Jesus Pursues the Samaritan Woman (and You)
“Are there people like me at your church?” I was asked this question by a troubled woman. She had a string of physically abusive relationships. Her sources of comfort were alcohol and the local spiritualist gathering. But when she learned I was a pastor, she asked me to pray for her and read the Bible with her. I later invited her to church, but she shrunk back in fear. Were people like her able to come to Jesus?
Honestly, I’ve asked that question many a time myself. I suspect you have too. Are we welcome to Jesus the weeks where we’ve struggled in prayer? Are we welcome to Jesus when we’ve lost our cool with our kids? Are we welcome despite that unspecified but deep sense that Jesus could never want someone like us?
John recorded the story of the Samaritan woman for people like you and me. The Samaritan woman isn’t just one woman. She is a picture of the bride of Christ. Deserving to be rejected by Christ, she is pursued nonetheless. If you are a member of the bride of Christ, that is true of you too. You don’t deserve him, but he still loves you. Here are four invitations from your beloved to comfort your soul.
Bride of Christ, You Are Pursued
Most rabbis would have either sped through Samaria or gone the long route to avoid it. The Samaritans were syncretists with an impure religion. Yet Jesus had an appointment to keep.
A well in the middle of the day was a lonely place. Women of the village would have gone together in the morning and evening, escaping the heat of the midday sun. The Samaritan woman came in the heat of the day, knowing she’d be alone.
Samaritans were outcasts. This woman was the outcast of the outcasts. Imagine her caution as she approached a Jewish rabbi sat at the well.
Yet he asks her for a drink. The woman is stunned:
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (Jn 4:9, NIVUK)
This is a revolutionary action. Why does Jesus do it? Because he is pursuing her. This woman’s ancestors Isaac and Jacob met their betrothed at a well and so does she. Jesus doesn’t want romance. Yet, as Hosea so perfectly pictures it, Samaria is his bride that committed adultery. Jesus seeks to take his bride back home. This woman and her whole nation are pursued by Christ.
This is a picture for us. We may be the outsider of the outsiders, but Jesus pursues us. Though we cheated on him with the idols of this world, Jesus pursues us. Far from being put off by our uncleanness, it drives him to meet us where we are. Bride of Christ, you are being pursued.
Bride of Christ, You Are Thirsty
A conversation ensues where Jesus offers her living water. As so often in John’s gospel, the spiritual meaning is ignored for the physical (e.g. 2:19–21; 3:3–4; 4:32–33). Jesus is offering to quench a different thirst than the thirst for water.
This drives him to turn to the issue of her husbands. It seems like a clunky gear change in the conversation, but Jesus knows where he is going. He needs to show her that she is thirsty. That thirst is shown in a string of failed relationships. Perhaps her divorces are by husbands who cared little for her and left her by the wayside, followed by one who wouldn’t even commit. Perhaps they show her endless desire to find something she cannot find in a man. Jesus revealing that she thirsts for him, a thirst no other one else can satisfy.
Augustine had a similar experience. He went from religion to religion, sect to sect, until he came to see “our heart is restless, until it repose in thee.” That same restlessness is seen in every member of the bride of Christ. Perhaps you seek its fulfilment in relationships, religion, or career success. But the reality is only Jesus can quench it. Bride of Christ, you are thirsty.
Bride of Christ, You Are Welcome
The woman gets it. We know this because when she tells the village about Jesus, she tells them “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” This revelation stunned her more than any. Often Christian testimonies will say, “It felt like the preacher was talking just to me.” That is her experience here.
She wants to talk worship. This is an obvious next step. Should she worship in Samaria or Jerusalem? Jesus reveals a truth to her even Nicodemus wasn’t ready for. The salvation he brings, though from the Jews, bursts out from Jerusalem. It goes to the borders of the whole world. The Father who is Spirit, seeks global worshippers in the Spirit and in truth.
That extends to us. The living waters of Jerusalem flood out to Gentiles across the world. The temple curtain is torn down. The Spirit blows where he wills. We are welcome now. Our sin, our past, our false worship, all can be overcome. Through the Son, by the Spirit, the Father is winning true worshippers for himself. Bride of Christ, you are welcome.
Bride of Christ, You Are Jesus’ Food
The story ends with the village coming in. Yet there is one part of this passage which is easy to overlook. Jesus tells his disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (4:34). What is that work? He reveals later that the Father’s will is “that I shall lose none of all those he has given me” (John 6:39). This is Jesus’ food, his hunger.
All humans bar one have an unquenched thirst for the divine. As perfect man, Jesus doesn’t have that. Yet he has another spiritual drive: to do his Father’s will. That means he has an insatiable hunger to seek and save the lost. An insatiable hunger for you.
That hunger still rumbles in Jesus’ belly. He will not be satisfied until every last Samaritan woman is welcomed in. Every lost sheep. Each sinner in need of a saviour. Every member of his bride. And dear Christian, that includes you.
Come and drink
I wonder if John thought of this experience when he closed his Revelation like this:
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17)
These words are an invitation to all who read the Scriptures. You are the Samaritan woman. Jesus is the water of life. For all eternity, he will quench the thirst of every sinner in need of eternal life.
So yes, the woman I spoke to is welcome. And so are you. Though you are “prone to wander” he welcomes you nonetheless. Do not shrink back from your saviour. Enjoy the water only he can give. Then go and tell the world, “Come and see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done and yet loved me all the same.”