“Will you give me a drink?”
Some time after the Passover feast, Jesus departed from the region of Judea and began travelling through Samaria on his way back to Galilee. As he and his disciples approached the town of Sychor, they passed a well, known as “Jacob’s Well,” which was located on the outskirts of town. Jesus was weary from the uphill journey, so he stopped off to sit by the well and rest while his disciples continued on into town in order to buy food.
As Jesus sat there by the well, a Samaritan woman came by to fill her water jug. Jesus asked if she would give him a drink, but the woman would not give him a drink. Instead, she gave him an argument:
“How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:9-10 NASB)
The Jews and the Samaritans had a long history of animosity, going back to the time preceding the Babylonian exile. Like any long-standing blood feud, there were incidents perpetrated by both sides which fomented the conflict and contributed to the deep-seated hostility which already existed between them. As a result, the Samaritans despised the Jews every bit as much as the Jews despised the Samaritans.
“Will you give me a drink?” – Jesus wasn’t just using this as a conversation starter, he was genuinely tired and thirsty from his journey, and he needed a drink of water. Still, his request was an audacious one, for it meant that the woman should allow him to drink from the very same vessel from which she herself drank. (There were no Dixie cups in those days!)
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” – The gift of God that Jesus spoke of is the gift of eternal life. (John 4:14; Romans 6:23) Jesus knew what was in this woman’s heart, and he knew that he was bringing to her the very thing that she had yearned for all her life, though she couldn’t recognize it.
Before proceeding into further study of the ensuing conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, let us pause to reflect upon the attitude that Jesus assumed in his initial approach. Jesus did not approach her from a position of smug superiority, knowing that he held the answer to all her prayers. Instead, he approached her from a position of humility, perhaps even vulnerability, for he was physically weary, thirsty, and alone in hostile territory without the support of his companions.
What does it take to bring the message of hope to a hostile world? Let us learn from the example that Jesus provides in this conversation with the Samaritan woman. We must abandon all notions of moral superiority and allow the Holy Spirit to give us the same mind that was also in Jesus Christ, who humbled himself and took on the form of frail humanity, ultimately allowing himself to be sacrificed on a cross for the sake of all those who would one day believe in him. (Philippians 2:5-8)