“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” (John 4:5, NLT)
Jesus is sitting at a well in Samaria (modern-day northern West Bank) when a woman comes to draw her water. It is noon. The heat of the day. No clouds anywhere. Usually, people filled their water jugs first thing in the morning, before it got hot.
So why is this woman getting to the well so late?
Jesus gives us a hint during their conversation: you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now (v.18).
Now it makes sense.
Why invite the judgment of other people, with their nasty looks or their refusal to look at her at all, if she didn’t have to? Perhaps she was also ashamed. Perhaps she was afraid people might stone her for her sins.
So when Jesus brings up living water, water that could take away her thirst, she jumps at it. No need for water would mean no need to see any of those people: problem solved.
Of course, Jesus is talking about the kind of thirst that she has been trying to satisfy with all those husbands — thirst for love, for acceptance, for security. But let’s not slut-shame her like her fellow villagers did. Perhaps she was raped and her rapist paid her father rather than marry her, and then people treated her like she was a prostitute. Perhaps she was widowed young and then married a couple of her dead husband’s brothers, and then his family rejected her when she didn’t have children and her own family wouldn’t take her back. Women then had few options.
Whatever else she was, she was a survivor.
What was her reaction to Jesus’s frankness?
The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” (v.27-28)
She ran towards the very people she’d been working so hard to avoid. Towards. And didn’t shy away from her reputation.
Jesus didn’t add to her shame — he gave her the living water of perfect love and acceptance. John 4:1-42)
What are you avoiding? What are you ashamed of? What are you thirsty for?