We don't know the Samaritan woman’s name or age. But her conversation with the Lord is his longest one-on-one chat recorded in Scripture. It was high noon on a hot day. Jesus, tired from traveling, chose a sensible rest stop—Jacob's well outside the town of Sychar—while waiting for his disciples to go into town for food. When our unnamed woman appeared with clay jar in hand, Jesus made a simple request: "Will you give me a drink?" Well now, (1) Jews weren't supposed to speak to Samaritans, (2) men weren't permitted to address women without their husbands present, and (3) rabbis had no business speaking to loose women such as this one. Jesus was willing to toss out the rules, but our woman at the well wasn't. "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman," she reminded him. "How can you ask me for a drink?" She focused on the law; Jesus focused on grace.
He began, “If you knew the gift of God— “ A remarkable invitation and a gift. Instead of insisting she pour him a drink, the Lord offered her "living water". Water from the ground was common, but living water? This polite but gutsy woman pointed out the obvious: "You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?" To quench her spiritual thirst, the Lord first confessed the truth about plain water: "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.” Then Jesus made a bold promise: "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.” In one sentence He shifted from everyday life to everlasting life. The woman wanted what He was offering, but only so she could avoid returning to the well for water. Eager to satisfy our physical desires, we overlook our spiritual needs.
Jesus told her, "Go, call your husband and come back.” Not an odd request, since women couldn't converse alone with a man in a public place. But Jesus' request was more about uncovering truth than about following society's rules. When she confessed, "I have no husband,” Jesus affirmed her answer, then gently exposed her sin: "The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” Five marriages didn't make her a sinner. Due to warfare, famine, disease, and injury, men in those days dropped like flies. A widow became either a beggar, a prostitute, or another man's wife. Each time, this Samaritan woman had chosen the best option. But sharing her bed with a sixth man who wasn't her husband? That was a sin.
Did she confess? No. She changed the subject. She talked about worship, Jerusalem, the differences between Jews and Samaritans. Again, we get her evasion.
Finally, the woman at the well did her best to shut Jesus down. "When [the Messiah] comes, he will explain everything to us.” How stunned she must have been at Jesus' revelation: "I who speak to you am He.”
Overjoyed, she left her water jar and went back into town to urge her neighbors, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?"
People in the town believed her, this loose woman, and believed in Jesus--making her, a Samaritan woman of questionable virtue, the first true evangelist and missionary to her own people. A Samaritan woman of questionable virtue—no one has so bad a past that he or she is not of use to Christ and His mission. Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.
(with thanks to Liz Curtis Higgs)