No story captures grace quite like the woman at the well; at least that is what we know it by. In reality, "the woman at the well" had a name. It does not matter what it was. Why? Because she represents us. A woman with a past, but now a woman with a future. This series will take you on a journey of redemption and grace like no other in the Bible. I suggest you leave your presuppositions at the door, you will not be needing them.
In John chapter 4, we have the complete story. It starts with Jesus deciding He needs to go to Galilee. With that, "He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee". This ordinarily would not be a big deal. However, the Holy Spirit wants you to know that, "He must needs go through Samaria". Interesting. Let us do a little history checking, shall we?
The Samaritans were part of the early Hebrew children. In 722 BC, they were exiled by the Assyrians. Upon their return to their land, it was inhabited by non-Jewish Canaanites. Instead of driving them out, they compromised with them and intermarried with these Canaanites and adopted their religious practices. This completely infuriated the rest of the Jewish people.
Back to Jesus and His "must needs go through Samaria". In reality, He did not. As a matter of fact, the Jews would go to the east over the river Jordan. Then they would travel north through Perea, then west over Jordan again and into Nazareth of Galilee. The Jews would avoid Samaria at all costs. It was considered an unclean act to go through Samaria because of their rebellion generations before. A straight shot would be about a 22 hour walk; as long as their was not any trouble. To go around Samaria and through Perea would at about another 28 hours of walking. This is how bad the Jews hated the Samaritans.
Jesus did not "needs go through Samaria" because of geography. Jesus "needs go through Samaria" because He had an appointment. He had an appointment to help a human being that was hiding. Do you ever hide because of your past? Hang tight, help is on the way. It is interesting that the Holy Spirit names the city and not the woman. According to Strong's Concordance, Sychar means "drunken". It also says that it is probably another name for Shechem. Shechem was prominent in the Old Testament. Probably the game changer for Shechem was when Solomon's son, Rehoboam, had a meeting with all the people and the ten northern tribes seceded from the nation. This was a BIG deal. After the false gods were set up, Shechem became the "holy city" for the Samaritans. Jesus was now going to "the holy city" and was going to make "sober" that "drunken" place.
By John 4:6, Jesus is wearied from His journey and sat down on the well. The Holy Spirit points out something very important; the time. If you have never been to the Middle East, it is very hot. When I was in the Navy, I flew to Bahrain to catch up with my ship. It was May and upon departing the plane at 10 am, it was 120 degrees. That is NO exaggeration. Keep that in mind as verse 7 shows us a "woman of Samaria" came to draw water. There is a major problem here. It was normal for the women to collect the water in groups for safety. It was also normal for women to collect the water at daybreak to avoid the heat. This woman came at Noon. Why so late?
Because you know a little bit of her life, it is easy to see why she was alone. It is also easy to see why she came so late in the day. Have you ever been looked down upon? It is very disheartening. This is a MAJOR problem in the church today. Just because you do not do X, Y, or Z, you still have done A, B, and C. Everyone has a past. You and I are no different, we have a past. How would you feel if every time you went to the grocery store or the gas station, others would leer at you and snicker? It gets old and before long, you start adjusting your schedule so as to avoid those that look down at you. Look at it another way. Do you hear people talking out loud about how others act, what they do and do not do? It is the same thing. We judge and Jesus does not. She went at Noon to avoid the other women. She was obviously tired of it. As one who has been in that heat, it is unbearable, to say the least.
"Give me to drink". That was about as straight and to the point as it gets. I picture her showing up and not saying a word. I also picture her not even looking at Him. This well was probably very large. I picture Jesus watching her for a minute or two before asking for drink. Her reaction is priceless. She knows her place. Put aside the fact that she is a Samaritan. Also put aside the fact of her past. Men did not speak to women in public then. It obviously was a tradition and not a law. If it were a God given law, Jesus would not have done it. She asks Him, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" That is a double whammy. I picture her lowering her bucket for water while schooling Jesus on the finer points of societal evolution. You know this because she finishes the thought with, "for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." You know that she knows that He knows this already. I then picture her giving the water to Jesus.
We know that as a worst case scenario, she was at least religious. We will see in verse 25 that she is awaiting the Messiah as are we all. I believe she gave that water to a Jew as a nice person would give a thirsty man a drink without worrying about his skin color, status in the community, or any other idiotic thing we prejudge about. Jesus had a drink with her. After all, Sychar means "drunkeness" and the word for well in Hebrew is "beer". I am being funny, but all of this is true. Jesus had a drink of water with a nice stranger. I believe He went there purposely to talk with her.
(As a side note, in Joshua 21:21, Shechem is designated a sanctuary city. Sanctuary cities were set up for those that killed someone by accident to go for refuge. I find it fascinating that Jesus was her refuge in a sanctuary city of old.)