Read John 4:16-26
In the first part of this story, the woman at the well was enjoying the debate with Jesus about living water. The unheard of conversation between a well-known Rabbi (Jesus) and a woman that has to draw water at noon to avoid other people went from bad to worse. I’m suggesting “bad” because no self-respecting single Jew would be caught alone with a woman such as this and “worse” because Jesus is about to talk about marital issues! This is crazy talk and the disciples are poised to set Jesus straight!
Remember the Setting
Let’s back up one verse to set the stage for this part of the conversation.
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied. John 4:15-17
She is intrigued by this notion of living water. There’s a number of reasons she might be interested in this discussion, there were many beliefs about special pools and springs that could heal people. Jesus wants to shift the conversation to a subject that’s at the very least painful.
Jesus not only knows about this woman’s current living situation, He’s completely aware of her past.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” John 4:17-18
Ok, fine. You know everything about me! Let’s get back to the subject at hand and forget about marital issues!
John’s edited version of this story leaves us with gaps in understanding all that is being discussed here. He doesn’t explain the significance of living water or the string of marriages that have failed this woman. Each of these lines of discussion might deserve a separate study.
Perhaps John is telling us these are important, but not the most important part of the story. May I suggest take a seat as the woman in this story and listen to what Jesus has to say specifically. Insert your name in the place where Jesus says, “woman” in the following excerpt:
“______,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4:21,23-24
It’s pretty obvious that the woman is deflecting the conversation away from her personal life. She draws on a hotly contested debate between the Samaritans and the Jews that includes where and how to worship. I’m sure she’s a bit confused about this discussion, but it’s really interesting that she doesn’t grab her bucket and leave.
Somehow, even though Jesus gets personal, she is not so offended that she picks up her things and leaves. She sticks around to ask more questions. There’s something to learn about that in and of itself. I wonder how many other conversations happened between Jesus and someone where the person simply walked away. Lord, help me to have the fortitude to stay in the conversation, even when it turns ugly!
In case we’re confused about who is speaking, Jesus cuts through all the noise and provides this statement captured by John:
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” John 4:25-26
I cannot overemphasize how profound this statement is. John wastes no time in moving to this conclusion early in his gospel writing. Jesus is the Messiah. He is the long-awaited one foretold by the prophets.
The Samaritans were familiar with all of these stories, yet they were notorious for picking and choosing which parts to believe. Does this sound familiar? Commentary writers and biblical scholars tell us that they sided with the Sadducees and focused only on the Torah. Read more here if you like.
Jesus knows all. God knows all. The Spirit is ever-present. We cannot hide. Yet the Savior we serve does not focus on our transgressions. He does not look back and remind us of how we’ve failed.
This is what Jesus wants from those who worship:
true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. John 4:23
Lord, may we be true worshipers this day and every day. Show us how. Surround us with other believers who long to worship you in Spirit and in truth! Amen.