This chapter overwhelmingly shows how Jesus crosses through and challenges cultural norms of the time to touch hearts. There were three reasons Jesus should not have been talking to the woman at the well.
Firstly, she was a woman. Jewish men did not speak to women in public, including their own wives. In fact, there were pharisees called ‘The bruised and bleeding pharisees’ because they would close their eyes rather than look upon a woman in the street but continue walking and hitting walls and houses. Jesus, firstly, didn’t ignore her because she was a woman. He asked her to get him some water from the well because she was drawing water for herself and he was hot and weary from walking all day. It was a conversation starter. Jesus comes into our normal everyday experiences…often the mundane and speaks to us.
Secondly, she was a Samaritan. As she points out…why is a Jew speaking to a Samaritan? The Jews only had contempt for the Samaritans and yet it appears Jesus had a real love for these people and notes that they believe his words, whereas he rebuked the Jewish people later on in this chapter who only believed after they had seen signs and wonders. He spends two days in Samaria with the people there, which is definitely challenging the cultural norm of that time. How wonderful that Jesus loves and honours those who are unloved and despised, whether it is because of their nationality, colour of their skin or sex.
Thirdly, she had a past. She would be well-known in the area and would have been avoided at all costs by others in her community. So not only is she part of a community which is rejected by the Jews, she is also rejected from her own community. This is why she comes to the well at the time Jesus finds her. She comes when it is quiet and she can avoid the stares, the unkind comments and the rejection by other women of her community. Jesus doesn’t point out the fact that she has had five husbands and the man she is living with now is not even her husband to rebuke or condemn her, but to show her how thirsty she is. The woman at the well doesn’t recognise that Jesus is offering to assuage her spiritual thirst and sees it purely as physical water he is offering. In John 3:20 Jesus said “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” She cannot open herself to the living water because her inner life is locked up against everything that might expose it. It is too painful and too dirty. So, he is intentionally exposing her inner life. God means to have this woman as a worshipper in spirit and truth. But in her present condition, she doesn’t even have a living spirit. She is dead and hard and blind. And Jesus understands this condition perfectly. He will not stay on the surface of things.
We meet ourselves in this woman. Jesus wanted to fill the void, assuage the thirst that had led this woman to be married five times. He knew all about this woman, and he knows all about us; what it is that makes us thirsty, and where we seek to get relief from that thirst. Let’s recognise when we are looking in the wrong places to get relief and start drinking again from the water of life…the only true way to relieve our thirst.