The disciples were shocked that Jesus was speaking with her. First, she was a woman and Jewish rabbis considered it scandalous for a man of distinction to speak with a woman in public. According to Bible scholar Adam Clarke, “If a man meets even his own wife in the street, he does not speak to her; and this is done to keep up the appearance of chastity and temperance.” Second, the people of Samaria were particularly hateful to the Jews. In fact, when Jesus, while sitting by the well, asked the woman for a drink of water (John 4:7), she expressed her surprise, “‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?’ For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans” (v. 9, AMP). Third, this woman had quite a reputation. She previously had five husbands and was now living with a man who was not her husband (vv. 16-18). It is no wonder the disciples reacted the way they did though none of them questioned Jesus about what He was doing (v. 27).
However, what was a conundrum for the disciples was nothing for Jesus. He knew the woman and her back story. When He tried to introduce Himself to her by offering her “living water,” eternal life (v. 10), she was still hung up on Him being a Jew asking her a Samaritan woman for water and that He was there at the well with “nothing to draw with [no bucket and rope] and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?” (v. 11). Nothing was making sense to her, but if He was offering her water that would make her never be thirsty again, she wanted some of that. She said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not get thirsty nor [have to continually] come all the way here to draw” (v. 15). Realizing she still did not get it, Jesus shifted the conversation by asking her to go and call her husband (v. 16). According to the narrative, “The woman answered, ‘I do not have a husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You have correctly said, ‘I do not have a husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband. You have said this truthfully.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I see that You are a prophet’ (vv. 17-19).
What followed has been recorded in the Scriptures for all times. Now that He had her attention, Jesus not only spoke with her but He spoke to her before revealing that He was indeed the promised Messiah (vv. 20-26). As the disciples returned, “Then the woman left her water jar, and went into the city and began telling the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done! Can this be the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed)?’ So the people left the city and were coming to Him” (vv. 28-30). Bible scholar Albert Barnes puts it this way, “Her mind was greatly excited. She was disturbed and hastened to the city in great agitation to make this known. She seems to have been convinced that He was the Messiah and went immediately to make it known to others. Our first business, when we have found the Saviour, should be to make him known also to others.”
Author Max Lucado was right when he said, “God answers the mess of life with one word: Grace.” A Samaritan woman with a colorful past, a nobody as far as the Jews were concerned, came face to face with a Jewish rabbi, Jesus the Messiah, and experienced a personal and spiritual transformation. This was against the natural order of the times, but a marvelous demonstration of God’s grace. For it is only God who can pick up a nobody to become somebody in front of everybody without asking anybody. Come to think of it, wasn’t that exactly what He did with you and me? Awesome God!