The ancient Christians named the Samaritan woman Photine, which means “enlightened one.”
It was no random act that Photine visited the well to draw water alone at noon. The typical time that women drew water was early in the morning or at sunset. And women typically accomplished this tedious work in groups. So why did Photine visit the well at noon alone?
Because of her reputation, the women of Sychar most likely shunned her. She probably grew tired of the scornful stares of the other women in the village. She wearied of whispering tongues and wagging heads. This explains why when she arrived at the well, only Jesus sat there.
Jesus ventured from Judea to Galilee. But He took a route that few Jews normally traveled. The exception was if it was during the Jewish festivals or if they were in a hurry.
We can see no external reason why He had to go through Samaria, so we assume—as John tells us repeatedly—that the Father led Jesus in that direction (John 5:19). The Spirit blows where He wills. The Father had chosen Photine in Christ before the foundation of the world. And so He led His Son Jesus to share the water of life with her at this specific point in human history. And now, at this well, a lonely, despised Samaritan meets a lonely, despised Jew.
Here stood a despised and desperate woman. Thrice an outcast in Jewish thought. An unclean Samaritan. A woman who had been with five different husbands. And a woman with a sixth man who didn’t wish to marry her. But on that special day, the seventh man arrived. And He would turn out to be the Messiah. Not the national leader of the old Israel, but the Taheb, the Restorer, “the Savior of the entire world” (as they called Him).
Yes, on that day, salvation ventured outside of Judaism into the Gentile world. Once again, we see Jesus doing what He does best: touching and transforming the unclean and crossing boundaries of culture, social status, and gender. The Jesus of the Gospels is more concerned with people than the traditions that separate them. And His scandalous behavior pointed to the new reality of the unity of the Spirit and the global nature of God’s salvation.
That day the Samaritan community not only met their Messiah, they met their bridegroom . . . the lover of their souls. What a Christ! Consider this, dear reader. If your Lord could love an insignificant, uneducated, “worthless,” sinful Samaritan . . . a multiple divorcee . . . an outcast among her own people, then you can rest assured He loves and accepts you too. Why? Because if you have bowed the knee to His lordship and trusted in His saviorhood, then you are also part of His lovely bride. But there’s more. Note Jesus’ words: “He who drinks from this well will thirst again.”
Can you relate to this woman? If you’ve ever been lonely, if you’ve ever known use or abuse, if you’ve ever experienced the wearisome burden of carrying your sins, with all of the shame and guilt that accompanies them, then certainly you can. Jesus told this woman that drinking from Jacob’s well would eventually leave her thirsty (John 4:13). In the same way, the wells of this world will always run dry . . . eventually.
A cup of water may satisfy your thirst for a short time, but soon enough, you will thirst again. Fame can satisfy for a time. Fortune can satisfy for a time. The pleasures of sin are indeed satisfying . . . for a season (Heb 11:25).
But eventually, you will thirst again. Not so with the water that Jesus Christ offers to us. In fact, Jesus Christ Himself is that water. He is the Spring of living water, the well of eternal life which can be received and enjoyed now (Rev. 22:1; 7:17; 21:6). All who partake of that real water—which is Christ— will never thirst again. And what is needed to partake of this water? To open your heart, receive, and drink.
This water is “the gift of God.” You can’t buy it; it’s sheer gift. You simply must receive its life-giving qualities. Jesus Christ, the lonely despised artisan, the one called a bastard, a traitor to Rome, an accused false prophet, and a deceiver of the people, is the beautiful gift of God. He is the living water that never runs dry. Sadly, Christians so often turn to every other thing, digging in their own strength. Choose the real water of heaven and you will never thirst again.
*This excerpt is from the newly published book, The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels (Baker Publishing House).