“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” – John 4:10
It’s one of the best-known and loved moments in the Book of John: Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well. It's one thing for Jesus to SAY that God didn't send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save it; Jesus' exchange with the Samaritan woman PROVES it.
The story is in chapter 4 of the Book of John. Traveling through Samaria, a weary Jesus was resting by the well of Jacob when a Samaritan woman came to draw water. When He asked her for a drink, she was surprised He had talked to her at all. Most Jews would have nothing to do with Samaritans, believing that the Samaritans’ bloodline and morals were corrupt. When she asked why He had spoken to her, He replied, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water” (v. 10).
In the conversation that followed, Jesus revealed what He already knew about the woman: that she had been divorced five times and now lived with a man who wasn’t her husband (vs 17-18). Eventually He even revealed to her that He was the Messiah (v. 26). When their conversation ended, the woman left her water jar and ran to tell her neighbors: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (vs. 28-29). She left the well a changed person, ready to share Jesus with others.
Jesus’ discussion with the woman at the well is revolutionary for what He said—and for who He said it TO. He didn’t just have a shallow conversation in a public place with a Samaritan man. He had a deep, spiritual conversation in a public place with a Samaritan woman, at a time when many rabbis wouldn’t speak to ANY woman in public. And not only did Jesus have a public conversation with a Samaritan woman. He had a conversation with a notorious, scandalous Samaritan woman—a woman of very low moral character. Was the Samaritan woman unworthy of God’s mercy and grace? Yes. But so are you. The woman at the well was no less deserving of God’s mercy and grace than anyone else. And Jesus didn’t love her any less than anyone else. Jesus understands better than anyone that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
As far as we know, the Samaritan woman never DID give Jesus that drink. Jesus was tired, hot and thirsty, but He put His own personal needs aside to extend compassion and mercy to this broken woman. And when His disciples returned and offered Him food, He said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (v. 32). By ministering to the woman at the well, He was satisfied.
For this passage, I’ll draw some Life Lessons from three of my favorite Bible scholars and teachers:
Life Lesson #1: “There can be no conversion without conviction” (Warren Wiersbe). It’s been said that every good teacher must do three things: Teach, Model and Inspire. Here in John 4, we see Jesus doing all three. First, he TEACHES the woman some vital truths about what matters in eternity—not physical water, but the spiritual water of salvation. And throughout the conversation, Jesus MODELS this truth: Dear woman, you matter to God, and you also matter to Me. He didn’t just talk about God caring for her – He showed it. But the teaching and the modeling by themselves didn’t transform this woman. Jesus had to INSPIRE her to change. And He inspired her to change by calling attention to her sin. Jesus didn’t do this to shame her or condemn her. He did it to convict her so that she would confess her sin, turn from it and be saved.
Life Lesson #2: “There are two revelations in Christianity: the revelation of God and the revelation of ourselves. We never really see ourselves until we see ourselves in the presence of Christ; and then we are appalled at the sight” (William Barclay). After her encounter with Jesus, the woman at the well makes a complete 180-degree turn. When she first comes to the well, she’s by herself for a reason. She’s walking away from any social interactions. She’s walking AWAY from spiritual conversations. She knows she’s a sinner, because 100 different people have already told her so – and she DOESN’T want to talk about it. But by verse 28, she’s a changed woman. She’s no longer walking AWAY from her neighbors, she’s running to them. She’s not AVOIDING spiritual conversations, she’s INITIATING them. And most remarkable of all, she’s no longer denying her past sins. She’s admitting them—telling people, “This man told me everything I’ve ever done, and He has accepted me and forgiven me anyway!”
Life Lesson #3: “Notice that Christ asked the woman to receive Him and His gift without any prerequisite change in her life. After she believed, and because she believed, her way of living would be changed” (Charles Ryrie). In some churches, when someone wants to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord, they’re told: First, you have to start doing this. Or first, you have to stop doing that. The woman at the well had plenty of changes that she needed to make. But Jesus didn’t require her to change ALL her bad behaviors BEFORE she got saved. First, she needed to get saved. That was true for her, and it’s also true for you. If you’re waiting to get your life in order before becoming a Christian, you’re putting the cart before the horse. The Bible says that when you turn from your sin and become a baptized believer and follower of Jesus, God will give you the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit specializes in helping us change our bad behaviors. So, the question is: Are you ready to stop making excuses and begin following Jesus today?
Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for worship on Sunday at 8:30am or 10am at 16209 Kamana Road in Apple Valley, or livestreaming on Facebook or YouTube. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.