Friday of Lent III: John 4:1-42  This is a long reading. If you are in a group as you read this devotion, consider apportioning out the parts to various members – let one be the narrator, another Jesus, another the woman, etc.

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus 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.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

This woman was coming out to the well at noon because she was avoiding the other women in town. This part of the world is hot. Women come to a well like this to get water first thing in the morning when it is cool. It is a social event when they chat and help each other. She was not interested in their company. They scorned her. She knew why. They were right. Her life was a moral train wreck. She has this strange encounter with Jesus in which she asks him for the living water he speaks about. She thinks it is just water, but he has something very different in mind. He wants to restore her life. If he is going to do that he will have to deal with her sexual sins, and they are many! She tries to deflect the conversation, but Jesus won’t let her. She finally leaves her jug and runs to town. She exclaims to the people she meets, “He has told me everything I have ever done.”

I want you to think about that encounter for a moment. Imagine you are one of the people of Sychar and the town’s most infamous sexual sinner has just come up to you and said those words. What thoughts are running through your head at that moment? “Wait a minute, he told you everything you ever did!? We have all been spending the last several years imagining and talking about all the things you have been doing. I have to meet this guy!” It says the whole town came out. Is this the reason why?

The theme of this week is penitential humility. We often imagine that Jesus will use us in our best moments. We do the right thing and look over our shoulder hoping for God’s approval. But in this story Jesus sends the lowest person possible to be the evangelist of this town. It may well have been her worst moments which became the honey that attracted Sychar’s moralizing flies so that Jesus might convert them. God uses some very strange things to work his kingdom, even things which we wail and bemoan in their happening. I would not make light of any suffering on your part, but open your eyes and ask how Jesus shall use this. Nothing is beyond His redemption.  

Scroll to Top