The Woman at Well
If anything, the gospel narrative is a story of unyielding compassion. You cannot read John and miss how much Jesus cared for all people, not just those who were “socially-acceptable”. When we open in chapter 4 of John, we find Jesus in Samaria. Here He finds a woman and although all she gives Him is a drink of water, He gives her so much more.
At the risk of “beating a dead horse”, you cannot read this story without pointing out the strained relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans and the Jews come from similar lineage, however, the Samaritans (in the eyes of the Jews) had been “tainted” by other nations. Not only had the bloodlines of the Samaritans had been determined “unclean”, but because the Samaritans were not allowed to offer sacrifices at the Temple, they were also considered spiritually unclean. This feud began long before Jesus arrived on the scene, but the two nations had only grown further apart.
To make matters worse, this woman was obviously living in sin. She had had “five husbands” and the one she had was “not her husband” (John 4:18). At the time the only one who could initiate a divorce was the husband, so this woman, either through a fault of her own or other cause, had been rejected and cast aside at least 5 times. And the man she was with now would not even marry her (perhaps because he was already married). She was a woman no one wanted, rejected, wounded (ever felt like that?). Jesus was not even supposed to speak to this woman. To receive at drink from her jar would make Himself unclean in the eyes of the Jews.
Here we find our Savior, asking little from her, but offering His whole self to her and everything she wanted. Jesus’s interaction with this woman is so different than what she was accustomed to and what even we are accustomed to today. Although He was aware of all her “faults”, all the things that would cause Him to steer clear, He held none of it against her. He did not bring them up to condemn her. He used them to make her aware of her need. Her need for Him.
Jesus does the same for us today. He doesn’t not point out our sin merely to condemn us. He does it to convict and make us aware of our need for a Savior. If we had no sin, we would need no savior. And if our Savior only condemned, we would have no hope.
Once again, John brings up the theme of “old vs. new”. This particular well that Jesus and the woman are chatting beside is “Jacob’s Well”, a place steeped in traditional significance. It was through Jacob (also known as Israel) that blessings came from God to the 12 tribes of Israel. This well symbolized a part of those blessings that made for the provision of the Israelites (of which both the Jews and the Samaritans were descended).
Jesus offers the woman “living water”. This provision is better than the old. It doesn’t just provide for the temporal physical needs, this water is everlasting and provides for the eternal life.
The woman is so moved by His words and actions that she returns to the town to share the news with the very people who she lives in rejection amongst. The news was THAT important. Do we treat the gospel with this much importance, that we would even share it with our enemies? Once again, because of the testimony of one, many come to Christ.
There is an important lesson also to be learned in the reaction of the town to the woman’s testimony and the words of Jesus. They came to Jesus themselves to find the truth out for themselves. They didn’t allow themselves to be swayed only by the words of this woman. We need to do that today, not just accept what others are saying about God, but go to Him and find out for ourselves. Like the Bereans when “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11 ESV) If we only rely on others’ interpretation of Scripture, we may miss a lot of what God is trying to reveal to us, or worse, we may even be led astray.
Jesus Heals an Official’s Son
Jesus returns once more to Cana, the very site of His first recorded miracle at the wedding. Here He meets a Roman official. Once again, another “enemy”, perhaps even more hated than the Samaritans. This particular one may have been one that was helpful to the Jews, aiding them in their synagogues, yet Romans were still Romans. But Jesus’s compassion is for all.
Whoever this official was, he begged for Jesus to heal his son. Jesus does not go with the man, but sends him away with the words “Go; your son will live” (John 4:50 ESV) As a tribute to his faith, the official takes Jesus at His word. When he returns home, he finds his son healed. Because this man had enough faith to go to Jesus in the first place, His son was healed and all those in his household also believe. Yet encouraging stories chosen by John in which the faith of one affects many. And Jesus is enough for all.