The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022
The Bible in 3-D (Text, Image, Perspective)
Jesus Talks with the Woman at the Well in Samaria
Does God really know everything about us?
John 4:1-26 and 39-42: Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
Christ and the Woman of Samaria by Guercino (1640, Madrid)
The conversation between Christ and the woman of Samaria at the well is only recorded in the Gospel of Saint John. Christ, travelling to Galilee, reached the Samarian city of Sychar. While the disciples went ahead into the city to buy food, Christ sat down to rest by a fountain. A woman approached the well to draw water and Christ requested water to drink. Surprised, the woman questioned why a Jew was asking her for water, given that Samaritans and Jews had no dealings with each other. The woman, who had had five husbands and lived with a man (as Christ knew), began a conversation with Jesus about “living water.” Guercino’s (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) painting depicts a moment in the conversation between Christ and the Samaritan woman. The story of Jesus and the woman from Samaria is one of the most popular paintings made for individuals in their homes in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Martin Luther makes reference to this story in his Commentary on Galatians.
“So then, have we nothing to do to obtain righteousness? No, nothing at all! For this righteousness comes by doing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, but rather in knowing and believing this only – that Christ has gone to the right hand of the Father, not to become our judge, but to become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our salvation!
Now God sees no sin in us. For in this heavenly righteousness, sin has no place. So now we may certainly think. “Although I still sin, I don’t despair, because Christ lives – who is both my righteousness and my eternal life.” In that righteousness I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am indeed a sinner in this life of mine, and in my own righteousness, but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God, who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life. For if the truth of being justified by Christ alone (not by works) is lost, then all Christian truths are lost. On this truth the church is built and has its being.”
Many theologians use this story to explain baptism, inclusion, cultural assimilation, and the conversion of Gentiles to faith in Jesus Christ. My observation for your reflection is that Jesus knew everything about this woman’s personal life. For me, it is a comfort and even a blessing to know that Jesus Christ is a personal Savior who knows, understands, accepts, and forgives all of my imperfections, mistakes, and failures. He also knows my heart and silent thoughts, my greatest fears, and my aches and pain. As Martin Luther explicitly proclaimed above, “but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God, who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life.”
Please continue this conversation with another person.