Encouraged and Encouraging (4)
“Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” John 4.29
Stranger at the well
Can you see her? Skulking out of town in the heat of the day? Who goes to draw water at noon? Women went to the well early, to gather and greet and chatter and draw the cool water they would need for the day. But not this woman. She didn’t want to mingle with the other women – the respectable women of her village. It’s likely, in fact, that she didn’t want to have to speak to anyone in town, for fear of what they might say to her.
She was not the town’s most upstanding citizen. She’d had five husbands. But the man she was living with now was not her husband. Would that have been scandalous? In a small town, everybody knows everyone else. And everyone knew this woman. Respectable women would likely have chosen not to associate with her. We can imagine that the looks she might have received from the people of the town communicated varying degrees of disappointment and disdain.
She preferred to avoid the people of her village, if possible. So here she was, the sun high and hot overhead, coming to draw water from the town’s ancient well.
Perhaps from a distance she could see that her efforts to avoid others had been in vain. A Man was waiting at the well. “What’s He doing here?” she might have thought. “Who is He, anyway?”
Well, she wasn’t going back without water, she thought. She’d just go on ahead, paying no attention to the Stranger, get her pail of water, and get back to town without any to-do.
That’s probably what she hoped, at any rate.
But before she could get her pail over the side, the Stranger spoke. “Give Me a drink.” Say what? Who had ever asked this woman to help them with anything? Who would have wanted to be seen asking her for anything? (“What’s He after?”) Was something kindled in her soul as she noticed that this Stranger didn’t have anything with which to draw water? And that, not knowing her – as she thought – He’d kindly asked her to help Him?
He had looked at her and treated her as a normal, respectable woman, a woman who would kindly and certainly serve His need, just as Rebekah had served the stranger who appeared at her town’s well (Gen. 24.1-20). He had acknowledged her as a human being, nothing more or less, and affirmed her willingness to serve. What must that have been like for her? To be treated like a normal, respectable person? A person who was kind and willing to serve?
Something spun up within her soul. She was piqued, and rather than merely go humbly to the task of meeting this Stranger’s need, she sought to score a point for her village. We can imagine her, standing tall, arms akimbo, as she said: “How is that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” Take that, Jew guy. She was feeling a little better about herself.
The Stranger was giving her His full attention, as He engaged her in conversation; and what a strange conversation it was: “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” That was arresting, to be sure; yet she stayed the course of her pique: “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
He persisted: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Everlasting life? What kind of water can accomplish that? No matter. Whatever it was, she wanted it. Now she moves toward the Stranger. We feel her whole attitude changing as she asks Him for water, to slake her thirst, and to make it possible for her never to have to come skulking to this well ever again.
Now the Stranger advised her of the conditions: “Go, call your husband, and come here.” She wasn’t going to allow any mere formalities to get in the way of her objective; she stretched the truth in denying that she had a husband. How would He know, anyway? But then the Stranger spoke in a totally disarming way, demonstrating that He knew her well, and yet in spite of that, He was offering her “living water.” He must be a prophet! He must be.
The conversation continued with the stranger talking about salvation and worshiping God, and the woman becoming increasingly engaged. She tried to join in: “I know that Messiah is coming,” she opined. Then the stranger said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
Immediately, she knew it was true. The Stranger Who knew her completely, yet Who regarded her seriously and with kindness, was the Messiah. She dropped her pail, raced back to the city, and began confronting everyone with the good news of the Stranger at the well: “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
Less than an hour ago, this woman would not have risked having to speak to anyone. Now she went throughout the city, saying to the men of the city, that she had found the Messiah, and that they must come at once to see Him for themselves. Imagine the courage that took. Who would believe her? How she must have had to plead with those men to come to Jesus. She broke out of her isolation, degradation, shame, and fear, and, alive with living water, she hurried to refresh all those she had previously avoided, urging them to see Jesus and drink from His water themselves.
Courage like that comes only from Him Who is the great Encourager. When the proclamation of Jesus’ Word struck the stirring in her soul, a lightning bolt of sheer courage filled her with holy, spiritual energy, and she became an insistent and persuasive witness for the Messiah.
Pray that Jesus will strike your soul with such courage as well.
1. What was the effect on this woman of how Jesus regarded her?
2. Why were her actions after encountering Jesus so different from before?
3. We are called to be witnesses to Jesus (Acts 1.8). How can we have the kind of courage to bear witness that this woman realized?
Next steps – Conversation: Ask Jesus for courage to bear witness to Him today. Begin praying now for the people you will see, and for an open door of conversation that will lead to your bearing witness to Jesus.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.