Symbolically, beyond the play on the English word well, any water well would have been a meaningful place for the-woman-at-the-well to have met Jesus. But the particular well where they did meet provided perfect symbolism. That well is identified in John 4 two ways: by its location and by its maker. The man who had dug the well to supply his family and flocks with the water that they needed to live was Jacob: son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. The land itself had been part of the land that was originally given by God to Abraham in promise. While the Promised Land, as a whole, had passed by inheritance first to Isaac and then to Jacob, this particular parcel where Jesus and the-woman-at-the-well were to meet was next given to Joseph, Jacob‘s beloved son. The land and the well were Israelite family heritage.
But by the time when Jesus arrived at the well, the nation of Israel that the Promised Land had become, and the family that God had used to establish it, had both been long divided. Internal strife among the family at large had split the nation into two kingdoms. Each kingdom had then later fallen to conquering invaders, who interjected any number of foreign customs and worship practices into both God’s people and the nation by mixing the known Truth of God with their own false beliefs.
The area that had become Samaria, where Joseph’s well was located, had been especially hard hit. The land had been purposefully overrun with foreigners, many of whom decided to worship the Hebrew God YAHWEH, along with the myriad of other gods that they had each brought with them into God’s nation. To them, all gods were the same. Their logical rationale was that one more god on their list couldn’t hurt and might just help. This led the Jewish people who were still worshipping in Jerusalem at that time to consider the Samaritans to be irreparable. As far as the Jews were concerned, the Samaritans were not salvageable people. They had strayed so far from God in their hearts and minds that they had no way of returning to again be God’s people. Not only had the Samaritans blatantly departed from their covenant with God in intentionally determining more convenient times and places of worship than those that God had given to them, but in living outside of Jewish law, they had also given up (lost, forfeited) their entitlements by birthright to enter into a covenant with God in the first place.
Yet the Jewish people in Jerusalem were no more in the right with God than were the Samaritans whom the Jews were constantly condemning. They too had committed their own sins that they did not always recognize as such. They too had broken covenant, only often in more subtle ways of their own making that had seemed right to them in their own particular wrong ways of thinking about God’s perfection. Even when they adhered to the letter of the law, they often missed the heart of the law, creating brokenness of another kind.
But brokenness is still brokenness, whatever its cause; and both the Samaritans and the Jews were broken people. The restoration that God had promised to deliver in a Savior was equally needed by them all. Their common need for Jesus was their common ground. So important is this message that God has woven the message of common ground into the story of the-woman-at-the-well as a uniting thread, using two parallel father-son stories that coincide at the well to do so.
As Jesus initially waited by the well for the-woman-at-the-well to come to get the water that she needed to quench her physical thirst that day, He physically rested by a physical well that had been dug for the purpose of providing the water that sustains physical life. He rested on land that Jacob, an earthly father of faith, had given to his beloved son, Joseph. Joseph was the son who had restored his father’s family in the foreign land of Egypt by forgiving his brothers for the harm that they had done to their father and family as a whole. The brothers were indeed guilty of having betrayed them all. But that did not stop Joseph from then doing what he knew was the right thing to do.
Once Joseph’s family was reconciled to both him and their father, Joseph told them that they could remain in Egypt with Him. There God had positioned Joseph as Egypt’s second in command and gave him the means to provide for all of his family’s needs, as well as the needs of everyone else living in Egypt at that time. So Joseph arranged for them to both reside and tend their flocks in the region of Egypt known as Goshen. There they were able to maintain both their way of life and their livelihood apart from the Egyptians’ foreign customs and gods. Goshen was to be their home until the time would come for them to acquire the Promised Land, as God had said would yet surely happen.
But the land that Jesus rested upon physically at the well was also part of the land that His Father had given to Him—His Father’s beloved Son. It was the parcel of the Promised Land where, during the time when men were still awaiting God’s Promised Kingdom to come, Jesus was to spend His time on the Earth. Jesus would be the One to provide for not only the forgiveness that is needed by the whole world; but in being able to do that, Jesus would also give the whole world all that it would ever need to receive in Him in order to share in His eternal life.
In addition, though, to resting physically at the well that day, Jesus also rested spiritually in the Presence of the Holy Spirit, who was given to Him by His Father for the benefit of sustaining life in both Him and His “Family-flock” while He and they were on the Earth. The Holy Spirit would be the means of preserving and nurturing life by quenching individuals’ spiritual thirst for God through an intimate relationship with the Father, through the Son. For as with water, the Holy Spirit refreshing strengthens best from within.
In conversing with the-woman-at-the-well that day, Jesus freely gave her the information about Himself that many had been waiting to receive for hundreds and even thousands of years. In the end, He confessed that He is Messiah/Savior. But before that, He first provided the-woman-at-the-well with two other vital pieces of information that, when combined with knowing Jesus’ identity, changed her life. (1) Jesus had access to “living water,” and (2) if she asked, He would freely give it to her.
Imagine the great surprise of the-woman-at-the-well in realizing that, despite knowing about her history, the Savior of the world was not rejecting her. Right then and there, Jesus gave back (returned, restored) to the-woman-at-the-well something that the world had taken from her: the dignity of acceptance that leads to hope-filled living in unity with others.
So excited was the-woman-at-the-well by the honor that Jesus bestowed upon her with His Presence and His words that, when she hurried off to town to lead others back to Jesus, she left behind her water jug—a necessity of life in that day and time. The reason for her action remains as true today as it was then. Most anyone can tote water, but she carried with her something of far more immeasurable value. She carried tangible evidence of her encounter with Jesus: the change that personally knowing Jesus had made in her.
The honor that the-woman-at-the-well received in realizing her acceptance by Jesus during her one brief encounter alone with Him that day must have changed her countenance, as well as her outlook. She became the drawing card used by God to cause a town of people to go meet Jesus at the well themselves. Then, in having their own personal encounters with Jesus, they too would come to accept the Truth of God that Jesus reveals. As a result, the town as a whole would be changed. It would come together, united around Jesus, finding common ground in Him.
From the world’s perspective, Jesus and the-woman-at-the-well were unlikely candidates to have ever been paired up in any conversation, let alone one that would prove to be of life-changing proportion. Even Jesus’ twelve disciples thought it strange when they saw Jesus conversing with the-woman-at-the-well. But from God’s higher vantage point, He knew that the two were a perfect match: a match that had been made in heaven by Him before time began. From that one single conversation, God got a whole town to talking in a whole new way: a more right way about God and about one another.
The meeting of Jesus and the-woman-at-the-well was neither accidental nor coincidental. The time and place of their meeting were divinely appointed by God to maximize the benefit that Jesus’ ministry to her would give to her and others. As the encounter of the-woman-at-the-well with Jesus wrote a whole new future to her life story, it also served purposes in being used to lead others to have similar life-transforming experiences of their own with Jesus.
The-woman-at-the-well was a real person who remains anonymous by name with good reason. She represents all people who have ever or will ever suffer rejection in knowing that they too have not measured up perfectly to this world’s standards. They too are also debilitated in some way and thirsting for acceptance, until the day when Jesus comes to personally offer them an endless supply of God’s living water.
The-woman-at-the-well may have gone to the well that day carrying an empty water jug, but she left with a spiritual cupful of overflowing hope in Jesus. With Jesus making Himself her reality, able to quench needs that no one else could touch, her physical thirst faded from dominance to become a less important background concern. Likewise, as Jesus ministered to the-woman-at-the-well, He also quenched His desire to do His Father’s work, and His own physical tiredness and hunger, too, faded in comparison.
The word quench has a meaning apart from the one that is used in conjunction with that of thirst that makes its use here important. Quenching also refers to the quick immersion of a heated metal into cool water. The immersion serves dual purposes. First, it relieves the metal of the stress that the metal was experiencing in being heated far beyond normal temperatures. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, quenching also strengthens the metal. A heated metal that has been quenched actually performs better in use than had it never been heated to extremes and then immersed. Quenching makes stronger that which stress would be thought to have weakened.
The spiritual parallel is dramatic. The relationship between God and mankind that was “scorched” (stressed) by sin is in the end made stronger (unbreakable) by spiritual immersion (baptism). God saw to it right from life’s initial concept, before the world was ever formed, that any God-given life that would become separated from Him would in the end only be tied to Him stronger in its return through the perfection of His Son’s wholeness. Jesus’ righteousness is the binding agent that cannot be broken. Once we are immersed in His shed Blood, Jesus immerses us in a Spirit-filled life of restoration that has no limit to the wellness that it so freely gives.
So amazing are the transformations that occur in restoration that they cannot be explained by any means other than by that of God Himself. Irrefutable by any eye-witnesses is the strength that is gained in being raised up to rightly stand for God in the midst of debilitations that would otherwise be impossible to overcome. The strengthening is itself the proof that God supplies to the world of His Presence in us. In Jesus, we stand together on common ground, connected by His strength that unites us in an assured, shared hope that relishes living God’s way: for the highest common good of all.
Along with the increasing awareness of the grace of God that we gain in getting to know Jesus personally, we also begin to experience more of the compassionate joy that is His in giving sacrificially to meet the needs of others. The awareness of His grace and the experience of His joy lead us to begin also living more sacrificially in honor of God in praise of Jesus.
Our complete acceptance in Christ turns our lives around, converting us into holy instruments of God that are dedicated to serving Him in fulfilling His good purpose in having made us. Having once ourselves been rejected and discounted people, who rejected and discounted others, we become drawing cards of acceptance, who are used by God to lead others to join us in becoming One with Him. Each additional life that joins the Body of Believers further strengthens us all through more unbreakable connections that Jesus Himself makes for us in Him. In Christ, all is made well forever, to the glory of God, who planned and accomplished the entire supernatural feat—one that is, needless to say, of His own godly proportion.
When Jacob needed a way on Earth to sustain the life of his family in this world, God gave him a place and the means to dig a hole to make a well. More aptly put, God enabled Jacob to remove the earth that stood between those Jacob loved and the water that they couldn’t live without. In a time and place designated by God for that purpose, Jacob did the work to provide his family and flocks with the means of surviving in a land where physical thirst has no end.
The event also foreshadowed the work that God would have Jesus to accomplish in this world. In a particular time and place that God had designated for that very purpose, Jesus would do the work given to Him by God to do, removing the sin that stood between the Family that God loves and the good life that God has planned for them to live with Him forever. Jesus would be the way for mankind to access God the Father—the One whom no one in this world can live forever without— by giving access to Holy Spirit-filled living right here and now through Jesus—the only begotten Son of the Father.
The similar spiritual task was accomplished, not by Jesus digging a hole as Jacob had done; but by Jesus traversing the chasm that differentiated a righteous God from sinful mankind and prevented the two from ever uniting as One. So in sacrificing His Body and Blood, Jesus purchased forgiveness, laying down His life in this world to bridge the gap that kept all of mankind separated from God. Jesus is the one point in life on which all—God and Family—can remain in perfect agreement forever. Otherwise, apart from the unique reality of Jesus, we have no other way to ever go Home again.
As our journey through life in this world then comes to an end, we could find ourselves alone and facing a permanently isolating death; the suffering of which is frightening to have to even consider. Nonetheless, it is a terrifyingly real possibility that must be faced by all.
The picture that the possibility itself forms is similar to that of an expanding universe that eventually runs out of momentum and comes to a dead stop. Along the way, the universe’s diminishing internal energy results in it emitting less and less light. The universe grows continually darker and colder until finally, it reaches the place and time where and when its own light goes out completely. At that point, the universe has only one hope. Otherwise, it will remain in that state forever. That one hope lies in the possibility that the stopping is not permanent, but only momentary in the reversing of direction. If the slowing and stopping are a responsive result of the universe being drawn back to its point of origin, then the universe may have a chance of beginning again by coming back together at the place where it first came to be.
Such is mankind’s hope in Jesus. In choosing to follow Jesus in life, a turning (repentance) is accomplished that prevents an isolating ending from occurring. Instead, individuals are returned to their Creator to begin a new and everlasting life in Jesus. Jesus is the Common Ground upon which God is creating a brand new and everlasting world, a world that has always existed in the eternal life of Jesus:
our God who knows firsthand what it is to suffer as Man.