When Jesus met the woman at the well in the Samaritan city of Sychar, she experienced a life-changing moment (John 4). Not only was she confounded by this Jew who broke with tradition and asked a favour of her a Samaritan (v.9), He was able to tell her things about herself that she had not told Him (vv. 16-19). With His knowledge of her past and current relationships with men, it was even more intriguing to her that Jesus not only ignored her past, but that He kept talking to her. Unlike the other men she had dealt with in the past, this one did not seem to want anything from her nor did He want her, but He actually wanted to give her something for her own benefit – “a well of water springing up into eternal life” (v. 14, KJV).
When Jesus’ disciples returned from buying meat and saw the two of them talking, they “marvelled that He talked with the woman” (v. 27). What could Jesus and this woman have in common? Bible scholar Adam Clarke observes: “To the present time, if a man meet even his own wife in the street, he does not speak to her; and this is done to keep up the appearance of a chastity and temperance of which the eastern world knows nothing. They might wonder how a Samaritan, in whom they could expect no spirituality, could listen to the conversation of their Master, who never spake but about heavenly things.” Despite what was going on in their minds, “yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?” because they knew Jesus well enough to know that though they not understand what He was doing, He always has His reasons for doing what He does.
From Jesus’ perspective, the traditions and customs of the day, the woman’s background, her likely reputation of being lewd, were all nonfactors in His reaching out to her. Before Him was someone whose inner thirst needed to be satisfied and He alone was able to do that. In this woman we can see ourselves as we were outside of our relationship with Christ. Is it a tremendous joy to know that despite our individual backgrounds, our stories, our bad reputations, and whatever else about us that others thought were spiritually and morally offensive, that God in the person of Jesus Christ looked past all of that and extended to us His grace; a grace He continues to extend to us and all who are willing to engage Him wherever He finds them.
The apostle Paul sums it this way: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9). I believe that today is as good a time as any to stop and thank God for His grace.