In the many faceted and beautiful narrative of Jesus and the woman of Samaria we focus here on how the Holy Spirit works in bringing a person to Christ through the power of the gospel.
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) - John 4:1-9
We read in the gospels of Jesus preaching to multitudes, but in this story the Savior takes time to speak to one woman - a sinner, a Samaritan who Jews would normally not associate with. She was a lost sheep and through the working of divine providence the Lord brought her to the well in the middle of the day rather than the normal time of early morning. She may very well have come in the middle of the day in order to avoid the other women who may have looked down on her because of her multiple marriages and infidelities. We never know how or why or by what methods God’s plans will be carried out and we see here how providence brought her through her circumstances and condition to meet Christ face to face.
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock." Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water." - John 4:10-15
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” What a profound and wonderful statement Jesus makes here, but the woman does not yet know the gift of God or who it is that is speaking to her - she hears the words of Christ with ears that are spiritually dead and not yet opened to divine truth by the power of the Holy Spirit. So she responds as a natural worldly person does to the Word of God. The lost sinner cannot see beyond the literal, the veil, the words on the page of scripture until the Holy Spirit opens the heart to the divine Word on the page.
Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true." The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." - John 4:16-26
When the woman asks for the living water that Jesus told her of the Lord responds in a way that opens her eyes to the sin that keeps her from seeing and knowing the truth of the living water that can only be had through and in Jesus Christ. Jesus brings her sin out into the open by asking her to go and call her husband, and then He opens her eyes more to the truth of who He is by making clear the fact that he already knows of her sin - He is moving toward the cross that will atone for it.
Let’s step out of the story for a minute and try to imagine what this woman may have been like today. Was she insecure? Was she constantly seeking comfort from different men? Was she stable and secure emotionally? Maybe she was past her prime and had been through so many failed marriages that she now just shacks up with the latest guy. Maybe she has developed a drug or alcohol problem in an attempt to cope. Maybe she is one of those people with the barely suppressible anxious panic because it seems it’s all slipped too far to ever be redeemed. Or that person with the overly enthusiastic personality and constant joking who can’t hide the glint of terror in their eyes. Or someone who has become numb and is just living out days without meaning, direction, or purpose. Of course this is all just speculation in order to make a point and bring the story to light in a modern context. But one thing is for sure - she was a sinner as we all are. Everyone has been battered and stained by sin and it’s evil fruit. The stain is just different colors on different people.
“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet…” The Lord has begun to open her eyes to divine truth as He must do for all of us. The supernatural divine glory of Christ and His truth begins to shine into the darkness of her sinful reality. Without the working of the spirit opening our eyes to the truth of who Jesus is we will never come to Him. And then the Lord shares with her the greatest truth there is, “I who speak to you am he.” He is the long awaited for Messiah.
Here we see the transition from a spring of living water - the grace of the gospel, to the terrible bondage that keeps the woman and all others from it - the bondage of sin, to salvation in Jesus Christ. This is a model that Jesus is giving us of how the gospel works in the human heart. Jesus shares with her an image of the boundless grace and glory that is in Him, then He brings to light the sin that keeps her from redemption and eternal life springing up as living water, and then He shows her the way out of sin and into eternal glory which is Him.
It is a grave and destructive error to detour around the gospel and try to come to the message of salvation through a method or program of man’s own creation. To cast aside the reality of sin may be to cast aside the reality of salvation in Jesus Christ. Have faith in the gospel and proclaim it as Jesus did and as He commands us in His Word to do. Never back down from the truth. Stay on the narrow path in our life, our ministry, and our witness.
Jesus brought her sin to light in a gentle and loving way - as we all must do because we all are sinners.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb - Revelation 22:1
Chad Prigmore is Pastor and President of The Way Ministry Church USA & Kenya.