Jesus told the woman at the well that he could give her “living water,” and we often overlook what this encounter did for Jesus. Listen to what he told his disciples, “I have “food” to eat that you know nothing about.” That is a strong statement and I do not know where Jesus made such a declaration about his encounter with anybody else.
This story of the woman at the well is found in John 4:4-42 and begins by saying, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” It is best translated that “he purposed in his mind” to go through Samaria, because the Jews had found a way, even though it was inconvenient, to avoid Samaria. They thought they were better than these poor cousins, the Samaritans, and for a Jew to deliberately go through Samaria was unusual.
There was something in Samaria that Jesus needed to do in order to complete his earthly work.
It appears that Jesus was covering the bases with women. A few examples are:
- The Jewish woman, Mary of Bethany, who Jesus welcomed to sit at his feet right beside the men, and learn at a time when learning scripture was forbidden to women.
- The Gentile woman to whom Jesus revealed that he was not sent only to Israel, but to all people, which included her.
- The Samaritan woman to whom Jesus revealed that he was the Messiah, who the Samaritans were also expecting, since they claimed theirs was the true religion of the ancient Israelites.
- Mary at the tomb completes the gospel declaration.
These are pivotal stories because they show that Jesus gives the voice of the gospel to women just as he gives the voice of the gospel to men. These stories also set the stage for the empty tomb where it was women who first encountered the resurrected Jesus and where the full gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus would unfold. So, yes, Jesus purposed in his mind to go through Samaria, because he had something to complete in Samaria.
The completion of this mission was so satisfying to him that he told his disciples, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” The conversation he had with this woman had an effect upon Jesus that was profoundly different from his other encounters with men or women. This is the only scripture passage in the Bible where Jesus said that what had just happened was so meaningful to him that he felt that he had been fed. In other words, mission accomplished.
Verse 42 says “…we no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” These men first heard the words of Jesus from a woman, and then they heard the same message from Jesus himself.
Will you allow a woman to stand up in your pulpit and declare the words spoken to women 2,000 years ago? If not, why not?
(excerpt from my book Dethroning Male Headship)