Extra Grace Required # 2: The Woman at the Well

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Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.

He had to go through Samaria on the way.Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” – John 4:1-14 (Read the remainder of this encounter in John 4:15-42.)

Bridge Over Peaceful Waters (Watercolor Treatment) | Missouri Botanical Gardens | July 2021

Sometimes we need extra grace because we get discouraged – in spite of the witness of God’s power and goodness. That was yesterday’s post about Elijah and the prophets of Baal and Elijah’s discouragement immediately after that event.

Sometimes we need extra grace because we’re hiding something. Some deep dark sin. Something ugly in our past. Or even in our present. The woman who comes to the well at midday in Sychar, has something to hide. She’s been married 5 times, and was living with a man to whom she was not married. Coming to the well at this hour spared her the difficulty of interacting with others from the village. Perhaps she would have been ridiculed. Maybe she had stolen one of the other women’s husbands, or lovers. In any case, she was hiding in plain daylight. 

Jesus does three things he didn’t have to do – except for God’s grace. He speaks to her. He teaches her about God, true worship, and his identity as Messiah. And he confronts her gently about her living situation.

Jesus’ interaction with her – speaking to her, initiating a conversation – is remarkable. She is taken aback by it. She even asks how he, a Jew, would speak with her, a (Samaritan) woman. This is an act of grace. Recognizing people – even the extra grace required types is an act of grace. Speaking with them respectfully is an act of grace. It opens the way for healing and wholeness. That’s what grace does. It makes the first move. It heals. 

The fact that this is a gentle confrontation is also key to the grace Jesus shows. If we are to confront, the Bible says we should do so with gentleness and respect. 

A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. – 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Jesus is gentle with sinners. Not so often with the self-righteous. A good reminder for us all! In fact, in order to see lives changed, both the one seeking to help, and the one being helped must exhibit humility. Without it nothing changes. Grace grows best in the soil of humility.

Jesus didn’t have to tell the woman at the well that her current living situation was sinful. She knew it. But he did invite her to expose this need for grace. When she did, he didn’t condemn her, but continued his conversation with her. He didn’t have to talk with her in the first place, but he did. He could have done what so many others surely had done, looking past her rather than seeing her and talking to and with her. He even broke two social barriers by this. He spoke to a woman. And the woman was a Samaritan.

Finally, Jesus teaches her about God, worship, and himself as Messiah. He is the embodiment of grace and truth. As a result her life was changed. Instead of avoiding people (by coming to the well when she would others not to be present), she now goes into the village and invites everyone to come see Jesus and hear his teaching.

Do you need Jesus’ gentle correction? His recognition? His truth about God? His gracious presence? We all do. Sometimes we need extraordinary amounts of it. Blessed are we who realize that. Because he has it to give.


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