I imagine Jesus gave her time to process what he was saying to her.
Perhaps he saw the disciples a half-mile off, just leaving Sychar’s town gate, heading back with something to eat for them all. Perhaps he knew, in quiet repose, they were wondering who he was talking with.
Eventually, she answered, “Sire, bestow to me this water, so that I will not thirst anymore,” and perhaps she also turned to look back to town, saw the disciples nearing, and said, “Nor go back and forth here to draw water.” (John 4:15)
She was the only woman in this scene, and the only Samaritan. Think how “other” she must have felt in that moment, foreign, vulnerable, alone.
My guess is, she was thinking about the man who had taken her in, about her life with him, about the tragedies and sorrows she had already experienced in life, about the many times she had experienced rejection, hunger, despair, shame, and misuse. Oh, would that it could be true there could be the joyful upwelling this strange, kind man was speaking of.
The Moment of Truth
With his deep soul perception, the reader of hearts responded in a voice that must have moved through her like color and sound might move through a grayscale silent movie. “Go on, call your husband and come back here.” (John 4:16)
Did she shudder involuntarily? Was she startled from her reverie of hope? Did she now feel those first small tendrils of dread, that pain like ice slowly curling in the chest, catching our breath?
She would not lie. I see her mentally pulling herself together. Her life was her life. What dignity she had she would draw about her. “I do not have a husband.” Perhaps she looked Jesus square in the eye. (John 4:17)
Of all the voices Jesus could have used in his answer, I am convinced he chose compassion, empathy, gentleness, and the kind of love that feels like affection. Jesus spoke straight into the wounds of her life, the places that so deeply needed healing, for that is the effect of Living Water. Cleansing and restoration.
Jesus knew what was standing in the way of this woman moving from temporary satisfaction to true heart satisfaction. She was trying to find her heart’s rest and the sense of significance we all need, in relationships. As so many of us do. We lose our identity and sense of self as we search for soul mates, trying to become whoever it is the other wants us to be.
But, each of the woman’s marriages had taught her broken heart that human relationships can never truly satisfy spiritual longing, and without mindfulness, can seep away the courage to be who God made us to be.
Jesus gently drew out what had been keeping her back.
“You spoke truly, that ‘I do not have a husband.’” (John 4:17)
It was not accusatory, not from Jesus, who had come to heal, not hurt. Rather, it was affirming. She had made a wise and honest choice in her words. In the rightest sense, she was indeed alone, and her refusal to stoop to deception or manipulation to get what she now so thirsted for, showed exquisite character and spirituality.
Jesus’ next words may have raised the hair on her neck, and drawn a gasp from her lips.
“For you had five husbands, and now the one you have is not your husband.” The words were surely hard to hear, but the gentle voice that spoke them was warm with compassion, and the deep eyes that held hers were kind.
“This you have spoken truly.” (John 4:18)
Again, Jesus had affirmed her. He was a lover of truth, an admirer of those who spoke the truth. She did not feel judged, she felt, suddenly, seen.
Here was One who could truly behold her true self, who accepted her for who she truly was, who admired her character, and honored her dignity, who understood the fortitude it took for her to choose truth when it held the potential to hurt her, or to render her disqualified to receive the gift this man had to give.
Already, living water had begun to flow through her by the power of God.
Jesus understood her loneliness, and her fear of what growing old alone would mean (especially as a widow in first century Palestine). He knew that her search for acceptance and self-worth and love had been crushed time and again.
This is not to say she was completely without fault, for who of us can ever claim that?
But it is to say that in every heart there are wrongs etched in by others that warp us just as surely as the wrongs we ourselves commit.
Because she did not feel judged, but rather perfectly and truly known and loved, the woman came closer, stepping fully into this new spiritual dimension with Jesus, the Light of the World.
Because Samaritans only accepted the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, they did not accept any of the Bible prophets. The only prophet they had ever believed in was Moses. As far as they were concerned there would only be one more prophet, the prophet Moses had prophesied about, the Messiah. But here Jesus was, obviously a prophet!
“Sire, I perceive that you are a prophet.” (John 4:19)
John used the Greek word for something someone observes and perceives. One of the examples in the lexicon is of an ambassador gone to receive an oracle. Fully in the light, the woman was able to see with her inner vision what had been dancing around the edges of her spiritual sight.
It was a stunning moment.
Then came a tumble of questions—what about our holy mountain? Have we been wrong after all? Is Judaism right, then?
Jesus made three remarkable statements in answer to her question:
- HOLY MOUNTAIN
The question of whose mountain was right was soon going to be irrelevant. The Jewish form of worship, with all the sacrifices, would no longer be necessary because Jesus was going to fulfill all that symbolism by dying on the cross. Jesus’ death and resurrection would make every believer’s body God’s temple. Wherever believers are gathered together, that is a holy place, that is where God is worshiped.
Believe me, mistress,* that a time comes when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.Jesus, to the Samaritan woman in John 4:21
(*the word I translate as mistress, gunai in Greek, literally meaning either ‘woman’ or ‘wife,’ was a respectful way for someone to address a woman, especially in public. I chose the word ‘mistress’ to convey that meaning.)
The Samaritans had some truth, but it was mixed with error. The Jewish faith alone had the scriptures, the revelation of God, and the right symbolic worship, and through the Jews would come Jesus himself, the fulfillment of all the scriptures.
You all worship one you all have not perceived-nor- known, we worship one we perceive-and-know, because deliverance-and-salvation is from Judeans.Jesus, to the Samaritan woman in John 4:22
True worship is done in the human spirit. True worship comes from the heart. It is not something we do while our minds are somewhere else. God is spirit, and so are you and I, in our innermost being. Worship is the human spirit meeting God’s Spirit, a communion which is intimate union. That can only happen for one who has been born anew, from above. Truth is transparency with God, and it is also meeting God through Jesus Christ Who is the Truth.
But rather, a time comes and now is, that the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, and for of such kind the Father seeks, who worship him.Jesus, to the Samaritan woman in John 4:23
Truth called to truth within her, for she really was a woman of truth.
[Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem | The LUMO Project, http://www.freebibleimages.org