John 4:7-9 “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food). The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?'” (For Jews did not associate with Samaritans).
As we continue the cultural significance of a Jewish male and rabbi asking a Samaritan woman for a drink we are seeing Jesus continue to break tradition and tear down social and religious barriers. If you will remember how Jesus’ emphasized on his many encounters with the Pharisee’s that they placed an overemphasis on the exterior and outward appearances to the neglect of the inside and heart issues. Jesus told them that it was not what was on the outside of a person that defiled them but what was on the inside. They needed to clean up the insides of their lives spiritually speaking and stop trying to impress their fellow man with their outward appearances.
In Jesus’ asking the Samaritan woman for a drink of water he is placing himself in need of what she could provide for him that he could not provide for himself. In doing so, he is communicating to her as a male and rabbi that she is a person of worth. He is elevating her and all future women’ self-worth.
John 4:10-14 “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?’ Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whosoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'”
Jesus is not going to be drawn into a religious debate over whether the Samaritans or the Jews could lay claim to Jacob’s well. Jesus is in the process of changing this woman’s view of him from a tired and thirsty Jewish man, then a rabbi, and beginning in verses 15-26, this woman at the well will begin to see Jesus as a prophet. He is in the process of moving this conversation from the physical need to the deeper spiritual need. In these coming verses, Jesus is going to continue to break down gender and religious/theological barriers and stereotypes. He is about to reveal one of the most startling and important teachings on worship found anywhere in the NT. And Jesus is not going to reveal this to his disciples, but rather to a Samaritan (Gentile) female whose past dictated that she would come to draw water an 12:00 noon, in the heat of the day, by herself, without the safety and company of her village’s women.
In our next post we will examine John 4:15-26 in depth, looking at attitudes of the other rabbi’s towards women, and women as reliable witnesses and the implications of this in a male-dominated, patriarchal society.