The Woman of Samaria (John 4)

One of the many astounding stories in the NT is found in John 4. In this story Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well near Sychar. The story is astounding because Jesus asked her for a drink, dialogued with her, and even shared with her some of the deep truths of God. In that social and cultural context this encounter would’ve been a big time no-no. Men did not engage with women in that manner nor did Jews associate with Samaritans – even she was surprised that Jesus actually alked to her. On top of this, the woman was less than moral. You can read the whole story in John 4. Here are some great thoughts on this story from Abraham Kuyper – these are excerpts from his longer discussion of the woman:

Nothing induces us to question our usual notices of Christian propriety so much as does the spiritual and devoted care which Jesus bestowed upon the Samaritan woman of Sychar. If that woman had lived in one of our localities she would scarcely have been noticed. In the first place, the fact that this woman had already been married five times does not make a favorable impression upon us. There is no reason to censure a widow for marrying a second time. She can even marry twice after her first husband’s death without exciting suspicion. Perhaps it would even be possible a third time. But we certainly can not get ourselves to praise her for having married five times before she had become very old. We can, of course, make a more serious indictment against her character than that. She was not even satisfied after she had buried her fifth husband. And inasmuch as no proposal of marriage was offered her at this time, she had simply determined to live with a man without the formality of a wedding.

…Jesus knew perfectly well that she had been living immorally. He could, therefore, have filled her water jug and have let her depart with it, without having spoken to her. But Jesus did not do that. He began a conversation with her, and apparently did so intentionally, for he at once gave a symbolically spiritual significance to his words.

…He did not send her away with the warning that she should no longer live in adultery. Instead, he revealed rich secrets to her, first about the worship of the Father, and secondly, about his own messianic mission. Some of the profoundest revelations which Jesus ever made were given to this woman.

…The incident seemed so unplausible to many that exactly because of the strangeness of it, they called the woman’s story a fiction. Naturally, to do so displayed unthoughtful criticism. Such an uncouth woman would be most unlikely to see such delicate, spiritual visions. In fact, no poet could have created such a vision. That fact makes us surer that this narrative represents the truth and that it can have a rich significance for us. The content of Jesus’ conversation is not the only significant aspect of this entire incident. The whole event teaches us something about social relationships, and about the false conception of our own piety which we may sometimes have. We would have avoided and ignored a person such as the woman of Samaria was, in the belief that her condition was hopeless anyway. And Jesus selected her to be converted to the faith, and induced her to make a confession of him….

…Divine grace seeks the lost, not those who are righteous.

Abraham Kuyper, Women of the New Testament, p46-48.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015