I think that day she simply chose the lesser of 2 evils. Gathering water at the well was a daily chore for most all the women. The water jug was heavy and the sun was hot, which is why most women accomplished this task early in the morning. It would take something specific to cause you to put it off until the heat of the day when the jar would simply feel even heavier.
A specific reason like shame, and that she had plenty of.
This woman had clearly had 5 husbands, but not the love and fulfillment she had expected to come along with them. After all, if she had received it with number 1, she wouldn’t have gone on to numbers 2, 3, or 4. By the time she got to the 5th she settled for the fact that he wouldn’t even marry her but was just grateful to have a home to lay her head down at night. She was so shameful and so desperate to hide from the glances of the other women at the well drawing their water as well that she was willing to carry the burden when she knew very well it would be worse. You too right? Haven’t we all said, give me the physical hardship, give me the heavier jug, the longer workload, just spare me the sharpness of the tongue and the pain in the glances.
The sore muscles will recover faster than the heart anyways, right?
So her plan was there. Wait unit the crowd has passed, then make the trip as quickly as possible with eyes down the whole way to avoid any potential contact. That was the plan, what unfolded though no one could have seen coming.
As she came upon the well, there was One who her downcast eyes could not avoid, no matter how hard she tried. It was Him that began the conversation. He could have said anything, He knew everything about her. Even the things that the heckling women she avoided didn’t know. But He doesn’t start with the accusing finger, He just starts with a question.
“Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7)
Talk about the unexpected. The only One who could tell her everything she ever did, confronts her with a seemingly endless list of sins, or condemn her until the next day, instead asks her for something that He really didn’t even need! He’s the God of the universe who even without anything to draw water could speak water into existence. There was something far greater than water at stake.
I think she knew that He was after more than just water too, although she couldn’t have imagined what He was really after. Maybe, given her past with other men, she wondered if He was really after taking advantage of her just like every other man had done as her husband. So instead of just giving Him water she asks Him a question of her own,
“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9)
Her doubts were right, He was after more than just water. He was after her heart, something that no other man had ever done for her.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”(John 4:10-15)
Right then, just as it seems this man might possibly be unlike all the rest, that just maybe He was different than any of the husbands who had probably promised her things only to leave her aching more than the previous husband’s promises, He goes there.
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” (John 4:16)
Oh that. The husband thing. Tears can’t help but well up in my eyes as I imagine her heart breaking even a little bit more as she faced the heartache afresh all over again as she admitted,
“I have no husband,” she replied. (John 4:17)
Her reply was short. Simple. But those 4 words must have been absolutely brimming with a lifetime of built up heartache and pain. She didn’t say why, she didn’t say what led her to that devastating moment of encounter with Jesus, but would it be possible that her face or even her tears told the story for themselves? Jesus sees the hurt, sees the pain, and knowing that it was her own choices and her own sin that had led her to that moment, doesn’t point the finger but simply states the facts.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:17-18)
Don’t you wish you could have been a fly on that well!! The suspense must have been tangible. Ok, facts are out and the dirty laundry has definitely been aired. She knows that He knows and He knows what she doesn’t yet know! She breaks the silence with,
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (John 4:19-20)
In other words, I can see something different about you and I want to know where is God? My people say one thing and your people say another, please tell me where He is? It’s as if after all her heart had been through on this earth she knew it would take a God who was not of this earth to put it back together. If this prophet could simply point her in the direction, maybe there would be hope for her yet. Oh if only she knew.
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am He.” (John 4:26)
Her response, though often overlooked, is one of my favorite parts of the whole story.
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:28-29)
She left it. The heavy thing that left her sore and slumped over. She left it right there. An entire lifetime of shame and devastation gone after a moment with the Messiah. It doesn’t say she embraced Jesus or fell at His feet weeping in gratitude. But what she left behind was her own form of worship.
Back at that well, with the water jug left beside it, you’ll find the shame she had carried there with her that day and everyday for what felt like forever.
It was her offering.