Jesus is tired and thirsty. That is it. That is how the conversation started.
Of course, our Master’s request was simply a way to open the conversation and share with her the truth about “living water.” Whenever He witnessed to people, Jesus did not use a “sales talk” that He adapted to meet every situation. To Nicodemus, He spoke about new birth; but to this woman, He spoke about living water.
When Jesus learned that the Pharisees [religious elites] had heard he was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were), he left Judea and went again to Galilee. He had to travel through Samaria; so he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from his journey, sat down at the well. It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
“Give me a drink,” Jesus said to her, because his disciples had gone into town to buy food. | John 4:1-8
The religious elites were trying to incite competition between Jesus and John the Baptist, Jesus left Judea and started north for Galilee. He could have taken one of three possible routes: along the coast, across the Jordan and up through Perea, or straight through Samaria. Orthodox Jews avoided Samaria because there was a long-standing, deep-seated hatred between them and the Samaritans.
The Samaritans were a mixed race, part Jew and part Gentile, that grew out of the Assyrian captivity of the ten northern tribes in 727 B.C. Rejected by the Jews because they could not prove their genealogy, the Samaritans established their own temple and religious services on Mt. Gerizim. This only fanned the fires of prejudice. So intense was their dislike of the Samaritans that some of the Pharisees prayed that no Samaritan would be raised in the resurrection! When His enemies wanted to call Jesus an insulting name, they called Him a Samaritan.
Because He was on a divinely appointed schedule, it was necessary that Jesus go through Samaria. Why? Because He would meet a woman there and lead her into saving faith, the kind of true faith that would affect an entire village. Our Lord was no respecter of persons. Earlier, He counseled a moral Jewish man, and now He would witness to an immoral Samaritan woman!
He arrived at Jacob’s well at 6 o’clock in the evening, the usual time for women to come for water. The disciples went to the nearby town for food while Jesus deliberately waited at the well. He was weary, hungry, and thirsty. John not only presents Jesus as the Son of God but also as true man. Our Master entered into all the normal experiences of our lives and is able to identify with us in each of them.
As you read our Master’s interview with this woman, notice how her knowledge of Jesus increases until she acknowledges that He is the Messiah.
He is “a Jew”. In that day, it was not considered proper for any man, especially a rabbi, to speak in public to a strange woman. But Jesus set social customs aside because a soul’s eternal salvation was at stake. It certainly surprised her when He asked for a drink of water. She surmised that He was a Jewish rabbi, and perhaps she tried to “read between the lines” to find another meaning to His request. What was He really seeking?
The information in John’s parenthesis at the end of John 4:9 was for the benefit of his Gentile readers. Since the disciples had gone into the city to purchase food, it is obvious that the Jews did have some “dealings” with the Samaritans; so John was not trying to exaggerate. The phrase can be translated “ask no favors from the Samaritans” or “use no vessels in common with the Samaritans.” Why would Jesus, a Jew, want to use her “polluted” vessel to get a drink of water?
Jesus wanted to talk with her about living water. He found a way. It made a difference to her and the whole town where she lived. That is what happens when we encounter Jesus. Lives change.