Perhaps we’ve come a long way from shunning a woman with a reputation to a song a few years back with the line, “I don’t give a ____ about my bad reputation.” There’s more hope for a woman shunned than one who doesn’t care. Considering what happened in John 4, we are amazed at Jesus’ willingness and ability to engage a soul lost in the blur of so many broken relationships. Though it isn’t apparent by this time in John’s gospel, tax collectors, prostitutes, and “sinners” were the ones who flocked to hear Jesus and were more likely to be the ones who accepted his demand to repent.
We know little about the Samaritan woman in this chapter though we assume she was shunned by her neighbors. Without her telling him, Jesus reveals that she has had five husbands and one more man who wasn’t her husband. Why she was passed around so often remains a matter of speculation, but she is just the sort of person John wants us to see.
The discussion between her and Jesus revolves around water. Jesus asks her for a drink, but at some point suggests that she can have living water, the kind of water that would quench her thirst indefinitely. Of course, the living water that Jesus refers to is the Spirit of life that sinners, even one who has been passed around by five different men, can experience.
Was there an emptiness or yearning in her life that caused her to jump from relationship to relationship? People yearn for significance and love but look for them in power, drugs, sex, money, relationships. And this woman is so taken with Jesus’ words she gathers her neighbors, presumably even those who may have shunned her, to hear for themselves. What follows is nothing short of a Samaritan awakening. The villagers believe not only because of what she told them but because they have heard for themselves. They believe he is truly the savior of the world.
Healing for Thirsty Souls
A deep dive into what happens here reveals a Jesus who can heal the hurts and struggles of a grievous life. He does this despite the Apostles who haven’t fully grasped the spiritual food that Jesus possesses. He does it also by bridging a long-standing religious dispute. Samaritans and Jews would soon learn to unite over the life-giving message of the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
Later in this Gospel, John reveals Jesus to be the Bread of Life and the Holy Spirit to be the living water that wells up in those souls who believe. Living water and bread of life are the images of a reality that fills the emptiness and yearning in every human heart. Jesus quenches thirst and satisfies the hunger of souls longing to be satisfied with something more than what a sinful life has to offer.
See the Video Conversation on John 4 here.