(Extract from a chapter)
Startled out of his reverie of exhaustion by a sudden feeling of being watched, Jesus looked up in surprise and caught sight of a woman balancing her water pot and advancing towards the well. Who was she, he wondered. Why would she come to the well at such an hour, in the hottest part of the day, and alone? She was not coming from the direction of the village; where did she live? Was she really as alone and friendless as she looked? Still conscious of the presence of his Father, he addressed these questions to him as he looked steadily at the approaching form.
She braced herself for what she knew she would meet in his eyes, for what she found in every man’s eyes – scorn, lust, contempt. Deciding that attack was the best form of defence, she tilted her chin up and hardened her face into a bold look of defiance. She walked forward and looked him full in the face, searching for the arch of the eyebrow, the curl of the lip.
The gaze that met hers completely undermined her defences. It was different from anything she had ever seen before. There was a slightly puzzled, questioning look, but the face was perfectly friendly. It struck her more for what she did not see in his expression – no derision or disdain, nothing that made her feel impure or defiled. There could not have been more than a year or two between them in age, and he was a complete stranger, yet she couldn’t get it out of her head that he looked both fatherly and familiar. She had put her water pot down on the ground and was simply staring at him, quite nonplussed by the situation. For the moment she had completely forgotten her errand.
Jesus had a vague sense that he was about to find out why his Father had sent him here. But the tiredness and the thirst were plaguing him so that it was hard to think straight. Maybe if he had a drink and didn’t feel so parched, he might be able to get a clearer idea of what he was supposed to do. He pointed to the water pot at her feet. “Will you give me a drink?” he asked kindly. The sound of his voice made her start. She had not expected him to be so bold as to speak to her. Still more astonishingly, she could tell from his accent that he was no Samaritan. He spoke with the burr of the Galileans.
For a few moments she simply stared, open mouthed, neither answering him nor moving to draw any water. At length, overcome by curiosity at this daring foreigner, she said, “You are a Jew, and I’m a Samaritan woman. How is it that you ask me for a drink?”
“Because I’m so thirsty,” he said simply. “May I have one?”
She tied the earthenware jar to the rope, not taking her eyes off him. He watched her as she lowered it into the bottom of the well, and she felt as if he were looking right into her. Pulling the overflowing water pot back to the top of the well, she stood it on the wall and motioned to him to help himself.
“Thank you,” he smiled, and drank a long draught. The well was so deep that the water was always cold no matter how hot the day, and he felt immediately refreshed.
He looked at her curiously. “It’s a strange time of day to be drawing water.”
She stared back at him. “It’s a strange time of day to be sitting on the wall of that well.”
“I have come a long journey, and I stopped to rest,” he explained. “And you’re alone,” he went on. “Have you no friends to come and draw with?”
She shook her head and laughed bitterly. “No one wants to associate with me. Nor would you if you knew who I am.”
“And if you knew the gift of God,” he responded, “and who it is who asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
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