The story is one I’ve heard all my life. It’s about this woman who was broken. She had been married five different times, and had a live-in boyfriend. She was afraid of commitment because all she’d ever known was hurt. She lived in a small rural town. The townspeople received all their water from a well a few miles away, and every evening when the sun went down and the desert sands became cool again, the women would carry their clay pots to fill them for the day to come. But not her. She wasn’t one of the popular crowd. Probably because of her past. So this was how she happened to be going to gather water at noon that day.
The sun was high in the sky, and the desert sands were hot on her bare feet. She tried to make the most of the journey. The cacti were beginning to bloom. She counted the red and yellow and orange blossoms as she plodded down the path. And then her heart sank. She wasn’t alone. A strange man was there, sitting on the bench at the well. He was obviously from a different country, and this visitor would no doubt cause trouble. She decided to not make eye contact. She snuck around behind his back, but it was too late. He had seen her. He turned to her and asked for a drink of water.
She had no cup to offer him. He’d have to drink from her pot. This stranger. So uncomfortable. But, she drew her water and as she did, he spoke. He told her she should have asked him for water! How obsurd! He didn’t have a pot or a ladle or cup! He proceeded to tell her about her past. HER past! how did he know this stuff? How did he know about each of her husbands? how did he know about her children- the ones that were living and the ones who died at birth? How did he know about her mother’s illness and death? How did he know about the abuse she received as a child? How did he know about the rape and subsequent years as a prostitute? How did he know?
He offered her Living Water and told her she would thirst no more.
This man!? Could it be!!?? Could this be the Messiah? He knew her past. And despite everything she had done- every lie she had told, every pain she had felt and inflicted- He still offered HER Living Water! Eternal life!! She left her jug at his feet and ran all the way to town. Sweat poured down her brow and threatened to sting her eyes, but she didn’t feel it. A cactus reached out and snagged her hem, but she let it tear. Her whole life had just been told to her. And he loved her even still!!
When she reached the edge of town, she screamed loudly and called her friends and enemies to her. She told them of this man at the well that she had given a drink to. She said he knew her past and still loved her. The townspeople were amazed. They followed her to the well to meet this man, this Messiah.
He spoke to them, and they believed. They begged him- Come to town, stay with us! Teach us! So he did. He stayed two days at the inn, and the people of the town believed. They told the woman- we first believed because of what he told you about your past, but now we believe because of what he has told each of us about our pasts. And He still loves us!! He still gives us a drink from His well, and we will thirst no more!!
What an amazing story. Despite our pasts and everything we’ve been thru, everything we’ve done, Jesus still longs to sit down and share a cup of water with us. He longs to become more than just a stranger on a bench in the desert. He longs to be welcomed into our homes and our lives, and it TRULY does not matter what is in our past. Like the woman, we too, can receive His Living Water. The townspeople believed because of what they had seen and heard that this Stranger was the Savior of the world.
“No greater Love has man than this- that He would lay down His life for His friends.” May I strive to live a life worthy of that love, but rest knowing that He has come to save me, no matter what is in the past. For I am that Samaritan woman at the well. I am broken. I am tattered. But I am longing to share a cup of water with a Stranger. And I am longing to take that water to others, that they too might have their eyes opened.
If you want to read the uneditorialized version of this story, you can find it in John 4.