1Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, "Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John" 2 - although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized - 3he left Judea and started back to Galilee. 4But he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." 11The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" 13Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." 15The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."
16Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." 17The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" 19The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." 21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." 25The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." 26Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."
In a preceding section (3:1-15), Jesus has a conversation with Nicodemus. What Nicodemus is, the Samaritan woman is not. Male vs. female; Jew vs. Samaritan; seeking Jesus vs. not seeking Jesus; educated vs. uneducated; socially esteemed vs. socially despised; moral vs. immoral. Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman represent themselves but they also stand in for others like themselves. Both need Jesus.
Many things are going on in this passage. Let me isolate just one part.
In the course of their dialogue, Jesus tells the woman that it's true that she does not have a husband. In fact, she has had five husbands and the one she's living with now is not her husband either.... Awkward. Shameful. Jesus certainly got her attention. The discomfort from Jesus' revelation moves the woman to switch subjects and she tells Jesus he must be a prophet.
But why would Jesus reveal such a thing? There is no indication in the passage that Jesus seeks to shame her. Jesus seeks, rather, to get her attention, so that she would hear clearly what he wants to tell her: that there is a "living water" that is available to her through him. The whole back-and-forth about water at the well is, for Jesus, a way of reaching out to the Samaritan woman. That even though in the eyes of Jewish society this woman is of no account, in the eyes of Jesus she is important and worthy of his attention and worthy enough for Jesus to take some extra steps.
It is also the case in our lives as well -- that Jesus reveals things about ourselves never to shame us but to draw us nearer to him so that we can receive what we need: grace, forgiveness, the living water. Jesus certainly is a prophet; but more than a prophet, Jesus is the One who reaches out to us in his redeeming love, always.
Let's pray: O Lord Jesus, thank you for your gracious love that is always seeking the lost, the confused, and the ashamed. Help us to draw near to you today no matter how we've been -- good or bad. Your love always seeks us out. Your love redeems and gives us new hope. Your love does not give up on us. Thank you.
In your name, amen.