would do well to remember the admonition that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Indeed, the disciple’s initial reaction was probably a reflection of the majority sentiment of the day – Why are you talking to her?! In following Jesus’ example we see that the message of the gospel knows no boundaries – whether social, racial, or spiritual. We must be ready at all times to share the good news to all people in an effort to fulfill the Master’s commission.
In a simple one-on-one encounter, Jesus asks a straightforward question in the form of a favor. “Would you give me a drink?” sounds non-threatening, but it opens a door for ministry that effects an entire community. Having waited until the disciples had gone into town, there would be no apprehension on the part of the woman in being confronted by a group. Having established a common bond, that of desiring to quench their thirst, Jesus is able to purport a spiritual application upon which He could build a relationship with the woman. It was not the natural desire for a cool drink on a hot day that Jesus recognized, it was a deeper spiritual thirst within the woman that He desired to satisfy.
Years of rejection were reflected in the woman’s initial reaction – what would cause a Jew to stoop low enough to even address a Samaritan? It was a question that Jesus chose to ignore. Knowing that His time with her would be very short He opted to address her spiritual condition. One simple statement circumvented any racial barriers, exposing the sinful manner of living to which the woman had become accustomed. “Go, call your husband”, cut to the core of her very lifestyle. It was a statement that opened the door to confession of her sin without any hint of condemnation on the part of Jesus. Too often, in our desire to win souls, we attempt to do the Holy Spirit’s work for Him by trying to induce conviction. Such a strategy only leads to the object of our ministry fleeing in terror from the justice of God. We need to follow Jesus example of simply presenting the water of the Word to the thirsty spirit.
The result of the encounter was not limited to the primary object of Jesus’ ministry that day. Indeed, the scripture makes it very clear that the woman’s first reaction was one of joyful release. No longer fearing the disdain of her fellow citizens, she became an instant evangelist – declaring the goodness of God in her experience. Drawn by the obvious change in the woman’s demeanor, the people of the town were compelled to discover the source of that change for themselves. Notice that the woman did not try to convince the townspeople of the cause of her new lifestyle. She simply told them what the Master had done for her – leaving them to draw their own conclusions. Again we can learn a very important lesson for our strategy of winning souls for the Kingdom. The most convincing factor in our efforts, as the Apostle Paul confirms, will not be our ability to present sound theological arguments. Rather, it will be the change that the saving power of God brings to our everyday manner of living.
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You always manage to bring some of my favorite Bible stories to life in such a unique way. This particular story touches me deeply. May the Lord bless you wonderfully for the hard work you put into getting the Word out.