No clouds floated across the Samaritan sky to relieve the heat as Leah trudged to the well outside the village walls, her water jug balanced on one shoulder. The small outline of her shape, cast by the sun directly overhead, tried to escape her sandals with each step she took. Even her shadow didn’t want to be near her.
As she approached the community well, she stopped to set down her burden and wipe the perspiration from her forehead. She had no choice but to come for water in the middle of the day, despite the scorching sun. The other women shunned her if she tried to join them in the morning or evening. At least she could drink some of the cool water before she headed home with her full jug.
She lifted the jug again and moved forward, then halted. A man sat on the ground, his back against the stones, his hood partially covering his face, his head against his knees as if he were sleeping. Logical, given the temperature and time of day, but why did he have to choose this place for his rest? Would he send her away without letting her draw the water she needed for the day?
She stepped forward, trying not to make a sound. If he were asleep, perhaps she could fill her jug and leave without disturbing him. She whispered a small prayer to Yahweh, even though she didn’t deserve to be heard. If she returned without water, she would receive a tongue-lashing from the man who would be waiting at home for his noon meal.
Moving slowly, she made her way to the opposite side of the well. But as she prepared to lower her jug, the man stirred. He coughed, then asked, “Would you give me a drink of water?”
She nearly dropped her vessel into the well when she flinched with surprise. He spoke with the cadence of a Galilean, but Jews avoided contact with Samaritans. They rarely even travelled this way, and a Jewish man would never talk to a Samaritan woman. If this man knew her reputation, the reason she came to the well at the noon hour, he would consider himself defiled.
“You are a Jew. How can you even ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink of water?”
His soft answer barely reached her ears, but his tone caused her heart to pound. “If you knew who it was asking for a drink, you would ask him for a drink instead. And he would give you living water.”
Leah studied the stranger more closely. He must be someone important. But if he were so powerful, why did he have no servants with him? With no servants and no water vessel, how could he give her a drink?
“Sir, you don’t have anything to use to get water, and the well is deep.” She set down her water jug and stepped closer to the man. The hood of his robe kept his face partially hidden. “So where are you going to get this living water?” When he didn’t answer, she grew bolder. “You’re not more important than our ancestor Jacob, are you? He gave us this well. He and his sons and his animals drank water from it.”
The man stood then and motioned to the well. “Everyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I give them will never become thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give them will become a spring that gushes up to eternal life.”
Never be thirsty again? She wanted that. “Sir, give me this water!” she pleaded. “Then I won’t have to come here every day in this heat.”
“Go get your husband, and bring him here,” the man said.
Startled by this change in topic, Leah stammered, “I-I don’t have a husband.”
The man turned to face her and his eyes looked into her heart. “You’re telling the truth.” His voice, void of condemnation, soothed her pounding pulse. “You’ve had five husbands, but the man you’re living with now isn’t your husband.”
Stunned that this visitor to her country knew about her life, Leah searched for words. She fought to keep her voice from cracking in fear—or awe. “So you’re a prophet!” Maybe he could explain things she had wondered about. “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain. But you Jews say that we must go to Jerusalem to worship. What difference does it make?”
“The time is here,” he said, “when true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father is looking for people like that to worship him.”
More confused than before, Leah shifted her feet. “I know the Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will tell us everything.”
“I am he, speaking to you now.”
Several other men approached the well, but stopped several feet away. Leah glanced toward them and saw curiosity on their faces, yet they said nothing. The man’s words suddenly pierced the haze in her mind and she understood. Her breath caught in her throat and she completely forgot the errand that had brought her to Jacob’s well. She had been talking with the Messiah!
She had to tell someone. Abruptly, Leah lifted the bottom of her robe and ran toward town. The hour of rest had ended and commerce had begun once more. She hurried up to some men and women gathered in front of a small shop.
Ignoring their haughty stares, she interrupted the silversmith in mid-sentence. “You have to come with me,” she gasped. “This man I met at the well—he told me everything I’ve ever done. He knew all about my shameful life. But he promised me living water, and said that I’d never be thirsty again.”
All speaking at once, they threw questions at her. She caught her breath and told them what had happened. Hearing the excitement, passersby stopped and merchants came out of nearby shops to join those listening. She had to start from the beginning twice, but when she concluded, Leah looked at the faces around her.
“Could this be the Messiah?” she asked.
The people murmured to each other, and then one man shoved through the crowd and hurried toward the well. Others followed him, some running eagerly, some shaking their heads skeptically. Soon the entire crowd headed out of the city to see this man who claimed to be their Savior.
The long-awaited Messiah chose a broken, fallen woman to spread the word that He had come at last. Because she shared what this man meant to her, an entire village met Jesus. And had the opportunity to drink Living Water.