Few Believers are unfamiliar with the biblical figure known as the woman at the well, and yet, there is so little information found in chapter four of John where her story is given.
So, why is this woman both well-known and unknown? Why did Yeshua choose to reveal His identity as Messiah to her FIRST?
Join us in this, the final part of this exploration of the woman at the well, as we take the biblical, cultural, and historic details that provide us with a portrait of this woman who was given a great gift by God. Learn how the story of Jesus and the woman at the well impacts us today!
Who Was the Woman at the Well?
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we took a deep dive into the encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well. Now, in this final part, we will take a closer look at this woman and the ways in which she defied the expectations of man.
So, who was the woman at the well?
A few things we know about her include:
- She was Samaritan; a people who had Jewish and Gentile heritage
- She wanted to avoid confrontation
- She had been married five times
- She was in a relationship with a man who was not her husband
- She recognized her Jewish heritage
- She had understanding of God and the Jewish faith
- She was jaded and hurt from her past and the rejection of people
- She viewed things through physical rather than spiritual eyes
- She knew the Messiah would come
After she came to know Jesus as the Messiah, a few of these things did change however…
- She overcame her fear of man and began to interact with those she had previously avoided
- She was no longer jaded and hurt, but emotionally healed
- She began to view things through spiritual eyes
- She came to know that Jesus was the Messiah
- She left her past behind and brought many to Jesus
Nevertheless, even those things that did not fully change—her being a Samaritan, her Jewish heritage, etc.—were surely seen through new eyes.
Prior to her encounter with Yeshua, the woman at the well lived according to man’s expectations. Both the expectations of those around her and those she placed upon herself.
The woman at the well was, according to many biblical scholars, quite possibly barren. This was often viewed as punishment by God, and even when not, some women who had children were harsh in their words to those who did not have any. We witness this in the story of Hannah, the mother of the prophet, Samuel…
For many years Hannah had no children. Her husband’s other wife, who had children, would provoke Hannah until she would not eat and would weep. Thankfully, God heard Hannah’s prayers, providing her with a child. But seeing what Hannah endured during her childless years, we can better understand why the woman at the well might have chosen to avoid interacting with others.
We cannot know for certain if the woman at the well was barren or if it was the death of her husbands or divorce that had given her five husbands… but we can gather that things had not gone well for her. That she was dealing with problems in the natural and in her soul. She had given up on interacting with people, she had given in to despair… but one encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well changed everything!
Once she had spoken with Yeshua, she—who had been focused on water in the natural—left her waterpot behind and began to tell everyone she met about Him. She shifted her attention from things that are essential in the natural to those that are essential for eternal life.
“The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ Then they went out of the city and came to Him…
“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word.
“Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.’”—John 4:28-30, 39-42
They certainly came to full faith through Jesus, but the woman at the well directed them to Him. Her decision to lay aside her hurt and fear brought many Samaritans to Jesus and to even have a Jewish Rabbi—Jesus the Messiah—stay with them! It brought a level of reconciliation between the two groups. And of course, it brought to her a new beginning. One where she lived by the expectations of Jesus and not those around her; allowing her to become an expectation breaker!
The Significance of Jesus’ Decision
At the time of this famous encounter at a Samaritan well, there had been centuries of animosity between the Jewish people and the Samaritans. Interestingly, despite the Samaritan people largely being descended from a half-and-half mix of Jewish and Gentile lineage and beliefs, the Jewish people considered the Samaritans not as Jews at all. Further, there was also incredible rancor based on different religious ideologies despite both choosing to follow God. Each thought that the priests and the kings were supposed to come through them. That the place where they were to worship was where they were. And all of this had had centuries to build before Yeshua’s life.
Despite Samaritans equally caring little for Jews—even having been against the return of Jews to Jerusalem and their rebuilding of the city centuries prior—often it was the Jews who went out of their way to avoid Samaritans. Rabbis, in particular, would be hesitant to interact with Samaritans; and even more hesitant to talk to a woman.
Jesus was alone when He, a prominent Rabbi, chose to interact with a woman of Samaritan heritage. Not only that, but given His God-given insights and visual evidences, Yeshua certainly understood that this woman was not considered “clean” and that His own reputation could suffer from interacting with her. But Jesus knew that His Father wanted to reveal His identity to this woman—the first time Jesus ever told anyone of His being the Messiah—and to bring healing not only to her, but to many others.
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan was a moment of healing for her, for the Samaritan and Jewish connection… and for us. This encounter reminding us that God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called; but also serving as a prelude of things to come. Of God’s plan to bring Jew and Gentile together. A sort of creation of what would become the One New Man God desired: Jew and Gentile following God as ONE. Not turning Jews into Gentiles or Gentiles into Jews, but uniting the two in holy, pure faith!
Jesus was not put off by this woman’s sin. She was not perfect, and neither are we, yet our Savior is willing to meet us where we are. To remind us that He sees us, but that He also is willing to provide us with Living Water—with salvation and restoration. The woman at the well found restoration from her encounter with Yeshua, and many were brought to Him through her. Her past had given her a reputation; a level of expectation that people placed upon her. And yet, God saw something different. He took away the negative, false expectations of man, and placed upon her positive, true, and Godly expectations. Godly expectations that brought life and allowed her not only to overcome the negative expectations forced upon her, but also to help others overcome similar expectations.
God used a woman who did not meet general approval—even from Jesus’ disciples. He used her as a light to many that continues to this day! To bring restoration! And, just as God shows us through this encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well, there is no one He cannot use. He can and wants to use each of us. In Him, we too can become expectation breakers!