Sometimes the strangest things happened when we weren’t around. Let me just explain what was going on in our lives when all of this went down. Jesus’ name was starting to become pretty well known down in Judea. So well known in fact that some of the religious leaders were starting to get a little worried. You’ve heard of John right? “The Baptist” I think you call him? Well, people were starting to see that we (Jesus’ disciples) were baptizing more people than even him. Jesus thought that it would be best to travel back home for a little while so that the religious people wouldn’t get too upset yet…
The first strange thing that I remember about the journey is that it didn’t bother Jesus at all to walk through Samaria. I mean, yeah it’s the shortest way back home but most good Jews would rather swim a hundred miles up the Mediterranean Coast than walk through that terrible place. We always said they were half-breeds. Ever since the kingdom was divided shortly after Solomon died, they had been mixing it up with other cultures, and they’ve been caught up in worshiping other gods. We were ashamed to even admit that they had once been the same people as us. Samaritans.
There’s a place called Sychar, which sits kind of in-between two mountains and is about 35 miles north of Jerusalem. Many referred to it back then as “the belly-button of Canaan”. It was still quite the intersection of highways, which is why we found ourselves there. Of course, this is where Jacob’s well still stands. This was something we could all appreciate, so Jesus popped a squat there. We were all pretty hungry from our journey, so the other guys and me scooted into town to grab some food. What happened next was the strangest thing, and though Jesus told us about it later, like I started out saying…we weren’t around.
While Jesus was sitting there, waiting for us to get back and just resting, a woman came to draw water from the well. “Hello,” Jesus greeted her.
She couldn’t believe that he’d really spoken, so she didn’t respond. It was very unusual, first of all, for a man to acknowledge a woman that he didn’t already know out in public --- but let alone a Jewish man addressing a SAMARITAN woman.
“Give me something to drink, please,” Jesus said.
Startled by his continuing effort to communicate with her (without taking attention away from the thing she was already doing) she asked with logical uncertainty, “Why is it that you are a Jew and you’re talking to me, a Samaritan and a woman?”
“If you knew who asked you for a drink, you would have in return asked Him for a drink of living water,” Jesus responded.
She stopped drawing water for a moment and dared to really look at him. He appeared sincere, but he was alone and bucket-less. With her confusion evident in her eyes, the woman said to Jesus, “You don’t even have a bucket, sir…how will you get to this ‘living water’? The well is pretty deep.” She shook her head in disapproval. “Besides,” she went on, still puzzled by this peculiar man and his remarks, “this well is Jacob’s and it provided water for his family and his animals. And if you notice, it is still providing his ancestors water today; it gives us some good water. Are you claiming to be better than Jacob?”
Once again Jesus didn’t answer the question. “It’s amazing that the water that Jacob gave you has lasted this long,” He said instead, “because when you drink it, it only satisfies for a little while and then you need more. The water I offer you will completely satisfy you. You will never need another drink of water.”
“Audacious,” she must have thought…but something about this mysterious man hanging out by the well caused her to trust what he was saying. “I would like to have some of that water sir,” she said, feeling a bit less baffled and a bit more excited. “I wouldn’t have to keep coming down here to draw water then because I would never be thirsty again!”
Jesus smiled slightly. “Then go get your husband,” He told her. (This was one of his ways of continuing the conversation. Of course He knew she didn’t have one.) When she self-consciously replied to him conveying that very fact, Jesus said to her, “I know; you have had five different men who have held that title…and the man you live with now isn’t your husband.”
Rather shocked and unnerved that he knew so much about her, she figured that He must have been a prophet. And feeling even more uncomfortable by the turn of the conversation, she decided that she would get a feel for what His stance was on where the proper place to worship God was, get him into a different subject. “We worship on this mountain behind us,” she said, motioning offhandedly toward it, “but your people say that the real place of worship is in Jerusalem; what do you say?”
“There is coming a day when all of God’s people will not need a building or special place to worship in,” Jesus told her. “Then it is not going to matter if you worship on that mountain or in Jerusalem. The real question will be whether you are a true worshiper. They will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”
She looked at the ground and thought for a minute, then said, “I know that the Messiah is coming soon, and He will proclaim everything to us.” Setting her water bucket down, she glanced up at Jesus again.
“I AM He…” came the shocking reply out of His mouth.
She stared into his dark, penetrating eyes, shaking slightly…those were not words that just anyone used. That was the very name of God. Was it true? Could it possibly be true? The Messiah… is talking to her?
Captivated by the truth in his voice, she continued to stare, unable to find words.
And that’s when we got back.
Um…well this is weird and awkward.
We all just kind of looked at each other in wonderment…like, what was Jesus doing talking to this woman? This Samaritan woman? (I personally was trying to figure out a way to get over to Bartholomew, because he had the fish sticks.)
And almost immediately, the girl turned and slowly began to walk away. Still in deep thought I could tell, and with every step toward the center of town, she gained speed.
“Guys, she forgot her water,” Thomas noted, “…which if you really think about it is the reason she came out here in the first place; she’s going to realize it when she gets back, and ---”
“Thomas, just be quiet and pass the bread to Jesus --- He has got to be starving,” Peter interrupted.
“No, I’m all right,” Jesus said dismissively. “I have food that you guys don’t even know about.”
Peter was the first to respond. “Jesus, you sent us into town to get some food because…now wait a minute…did that Samaritan girl give you some food?”
Jesus unhurriedly stood to His feet and started to walk around near us. We all just watched Him, waiting for His explanation. “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work.”
James’ head turned toward me. He raised an eyebrow, then shrugged. His smirk said it all for every one of us. For like the third time that week, Jesus was talking and we simply had no clue what about.
By this time we had all started to focus on feeding ourselves --- after all it had been a long day, we were hungry, and the food smelled great. We had already forgotten about the woman who left her water sitting beside Jesus. All I really understood at that moment was that the fish was pretty tasty.
But then something happened, something very intriguing. Jesus started in on another one of his stories (or so I thought) about harvest season. But then, with sudden authority in His voice He said, “Look around you and see how the fields are ripe with harvesting.”
I stopped stuffing food into my mouth and paused.
One by one we looked.
And one by one we saw.
There were hundreds of Samaritans coming through the fields, some running and some running faster…right toward Jesus. And first among all of them was a familiar face.
“I told you she’d be back,” Thomas said wryly, shaking his head slightly.
She had left behind her water…but she wasn’t coming back for it. She was coming for the living water. And she wanted everyone else to have some too. You see, when someone has experienced the power and love of Jesus, they cannot stay the same.
And neither can the people around them.
And neither could we.
Sometimes we become so concerned with the little things going on in our lives, that we fail to look out and see the opportunities that lay right before our eyes.
We were hungry, but Jesus knew that real satisfaction was found in doing what He was sent to do. He was always thinking like that when He was here with us. But that day taught me something: we exist to do the will of the Father. And no matter what else might be going on in that moment, we always have to be conscious of what He is doing around us. Once we caught hold of that, it changed our outlook on life…it changed our lives…it changed the course of history.