“He Told Me Everything I Ever Did.”

This passage is one of my favorites. It is the one where Jesus meets the Samaritan women at the well. In this lovely passage, Jesus is breaking through long held stereotypes and revealing who he truly is in the process. In the time of Jesus, Samaritan women were considered by Jews to be ritually impure and they were, therefore, forbidden to drink from any cup or vessel a Samaritan woman had handled. Jesus surprises this Samaritan woman then when he asks her for a drink of water. It would have been shocking to her at many levels, just to be recognized and even spoken to by a Jewish man, especially in this familiar kind of way.

“Woman, 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.” (verse 10) When she hears the words living water she thinks of “flowing water,” which would have been ever so much more desirable than the stagnant cistern water she collected from that well every day. But she responds, “Sir you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?” (verse 11) She thinks of Jacob, for this is Jacob’s well, dug by himself, the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham. He was one of the great fathers. She may be being a little sarcastic when she asks Jesus, “Are you greater than Jacob?” (verse 12) But Jesus confounds her even more saying: “Everyone who drinks this water (meaning the water from the well) will be thirsty again.” We can imagine her thinking, “Well, of course. It has always been so. I have to come here two times every day to get water to drink and to cook with.” And Jesus says: “But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Now we can imagine that she thinks this Jewish man is just playing with her mind, having some kind of fun at her expense. So she wryly asks him to, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (Verse 15)

Now things begin to get personal. Jesus tells her to go and get her husband and come back. To which she replies that she has no husband. And Jesus completely takes her aback with his next statement: “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (verse 18) She is now, suddenly and fully, aware that she is in the presence of someone great, far beyond her ken. The whole history of the doctrinal split between the Samaritans and the Jews is covered briefly in their conversation and Jesus says to her: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will all worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in the truth.” Stunned, she reveals that she has heard that the Messiah is coming and that when he does he will explain everything they need to know about God and proper worship. Then Jesus reveals to her who he is. “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (verse 26) He uses the word that is not spoken except in a whisper by the High Priest alone in the Holy of Holies at the center of the Temple on the high holy days, for it is too great, too holy a name. He says to her “I AM WHO I AM.” (Yahweh) As her mind is reeling with this thought, what else could she do but go running back into the town and tell everybody about the man she met at the well.

Jesus comes to each of us at the well of our prayers every day and it is he who wishes to give himself to us, to enter into our infinite souls, and to give us that living water that wells up to eternal life. What stops us from believing him? If we heard him speaking to us personally, as this Samaritan woman does, would we not want, just like her, to rush back into our daily lives and tell everybody about him? If we would allow ourselves to hear and to be taken by the truth like this Samaritan woman, many would come to believe in him through our testimony, just as so many of the Samaritans in that town did because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything that I ever did.” (verse 39)

Lord, make us attentive enough to hear you speaking to us like the Samaritan woman. We are thirsty for you living water and the eternal life that it brings to our parched souls. We pray this prayer believing in the holy power of the name Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.