What was the woman thinking as the Jewish man moved closer to her? She knew that Jews considered her kind untouchable merely for their ancestry. Her personal secret life took her discomfort and shame to an even greater level. As he opened his mouth to speak, she was most certainly expecting some kind of put-down or curse. Instead, he asked her for a drink of water.
What was the woman’s attitude? Was she merely surprised by the unprecedented request, or was she belligerent at the audacity of a man – from a group of people known for always looking down on her race – asking her to serve him?
However she felt about it, the cultural rules were clear. Jews did not associate with Samaritans for any reason. She asked how he could ask her to serve him considering the prevailing cultural and religious climate. In a stunning response, he told her that if she would ask, he would serve her.
It is easy to identify with the woman in the story of Jesus and the Woman at the well. Consider the Giver, the Gift, the Recipient and the Response:
Jesus told the woman that if she knew who asked her the question, she would have asked for what he had to offer. Even as the woman stood in the presence of the Son of God, she was oblivious to how close she was to the satisfaction of her deepest needs and desires. Five husbands, and at least one affair, had not satisfied the longings of her heart, but God had the answer to her soul’s deepest cravings. If she could only see past her preconceived notions of the Jew who stood before her.
While the woman spoke of natural water, Jesus spoke of spiritual water. The gift she failed to recognize was soul satisfying and spiritual nourishing. Not only was it possible for the woman to have all her needs met with this supernatural water, Jesus said that she could become “a well of water springing up to eternal life.” When Jesus asked the women to give him natural water from the physical well, he was also revealing her potential to be a supernatural life-giving source to others who needed the more important – and everlasting – living water.
When Jesus, without condemnation, revealed his insight into the woman’s sins, she finally recognized him as a Prophet. Once the woman realized that Jesus was speaking on a spiritual level, she began to turn her focus toward a satisfying connection with God. She was ready for a change. Her worship experience on the mountain had failed to bring spiritual satisfaction. She questioned Jesus about Jerusalem, where the Jews worshiped, even though she was not allowed there. She felt disenfranchised from true spiritual blessings because she was not one of the “chosen” and was not allowed in the “real” church.
It was at this point that Jesus reached into the Prophetic past and brought the promises of God into the present moment. “…an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The revelation of Christ to the woman was that worship is not about physical locations or religious disguises, it is about the spirit of worship and the truth of who we are. Whatever is true about us is what God expects us to bring into worship. For the woman, her truth was feelings of inferiority and dissatisfaction. It was sexual sin, and the search for fulfillment though transient relational experiences.
Though the woman at the well would have never found the gift or the giver on her own, Jesus stepped in and revealed himself and his gift to her. To her credit, she immediately let go of the past and received both the giver and the gift. She became the spring of living water that Jesus spoke about and it poured out onto her people. Though she was among the least likely source of God’s life-giving water to the Samaritan people, she became the most celebrated in scripture.
Her truth, as enslaving as it was, was brought to God in worship. This simple act of faith gave God permission to take her truth, free her from it and transform her life from one who was used by men to one who partnered with God.
What truth is God asking you to bring to your worship? Respond to the Giver, accept the gift, and bring spirit and truth to your worship. When you do, you will become a spring of life-giving water drawn from the source of Christ. Like the woman at the well, you will be the conduit for others who crave soul satisfaction and fulfilling worship.