Short Meditations in John 4: 7. Encounter
Jn 4:7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
It is easy to take for granted the things we read in Scripture. Take this verse for example. The woman comes and Jesus speaks to her. How easy would it have been for her to come and go and for Jesus simply to watch her and say nothing – but God has come to encounter us, He wants to communicate with us, to interact with us. Yes, she could have come and gone and left unchanged but Jesus broke into her life.
But first of all note again the providence of God. We might say it just so happened that Jesus turned up at this well needing to rest just at the time when this woman was coming out – pure accident! Or we might say that God who knows all things knew she would be coming at that time and so arranged for them to come at the time when Jesus could speak to her. Suppose she had been held up? It’s all right, God knows.
Whatever it was, here we find this woman coming completely oblivious to the divine encounter she is about to have. When God has encounters with us on His agenda we seldom get any warning. When Moses turned up at the burning bush (Ex 3) he had no idea that his life was about to be dramatically changed by an encounter with God. When Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress (Jud 6) he had no inkling that an angel was about to turn up and change his life. I think that is how it is with us normally. We don’t get any warning that God is about to take the initiative and encounter us so that our lives will be changed for ever, but the Bible is full of such happenings, for it is always God who takes the initiative and it is us who always goes away changed!
She is a Samaritan woman and as we’ll see she struggles with talking to a Jew. We have already considered the barriers between the two peoples because of their history. How many ways are there to make contact with someone, I wonder. Perhaps Jesus could have simply started out, “I’d like to talk to you about your eternal soul,” but I suspect that would have fallen on hard ground and received a rebuff. In the conversation that follows, one thing does indeed follow another. There is a flow from one thing to the next and in the course of it Jesus reveals that he knows all about her and reveals to her who he is. The result is that she goes away changed.
But the starting point is important. He has to approach her in such a way she would not rebuff him. He presents himself to her as a person in need, as indeed he is – tired and thirsty. Women tend to be better than men at responding to needs and so Jesus simply makes a request of her to meet his obvious need in the middle of the day.