She was a beautiful woman, but she hadn’t felt pretty in a long time. Today that was especially true. Sweat ran down her face as she walked the dusty road. The heat at this time of day was oppressive, an oven. The walk from Sychar to Jacob’s Well was not far, but there would be no shade until she reached it.
She wished she could make this trip early in the morning with all the other women, but they refused to be seen with her. She was outcast by the women and the butt of men’s jokes. She had no husband and had to make a living as best she could, even if that meant repeatedly selling her only asset.
As she approached the well, she could see a man sitting on the ground in the shade under a tree by the well. His back was against the tree, his knees drawn close to his chest, his arms around them. His head rested on his knees. She had hoped she would see no one.
He was a Jew. Oh, great, she thought, that’s just what I need—some snobby-ass Jew looking down his nose at me while I’m gettin water. Well, at least he won’t say nothin, ’cause them Jews think they’re too damn good for us half-breeds.
She approached the well but didn’t dare look at him. She tied the rope to her jar and eased it down the well.
“Afternoon, ma’am. Would you be so kind as to give me a drink?”
The sudden sound of his voice startled her. Men didn’t speak to women in public places, and Jews certainly wouldn’t lower themselves to speak to Samaritans. But what was really startling was the way he said it. It wasn’t a command. There was nothing in the least condescending in the way he spoke, and it didn’t sound like a come on.
She looked at him for the first time. He was staring her right in the face. He looked directly at her, eye to eye. That wasn’t done. He was smiling, and there was something about his eyes.
Don’t the Jews believe that if they drink water from the jar from someone they consider a half-breed, like me, it will make them unclean? “Mister, how can you ask me for a drink?”
He looked down between his knees at the dirt and sat still for a moment. Her question hung in the air. When he looked up, his smile was bigger, and the sparkle in his eyes seemed somehow even brighter.
Slowly and softly he said, “If you only knew the gift God offers and who it is who’s asking you for a drink, you would have asked me for something instead, and I’d give you living water.”
I shoulda known he was crazy. No Jew in his right mind would speak to a Samaritan woman. Now this wacko is talking about water that’s alive.
“Mister,” Sarah said sarcastically, “you ain’t even got no bucket. Where, and how you gonna git this living water? Maybe you’re a great man,” she said sarcastically, “even greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself.”
The man seemed to take no offense at her sarcastic tone. Instead, he got up and walked over to the well.
When he got to the well opposite her, he looked down into its depths. “Ya know, everybody who drinks this water’s gonna get thirsty again.” He looked up at her and walked around the well toward her. “But whoever drinks the water I give ‘em will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become in him, or her,” he said with a slight nod of his head, “a spring of water renewing itself and welling up into eternal life.”
Yeah, right, she thought. “Mister, gimme some of that water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming down here every day.” Her voice was thick with sarcasm.
He turned back toward the center of the well and rested his elbows on the stones that formed its walls. Not looking at her, he said, almost offhandedly, “I tell you what… Go call your husband and come back so I can give him some as well.”
She stiffened. “I have no husband.”
He turned back and stared her in the face. His smile was gone. Those eyes, once brilliant, were now steely and cold, like deep pools of water. His demeanor, like his eyes, had changed rapidly. He was so serious that she was almost frightened. “Truer words were never spoken. Fact is, you’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re sleeping with now ain’t one of ’em.” His gaze remained upon her.
Panic set in. How did he know? She’d never seen him before. She needed to change the subject. “Mister,” Sarah said, “I can see you’re a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that we must worship in Jerusalem.”
His eyes still held hers. It was as if he was the first one to truly see her. “Believe me, ma’am, a time is coming when you’ll worship God neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. It don’t matter where you worship, it’s how you worship. It’s not location, it’s attitude. Y’all worship what y’all don’t know. We worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. But I’m tellin ya, a time is coming—in fact, it’s already here—when the true worshipers will worship both in Spirit and in truth, for those are the followers my Father seeks. God is Spirit, and his followers must worship Him through their spirit, and truthfully.”
Somehow she could feel his love for her—not as so many had, for only what they could get from her. But this man loved her for her. No strings. “I know the Messiah is coming,” she said. “When he comes, he’ll explain everything to us.” She said it almost as an afterthought, but it seemed appropriate.
As she watched, his smile returned, and his eyes brightened. He took her free hand in his. Softly he said, “Here I am.”
Chills suddenly ran down her back. Tears filled her eyes. She knew, somehow, that it was true. This is the Messiah. This man is God’s chosen one. She could say nothing.
Just then, the gang returned.
Pete turned to his friend John. “Is he speaking to a Samaritan woman?”
“Yep. You know Jesus. His ways are not our ways.”
Just then, Sarah put her jar, full of water, on the ground, turned, and ran back toward town.
“Where is she going?” asked Pete.
With a knowing nod, Jesus said, “She’s running back to town to tell ’em about me.”
“But she left her jar, and it is full of water,” said Pete.
Jesus turned to Peter and said with a laugh, “I guess she ain’t thirsty anymore.”
This fictional account is taken from John 4: 4–42.