The message of Christ rebukes self-righteous Pharisees and the wanton adulterer. John four contains one of the most beautiful conversations in all of scripture. Jesus offers salvation to an outcast as if he were handing her a drink of water. This woman is a stark contrast to Nicodemus. He was a Jew; she was a Samaritan. He was a religious leader; she was an adulteress. He was learned; she was ignorant. He was a member of the highest class; she was a member of the lowest class. He was wealthy and she was poor. He recognized Christ as a teacher from God; she didn’t have a clue who He was. By Jesus disclosing who He was to this woman of Samaria, He demonstrated that the Gospel was for all, not just the Jews, and that His ministry was to poor outcasts as well as religious elites.
First in the passage, we see that God is no respecter of persons (1-9). The Samaritans were a mongrel race produced when the northern tribes of Israel were taken captive and married into the pagan nations (II Kings 17). They rejected Jerusalem as the center of worship and built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim in Samaria. Their intermarriage and idolatry made them so offensive to the Jews that Jews had no dealings with them. Most Jews when traveling north to Galilee would avoid going through Samaria by crossing to the east side of the Jordan River going around Samaria and re-crossing the Jordan again to enter Galilee. In contrast, Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost (Lk 19:10) even if it meant a serious breach in cultural protocol.
In verse six we see Jesus’ humanity: He was tired and thirsty from a long journey. He came to Jacob’s well to reach a broken, sinful woman. This woman was a moral outcast, but Jesus asked her for a drink (7). She was startled. She was used to being shunned by everyone in her community – that’s why she was here in the middle of the day. “How is it that you being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (v 9). God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) and nobody is beyond the reach of His divine love.
Then we see that everyone who thirsts may come (10-18). Jesus masterfully turned the discussion around (10). At first, He was thirsty and she had water. Now He showed her she was the thirsty one and He had the water! The issue was no longer His physical thirst, but her spiritual need. This “living water” was the gift of salvation, including all that is inherent in redemption: freedom from sin, a love for the Word and the power to live a life that glorifies God. Jesus knew she was not ready for this living water. He had to address her sin and her true identity. Jesus never sanctioned any form of “cheap grace.” He came to save people from their sin (Mt 1:21) not to confer immortality on people who love their sin. Jesus let her know she could not cloak her sin. Willingness to confess the reality and odiousness of one’s sin is proof of genuine spiritual thirst (17, 18). In essence she did confess her sin (v 19). She was saying, “You are right, that’s my sinful life; I won’t try to camouflage it.” Yet with full knowledge of her depravity, Jesus offered her the water of life.
Lastly, we see that now is the acceptable time of salvation (19-30). Recognizing Jesus as a genuine prophet she asked the only spiritual question that came to mind (v 20). Instead of answering, Jesus addressed her real need. It’s not the where of worship, but the who and how that are really important (v 23, 24). All worship is not acceptable to God. True worship is not about religious rituals and doesn’t necessarily occur on a mountain or in a temple, but in the inner man. True worship centers on Jesus and his Word. “Salvation is of the Jews” is true-revelation came through Jewish prophets and the Messiah was a Jew. Jesus told her she could worship now! True worshipers must be redeemed, and saved people will be worshipers. When Jesus said the Father was seeking true worshippers, it was a personal invitation to the Samaritan woman. The text does not tell us specifically that she became a believer, but it seems obvious she did (26- 27). The hour of salvation had come and she drank the Water of Life. Apparently the disciples returned at that moment and marveled to hear Jesus’ declare that He was the Messiah. The woman’s actions indicated her conversion. She sensed her need, she acknowledged her guilt, she recognized the Savior and she now showed the fruit of a transformed life. The desire to proclaim one’s faith is a common experience of new believers as well as Spirit-filled believers.
Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:13). Those who refuse to acknowledge their sin will meet Christ as their Judge not their Savior. God is still seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.
The final chapter of the Bible closes with an invitation similar to the one Jesus gave to the Samaritan woman: Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost (Rev 22:17). While salvation is free, it is not cheap; the Savior purchased it with his own blood, so repentant sinners could drink as deeply as they like.