Her character: Looked down upon by the Jews because she was a Samaritan and disdained because of her many romantic liaisons, she would not have been most people's first choice to advance the gospel in a region where it had not yet been heard.
Her sorrow: To have lived in a way that relegated her to the margins of her society.
Her joy: That Jesus broke through barriers of culture, race, and religion in order to reveal himself to her.
Key Scriptures: John 4:1-42
Every day, the woman carried her water jug to Jacob's well just outside Sychar, a town midway between Jerusalem and Nazareth. Even though it was the hottest time of the day, she preferred it to the evening hours, when the other women gathered. How tired she was of their wagging tongues. Better the scorching heat than their sharp remarks.
She was surprised, however, to see that today someone had already arrived at the well—a Jew from Galilee by the looks of him. At least she had nothing to fear from his tongue, for Jews did their best to avoid Samaritans, despising them as half-breeds who worshiped not in the temple at Jerusalem but at their shrine on Mount Gerizim. For once she was glad to be ignored, grateful, too, that men did not address women in public.
But as she approached the well, the man startled her, breaking the rules she had counted on to protect her. "Will you give me a drink?" he asked.
What kind of a Jew was this? she wondered. Certainly not a Pharisee, or he would have taken the long way around Samaria to get to Galilee. With a toss of her head, she replied, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?"
But he wouldn't be put off. "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."
"Sir," she replied, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?" That should take him down a notch or two.
But the man kept pressing. "Go," he told her, "call your husband and come back."
This last request took the wind out of her. Her quick tongue was barely able to reply, "I have no husband."
"You are right when you say you have no husband," Jesus said. "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."
His words cut her. Shaking off the hurt, she tried changing the subject, diverting him by stirring up the old controversy between Jews and Samaritans. "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks."
The woman said, "I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."
Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."
Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, "Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?"
Meanwhile, his disciples, who had gone into the town to look for food, returned and urged him, "Rabbi, eat something."
But Jesus replied, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."
Dodge, counterdodge—nothing the woman said would keep Jesus at bay. He kept pressing beneath the surface, inviting her to a deeper understanding, hemming her in by revealing his knowledge of the most intimate details of her life. Overwhelmed, she finally admitted the truth. And when she did, Jesus startled her with a revelation about himself: He admitted, for the first time, that he was the Messiah. Though she hadn't known it, she had been conversing with her Savior.
Jesus had arrived at the well thirsty, hungry, and tired from the journey north to Galilee. But by the time his disciples returned from their shopping trip in Sychar, he seemed refreshed and restored by his encounter with the woman.
She, in turn, was so deeply affected by him that she exclaimed to whoever would listen: "He told me everything I ever did." At the Samaritans' urging, Jesus stayed on for two days and many came to believe, saying 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."
Are you thirsty? Is there a longing in you that you just can't seem to meet? Do you hunger for something to fill some void, some emptiness you can't even explain? Look everywhere, try everything—you'll find nothing in this world that will satisfy. Only Jesus can provide the living water that will fill you to overflowing, that will satisfy your longing, that will soothe your thirst so completely you'll never be thirsty again.