It is too hot to go to the well.
Day after day as I walk my memories haunt me.
I remember happy times when I joined the other women collecting water in the cool of the day.
Now I avoid them, and they avoid me. I see them looking sometimes when I have to go to the market; looking through me, or staring with disdain, and some who want to smile but fear the consequences of mixing with a fallen woman…
The days were happy, my husband a young man not much older than me, well loved by all. Some of those who eye me with disdain now were jealous then. His death was catastrophic, a widow before I was 30, and no hope of re-marrying. I had nothing and no one to help me.
I came from another place and could not go back. The people of Sychar thought that I had brought a curse on my husband; I had given him no son and he had died in the prime of life. To them I was to blame and must be shunned.
I did what I could, I was still young and attractive, I found a lover who gave me enough to keep body and soul together. When he left there were others…… Every day I hate myself for what I have become, but what else could I do?
There is a man at the well, this stops me in my tracks. Why is there a man at Jacob’s well at the 6th hour? As I draw nearer I am even more shocked, he is a stranger, a Jew.
Seeing me there alone in the heat of the day he must know that I am a disgraced woman but he speaks to me:
“Please give me a drink.”
“You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” ( I have never heard of a Jew speaking to a Samaritan)
“If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
I am so confused, maybe he has been in the sun for too long, so I ask “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket, and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”
“Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.“
Either he is mad or a great prophet, I ask “Please, sir, give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water..”
“Go and get your husband.”
For a moment I just stare at him. His eyes seem to look into my soul, I see mixture of judgement and mercy. He cannot be much older than me, but his face tells of experience and wisdom far beyond his years. Quickly dropping my gaze, I noticed his hands, they are not the soft hands of a Rabbi, they are hands that have worked. I am trying to understand what this means. The words “I don’t have a husband“ Spill out of my mouth and I am lost, damned, the Jews always stone adulterers…..
He is speaking again “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!“
How does he know? And if he knows, why did he even speak to me? Emboldened I say “Sir, you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?.”
The prophet continues “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
I am filled with awe, who IS this man? “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
His answer stuns me ““I Am the Messiah!.”
A group of men are walking towards us, carrying food. They have come from the town – a Jewish prophet who sends his disciples into a Samaritan town? They are a rag tag bunch, most look more like they should be working the land or fishing, rather than following a prophet, but then I think He too was a working man. They are surprised to see him talking to me but none of them questioned me, one or two even smiled.
My water-pot forgotten, not even thinking of what will happen to me I go as quickly as I can to the city. The men are shocked to see me but before they can say a word I tell them, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” Curious they follow me back to the well. When we get there his disciples are urging Him to eat. But he seems to be waiting for us. I hear the disciples speaking amongst themselves, pointing at us as we near the well. They don’t look surprised, one of them is saying that Jesus always draws those who are thirsty for truth.
Jesus and His disciples are being invited to stayed in Sychar. The whole town will hear him and will believe. The men are saying to me, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Saviour of the world”
Walking back to the town behind the men, I am met by the women who used to be my friends; the men do not stop them. They have heard the news, they ply me with questions. These women whom I love and thought I would never speak with again are holding my hands, tears of joy are falling from my eyes as I tell them all that Jesus said to me.
I know that from this time forward my life will be different. I have met the Messiah, my sins have been forgiven, my life renewed.
A story based on John 4:4-42 (quoted text from NLT)