On the Corner
Lessons at Jacob’s Well
by Bob Docter –
She struggled up from her cot, careful with the whimpering child at her breast. She laid him gently where he slept and reminded herself of the need for more water. “That’s one thing,” she said to her self, “Sychar has good water – cool and refreshing. If it only the well weren’t so deep, and the sun so hot.”
She pushed aside the covering on the door and peered out. “Hot,” she said aloud. “It must be around noon. Good!” she mumbled. “Those screaming women who seem only to take delight in ridiculing me won’t be out until the cool of the evening. I don’t need any of that. This is my time at the well.”
Quickly, she picked up her large, wooden bucket, glanced at the sleeping infant, covered her head and moved toward the well. She walked slowly now, thinking about her life. It didn’t match her dream, but there was a roof over their heads, food on the table, and this man, at least brought comfort to their bed.
Shading her eyes, she took a quick look toward the well. “Oh no,” she thought, “ someone is sitting against the wall.” She stopped. This was unexpected. “He’s getting up –dressed like a Jew.”
Now, raising her eyes, she saw a slight smile on his face and, averting her eyes, cautiously continued walking.
“What’s he doing here? Why now?”
Struggling to his feet, still very tired from the travel, Jesus watched her move toward him. He felt some expectant hope that she might be able to bring some relief to his parched throat. He studied her and felt the presence of his Father within him. He marveled at the wisdom of his Father who had brought him to this place at this time.
It had started with trouble in Jerusalem. The Pharisees, a powerful, strict religiously conservative sect, were becoming more and more concerned with his popularity.
Unwilling to accept a dramatic change from the status quo and fearing an assault on their own power structure, moved to gather evidence against this wildly popular Galilean.
Jesus recognized this and determined it was not yet time for major conflict. Therefore, he and his disciples decided to leave Judea and return to Galilee.
He chose the least popular and most dangerous route north – through Samaria.
Jews refused to have anything to do with Samaritans and saw them as heretics and unworthy.
About forty miles north of Jerusalem, now in Samaria and near the slopes of Mt. Gerizim, the small band of travelers came to the town of Sychar. Jesus sent his disciples into the town for food and sat down by a large well – Jacobs well. He was exhausted.
She fixed her bucket to the line and lowered it to draw water from the well.
He turned toward her and looked fully into her face. “Would you please give me a drink of water?” he asked.
She was startled, somewhat shocked and, possibly, even frightened. Jews never spoke to Samaritans, and in public, Jewish men rarely spoke to any women. “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask me, a Samaritan woman for a drink?”
Jesus answered: “If you knew God’s generosity and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
She was confused and didn’t know how to deal with this statement. She said: “Sir, you have no bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. How are you going to get this living water? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob who dug this well and drank from it with his sons and passed it down to us?”
Jesus responded: “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst – not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
She said: “Sir, give this water so I won’t ever get thirsty – won’t ever have to come back to this well again.”
Jesus said: “Go call your husband and then come back.”
She answered: “I have no husband.”
“That is nicely put,” he replied. “You’ve had five husbands and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth.
Now, genuinely shocked, she changed the subject. “Oh, you’re a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship.”
“Believe me woman,” he said, “the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. The time is coming – it has, in fact, come – when what you’re called will not matter and where you worship will not matter.
“It’s who you are and the way you live that counts for God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father seeks. God is sheer being itself – Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves.”
She said: “I don’t know about that, but I do know that Messiah is coming and will tell us the whole story.”
Jesus said: “I am he. You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further”
Just then, the disciples returned, and the woman left to tell the people of the man who knew her very being. She wondered with them: could this man be the Messiah? And they went out to see for themselves.
There are many lessons for us in this passage from John 4 – lessons of cultural difference, of unmerited grace, of judgmentalism, of hope; lessons about the roles of gender in society, about strategies for spreading the Gospel, about kindness and many others.
What lessons are here for you?