“When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.4 And he must needs go through Samaria.5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink . . . “ (John 4:1-26)
While the Samaritan woman does not usually make the list for Advent passages, this story illustrates the deep longings of humanity and the One sent from God to satisfy these desires. This woman desired water, and Jesus offers water that provides eternal life. She wanted men, and Jesus reveals God as a Father. She sough to worship rightly, and Jesus explains that God is seeking her as a worshipper. The story of the Samaritan woman forms part of the larger story that begins at Christmas with the good news of great joy that the Father is seeking people to worship him in spirit and truth.
Journey to Samaria (vs. 1-6)
Jesus along with his disciples trek from Judea to Galilee in northern Israel. Verse 4 states that “Jesus had to go through Samaria.” In a practical sense, Jesus did not have to pass through Samaria. Many strict Jews avoided Samaria, but Jesus intentionally travels to Samaria and rests at a well outside Sychar. Since it’s around lunchtime, Jesus sends all the disciples to the town for food. He arranges
A Samaritan Woman at a Jewish Well (vs. 7-9)
A Samaritan woman comes alone to the well to draw water. Culturally, most women draw water in the cool of the morning. Her arrival at noon reveals a clue of her situation. She’s on the outskirts of the Samaritan social scene. If the Samaritans shun you, you’re really hurting. Then Jesus asks the woman for a drink. She responds. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a Samaritan woman?” About 750 years of hatred are bearing down on this request for a drink of water.
Living Water and Cracked Cisterns (vs. 10-15)
Jesus continues with his surprises, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that said to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (vs. 10). Notice that Jesus initiates with a known desire of the woman––water. This woman is an expert on the water in this well. She knows the stats. She knows the urban legend of Jacob. But this woman who everyday lugs her pot to the well knows the need and preciousness of water.
Jesus is offering the woman not something that can be put in a bucket, but he is offering himself. Jeremiah the Prophet compares living water and cracked cisterns, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13-14). Living water is found in the Lord, and in him alone. But those who refuse to drink from this source must dig from their own cisterns that can hold no water. Jesus now identifies the cracked cistern of men that has left her soul thirsty.
Husband Thirst and Wrong Worship (vs. 16-22)
“Go, call your husband, and come here.” She becomes a linguist, “I have no husband.” Jesus confronts her spiritual thirst by pointing out that she has had five husbands and now a live-in boyfriend. The woman is dumbfounded that Jesus knows the details of her life and assumes he is a prophet (vs. 19). A prophet reveals a person’s place in the eyes of God and the way to make things right between God and man. The woman recognizes her sin and the necessity of repentance, but she has been worshipping wrong.
Worship the Seeking Father (vs. 23-26)
Worship of God is possible because the Father is seeking people to worship him. When was the last time this woman experienced a father? Over the years, she had experienced men as husbands, but not a father. God the Father is not distant or scornful but actively seeks to find people. God’s desire for you realigns the desires of your life. What does God want? He wants you to know him as your Father. He wants you to worship him as your God in spirit and truth. This woman has a deep thirst that can only be satisfied in the worship of the Triune God and by the work of the Triune God.
What does the Father want? A world of worshippers. And so the Father has sent his Son Jesus to a world full of people with messed up desires and wrong worship. This is the joyful announcement the angels shouted to the scruffy shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:11) This great news of great joy came to the Samaritan woman. And we join in this celebration even now in the season of advent that the Messiah, the Savior of the World, the Desire of the Nations, has come.