It was a busy well. Hooves and footfalls had trampled anything green, leaving the ground hard and bare. Buntings, doves, and crested larks called and chattered as they dipped their beaks and splashed in the tiny leftover puddles. He’d sent his twelve companions searching for food and stayed behind waiting for her.
Food tasted the best when you hungered, and water when you thirsted. The woman was thirsty. That’s why he’d chosen her. He could have picked anyone, but he’d selected her. Not a Jewish woman, a Samaritan woman. The sun was hot, and sweat trickled down his forehead. Flies drawn by the animal droppings and water settled on his skin and buzzed around him. He would wait for her because the woman needed him. She needed the Messiah.
The woman squinted at the midday sun. Other women came to the well in the cool of the morning. They arrived in groups, laughed, and talked about their children and husbands as they filled their pots with the day’s water. She shook a pebble from her sandal. It was easier if she came alone. She wouldn’t join them even if the other women allowed her to. Their happiness made her sad and angry. No. The woman got her water when she didn’t have to be reminded of her choices and what might have been.
An unimpressive man in a filthy tunic and tallit, the fringed Jewish prayer shawl sat at the entrance to Jacob’s Well. The woman slowed her pace, hoping he would leave. He didn’t move. She slowed more. It was almost like he was waiting for her. She thought about turning back. Why should I? Ignore him and pretend he isn’t there. Fill your pot and go. She walked past him.
“Will you give me a drink?” asked Jesus.
The woman set her pot down and shook her head. “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”
“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.”
She pointed to her pot. “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?” She looked at the steps leading into the depression in the ground. “Are you greater than our father, Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered calmly. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst. The water I give will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman moved a step closer. “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus pointed. “Go, call your husband, and come back.”
She looked down. “I have no husband.”
“You are right when you say you have no husband.” Jesus looked back the way she had come, then at her. “The fact is you had five, and the man you now have is not your husband.” He looked into her eyes. “Your answer was honest.”
Her head tilted. “Ahh, you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” Jesus took a breath. “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will 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 truth.”
The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”
“I am he,” said Jesus. “The one who is speaking to you.”
His apostles returned as he said this.
The woman stared at them and Jesus. She walked backward until she tripped and almost fell. Then stopped and looked at the Messiah. He smiled. Tears of joy flowed from her eyes, and the hollow inside her filled with hope. The woman ran back the way she had come – her empty pot sitting where she left it, a testament to Jesus’s words; “… whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst…”