The Samaritan Woman

This reflection on John 4:5-14 considers how Jesus values the people scorned by others, in this instance a Samaritan Woman.

John 4:5-14

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

New Revised Standard Version


Strict Jews may have avoided Samaria altogether, choosing to take a longer journey to get to Galilee. But in choosing to go to Samaria and to engage with the people there, Jesus showed that he held a different view.

In the eyes of the Jews, the Samaritans did not worship God correctly, as they did not go to the temple in Jerusalem and they adopted the practices of the neighbouring religions. The Samaritans’ religious practices were considered to be offensive by the Jews, rendering them unclean. When Jesus asked the woman to draw him water from the well, he broke several traditional views, not only by associating with a Samaritan and being willing to drink from what would be deemed an unclean vessel, but also by speaking to a woman on her own. Jesus was able to look beyond the cultural expectations; he was not tainted by the hatred and prejudice prevalent at the time. Jesus saw the woman as a person in need of good news and the life he had to offer.

Are we able to look beyond the perspectives of our own culture when it contradicts the way God sees things?

In the Jewish faith, water was used often as a powerful metaphor. In such a semi-arid environment water was a precious gift to relieve thirst and bring refreshment. It gives the writer of Psalm 42 inspiration when he says “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God” (v 1). Jesus in this passage is making it clear that he is using living water as a metaphor for eternal life. Jesus does not bypass this woman or seek someone more socially acceptable to offer his precious gift to, he chooses her.


Father of all,
We thank you that you do not bypass anyone
but choose to invite all to draw near
Help us to see the needs of those around us
and to be generous with the gifts we have to offer

All We Can supports partners who work with women in communities where they are often overlooked and undervalued.