It was not really the place for a man to be seen on his own – especially at that time of day. The women who came there usually arrived in small groups, together, but at that hour lone women came – and for very good reasons. Mostly they were outcasts – even among the women of the community. Very often something in their past or present had rendered them and their company undesirable. Other women from the village did not want to be seen with them, to be tarred with the same brush – so the outcast, the scandalised, the untouchable came alone in the heat of the midday sun when no one else was around.
Consequently, fully aware of the etiquette of their culture, the disciples of Jesus must have, to say the least, been slightly shocked when he sat down in the midday sun by a well outside a village known to be populated by hated Samaritans – telling them to go ahead and buy bread. There must have been a few backward glances from Peter, James, John and the others as they wondered what on earth their Rabbi, Jesus, was up to now.
However, when they returned a short time later, their curiosity turned to outright shock and disbelief as they saw him standing speaking to a woman – and what was even more unbelievable, a Samaritan woman. This was way beyond behaviour acceptable to any self-respecting Jew.
So what was Jesus up to? What was he really doing? Why had he deliberately set things up so he could meet this woman on her own? Oh, I know all the normal and well-rehearsed answers to that question in my religious culture – but not until recently did I understand his deeper plan and purpose. And the truth? He was looking for a bride – a wife! Surely, surely, even if that were true, not here you might say, with, to say the least, a loose foreign woman of highly questionable morals? Yes – and yes again! Before you press the ‘close‘ button bear with me for a moment and consider the deeper truth of this story.
First of all, we need to be aware that it is recorded exclusively in what we call the ‘Gospel of John’. John is a theologian and, like his Master, well adept in the craft of type, shadow and mystery. Nothing, as it were, here, is as it seems in any cursory reading of the text. Behind almost every statement, every verse, every story there is a deeper meaning. In that sense, the Gospel of John is the mystical Gospel. John was also a Jew – steeped in its scriptures, its past and its traditions. He was fully aware that some of the greatest Jewish hero’s wives had been discovered at wells – indeed it appears wells were places where brides were sought and found! And Jesus is looking for a bride!
Rebekah, the future wife of Isaac was discovered at a well in Nahor, Mesopotamia. Isaac and Rebekah’s son Jacob also met his future bride, Rachel, at a well and Moses met his wife Zipporah at a well in Midian, Egypt.
So who, really, is this Jesus as he is as he stands boldly before the Samaritan woman – a woman, remember, who had gone through five husbands and was now living with her unmarried lover? He is, without doubt, The Lamb looking longingly for his bride (Revelation 21:9). He is also The Bridegroom seeking a bride (Isaiah 62:5 & John 3:29) and he is the new Jacob – sitting as he was, at that very moment, you remember, at Jacob’s well (John 4:6)! Significantly, we also recall, Jacob’s name had been changed to Israel (meaning ‘Let God prevail’) – and was the man regarded as the father of the nation. Jesus therefor is the fulfilment of Isreal – the reality of every type, picture, shadow and longing of the nation!
Any yet – here he stands – not even before a Jewish woman or one of the righteous in his own community – but before a universally hated Samaritan – and a woman, an immoral and suspect woman, at that. But in the very act of meeting him and of drinking from the living water of his Well, she instantly became the bride of Christ! She will also become, in another instant, the person many consider to be the first recorded Christian Evangelist.
Again, as with the returning prodigal, whom we have looked at in the past two posts, there is no demand for what would normally be regarded in Jewish (or Christian) culture as repentance – no sinner’s prayer, no teaching on the five points of Calvinism and certainly no demand for a theological education before she is set free to run back to her community with the good news – ‘Come and see a Man Who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Christ?’ Truly she had drank from a deeper source – a bottomless, living, well and what she had experienced became, instantly – ‘springs and rivers of living water ..’ (John 7:38 AB) flowing up from deep within her spirit. And that was more than enough! The Well – The Water and The Bridegroom would not fail her – never leave her unsatisfied. The River of The Spirit had been released. The Bridegroom had won his Bride!
‘As they make music they will sing, all my fountains are in you.’