The Woman at the Well – John 4:13-26

16 Mar

Woman at the Well
The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself was created by Diego Jourdan Pereira and is called “Woman at the Well.”

John 4:13-26 [NLT]
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.”
15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”
16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.
17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.
Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”
21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”


Dear God, I’ve heard this story so many times that I want to see if I can enter it through the image created by Diego Jourdan Pereira instead of starting with the passage.

Knowing what I know of the story, what is it that I see here?

  • First I suppose I have to admit that it’s a little hard for a left-brained person like me to make out everything in this image.
  • I see the woman first. She is the center of the story, and she is holding a pitcher in which she can carry the water she’s come to get.
  • There’s the well. It has water at the bottom and rocks surrounding it at the top.
  • Jesus has his back to us and is sitting on the well. Okay, maybe I am noticing something interesting that Mr. Jourdan Pereira did here–he kept the woman the center of the story. Jesus is looking at her just like we are.
  • I never imagined Jesus sitting on the actual well itself talking to the woman. That’s interesting.
  • Jesus seems to have the holiness halo around his head that a lot of Catholic artwork does for the Holy Family and saints. (Bustard’s commentary mentions that “the circle of Christ’s halo is repeated in the well, connecting the water with the Living Water.)
  • I can’t tell what it is, but there seems to be a subtle cross that is upside down and crooked just above Jesus hands–between him and the woman.
  • I suppose those are mountains in the distance behind her.

I really like the idea that this image and this story are all about the woman. It’s not about Jesus needing water. It’s about Jesus entering this woman’s life and world. She is holding her pitcher, in need of some water. She came to the well for the water, but what she found there was Jesus sitting on the well. He’s in the same place as the water for which she came, but he has a different water to offer her.

Of course, there is the story itself. What is the living water of which Jesus speaks? The first thing he has to do is get her sin out on the table. She is going to be ashamed of it, and she’ll get mad, change the subject, and try to fight back by drawing a line between them: We Samaritans think this while you Jews think that. But Jesus changes the premise of her argument and tells her that all of it is wrong: Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.” (verse 21)

Then he has to teach her about worshiping “in spirit and in truth.” (verses 23 and 24) We’ve put so many constructs on what worshiping you looks like, when the truth is that you are so much bigger than our constructs.

My wife and I were talking this morning about death and afterlife. We discussed the difference between those who believe that we are dormant until Jesus comes again and those who believe we enter the afterlife immediately (whether it be heaven, hell or even purgatory). We finally concluded that all of this is problematic because we are putting our earthly construct of “time” onto the construct of your timelessness. My personal belief is that I don’t know how it will all happen, but I’m confident that I’m not capable of understanding it on this side of death because it is through death that I will cross through the veil.

Okay, now I’m rambling. I guess the point I am getting from this story this morning is that you are there to meet us where we are, get us to discuss our sin and deal with it through your grace and your call to holiness, and then worship you in spirit and in truth, which is possible because you are the Messiah. How’s that for a summary?

Father, help me to really worship you today. I started this day with a secular song in my head and I played it while I made my breakfast. It was a nice love song. Then I decided that I needed to prepare my heart for this time with you so I put on some Christian songs that would lead me into worship and bring me into a place of wanting to spend this time with you. Thankfully, it worked. So, like I said at the beginning of this paragraph, help me to worship you today, but to do it in spirit and in truth. Help me to deal with my sin in a humble way before you. Help me to do what you would have me to do for your glory.

In Jesus’ name I pray,




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