According to Saint John, (John 4:1-42) the story begins with his thirst, her bucket, and perhaps hints at why she went to the well in the first place, after having seen a strange man.
If you were a Jewish boy from a good family and from an average Jewish village you would have been warned to stay away from Samaritans, let alone Samaritan women.
Only Jesus is at the well in the noontide heat and a Samaritan woman appears from no where, alone. Clearly, this looks like a woman to avoid.
The story tells that what she wanted you couldn’t take home in a bucket, and maybe for good reason. This happens to be the way John deliberately shaped his Gospel emphasizing that Jesus is the new bridegroom and the woman, a Samaritan at that, represents all of us as the new bride.
According to (Genesis 29:11), This happened at Jacob’s well, on the plot of ground Jacob gave to Joseph, his Son. And there has been a history of romance around this well. Because, this same well is the spot where Jacob first met Rachel. And he swept her up and kissed her. The scene John displays intentionally resembles Jacob and Rachel, only no kissing. But pointedly, it happens at the same well.
There are several things to admire about the Samaritan Woman. She’s feisty, isn’t she? She is too bold enough to remind him of what separates them, he a Jew and she a Samaritan, and courage enough to assert what connects them, their mutual ancestor, Jacob. In their verbal sparring she calls upon the coming Messiah who will explain all things to them both.
But Jesus talks with persuasion of thirst and living water. “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to continue coming here to draw water.”
No problem, but first, your life must flash before your eyes.
Jesus points out to her, “You have had five husbands, and the one you are living with now is not your husband.” Wow, Nothing hurts as much as the truth, people say.
Could this be why she is at the well alone, because she is ostracized and shunned? Is she not welcome to follow the village women in the morning? Does She have to wait? Does she not have village companions to hear her story, wipe her tears, or help her laugh? Has she embraced scandal and has no place to go?
How does somebody manage five husbands, or five wives? This just isn’t the kind of thing that should normally happen to normal people. A woman who had five former husbands and still a live-in-at-the-moment, something’s wrong somewhere.
If it was the time of social media, How would she cope under Twitter and Facebook scrutiny?
What does this woman truly seek at heart? Maybe, She wanted out of her fix, I’d suppose. So, in the noontide heat, alone, she sights a new guy at the well and goes to bring a bucket.
Though, it is Jesus who confesses his thirst, but she recognizes her thirst as well. In knowing the need she wants, she glimpses a healing reality and a true escape from the fix she’s in.
However, she is not much regarded in the biblical interpretations of western Christians. That five husband’s thing, sort of diminishes any respect for her. But among some Christian communities she is remembered.
Among the Eastern Churches she is St. Photina, who was honored as a martyr and an equal of the apostles, for she was the first person to summon others to the thirsty man at the well, wondering if he might be the Christ.
Jesus stayed in the Samaritan village for two days. And many in the village came to believe in him because of the woman’s testimony.
On another day, a Friday noon soon to come, Jesus will again confess his thirst. Unfortunately, He will not receive the sweet water of Jacob’s well, but only sour wine squeezed from a sponge. After the Third Day, his disciples will recall this encounter of water and woman at Jacob’s well.
Only then will they proclaim to the world what the Samaritan woman had already learned. As Jesus, the drink to satisfy our thirst for eternity.