The woman at the well (another unnamed, faceless woman) provides an incredibly important encounter with Jesus that helps us to understand his inclusive heart.
This woman should have been the last person Jesus would want to spend any time with – for a start she’s a Samaritan. Samaritans shared a faith with Jewish people – at least the first five books of what we call the Bible, however, their perceptions of worship differed. Samaritans were held in such low esteem by Jews that they would take ‘long cuts’ in order to avoid travelling through Samaritan territory – Samaria. The story of The Good Samaritan was shocking not least because Jesus cast the Samaritan as the hero.
Then of course there’s the fact that she’s a woman. It just wasn’t the done thing for a lone man to speak with a lone woman. It simply wasn’t decent – but Jesus doesn’t care for false decency: he has a heart for this woman and the solitude of this moment is perfect for him to have the chance to engage with her at a deeper level.
This woman however, had a pretty indecent history – another good reason why Jesus shouldn’t have been speaking with her. The woman Jesus met at the well was divorced (not a ‘good’ thing in any culture), in fact she had been divorced more than once, she had been divorces 5 times. Jewish Law made provision for divorce twice, three times at a push, but this woman’s behaviour was really pushing it; and to cap it all she was now living ‘in sin’ with her partner.
Read her story John 4: 1-42
Jesus knows all this, and he doesn’t care.
Jesus sees in this woman a heart that is searching, longing, yearning for something more to life, and he knows that he can provide it. So he does. Jesus shows the woman respect, understanding, love, acceptance, and in turn she encounters God in a way that those first five books of the Pentateuch with all their rules never could.
Jesus touches her heart and soul, she receives this revelation whole-heartedly and becomes a missionary to Samaria, spreading he word that the Messiah is here, and he’s for everyone regardless of gender, status, ethnicity or even past history.