John 4:7-9 (NIV): 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 do not associate with Samaritans.)
To the Jews of Jesus’ day, in this short interchange Jesus had committed three serious errors. The first and most basic error was that He had gone into Samaria in the first place. The second was that He spoke to a woman He was not married to or related to. And finally, He asked a Samaritan for a drink.
The Jews believed the Samaritans to be morally corrupt, idolaters, and therefore cursed by God. Because they combined the worship of the true God with the worship of other gods, they were considered gentiles and unclean. And since they were unclean, contact with them, or with any of their stuff, was believed to make other people unclean.
But Jesus was on a mission. He wasn’t in Sychar for pleasure or recreation, or even because it was the shortest distance between His departure point and His destination. He was here because the Samaritan people in Sychar were in the darkness, and the Father had instructed Him to take light to them. As He waited at the well, He sent His disciples into the town to buy some food.
Then came the woman. Much has been made of the fact that she was coming to the well at noon instead of early in the morning, the normal time to draw water for the day. Some teach that she did this because she was an outcast in the town due to her bad character, and so she came later, after all of the other women had finished drawing water, to avoid their scorn. If that was the case, she might have waited until 7 or 8 in the morning, but probably not until noon. The most likely explanation was that she simply needed more water, so she went to the well, and stepped into a divine appointment.
When Jesus saw the woman, He knew that she was the one who would be receptive to His light. But He would have to be the one to initiate contact. If He hadn’t said anything, she would have ignored Him as propriety dictated, drawn her water, and then simply gone away. So Jesus made the first move.
Asking for a drink was a perfectly natural opening. Jesus had no jar with Him to draw water, and it was the heat of the day. It was apparent that, if He needed water, He was going to be dependent on the kindness of someone who did have a jar to draw it with.
The woman was taken aback by the request. Again, it war rare for a man alone to speak to an unrelated woman alone, even among the Samaritans. But even more, it was unheard of for a Jew to be willing to drink from a jar or cup that had been used by a Samaritan. It would have been considered by them contaminated beyond all cleaning.
But Jesus was no more concerned that a Samaritan jar would contaminate Him than He was that touching a leper would make Him unclean (cf. Matthew 8:2-3). Jesus was light, and light can never be overpowered by darkness as long as it shines. Jesus needed to share good news with this woman, so He threw aside prejudices and social niceties knowing that, when all was accomplished, not only this woman, but the whole town would find new life in Him, and be filled with His light.
Father, it is really easy for us to give in to our comfort levels, and to only associate with those who are like us. And, for Christians, that often means hanging out only with Christians. It seems safer, less uncomfortable. But Jesus knew that the work of the kingdom was to take Your light into the places where it was dark, among people who were very unlike Him. Help us to realize the same thing. Help us to hear Your voice clearly when You need us to put aside our prejudices and our uncomfortableness, to take Your light and love into the dark places all around us. Amen.