Unnamed Heroines of Scripture: The Woman of Samaria

John 4 introduces us to a woman who is about to become fit for the Master’s use. A quick reading of the text would leave us, not to mention a first-century reader, puzzled as to why the Lord would use her. Wouldn’t the man in the previous chapter, Nicodemus, be a far better candidate? After all, a woman’s testimony was not considered valid in the first century. Nicodemus was a Jew and salvation was of the Jews (v22), while she was a Gentile-Israelite mixed Samaritan. He was a Pharisee, meaning “one who is separated,” while the woman lived an immoral life. Pharisees were responsible for destroying the Samaritan Temple on Mt. Gerizim a little over 100 years earlier, while this woman was associated with that illegitimate worship (v20-22). Nicodemus was the respected teacher of Israel, while this woman was of ill repute. Though the Lord would save both of these vastly different characters, the Lord had her in mind to be the one who could reach her own people and begin a revival in her own village.

Her Mode (v28)

She had just learned the truth of the life-changing gospel. She was now a carrier of “living water” (v10) and had a “spring of water springing up into everlasting life” within her (v14 Newberry). Whether it was in haste, or because it would be a hindrance, she “left her waterpot, and went her way into the city” (v28).[1]

Many hindrances arise when we are seeking to evangelize on a daily basis. The Spirit prods us like He did Philip to join the Eunuch’s chariot, but a million and one excuses swirl around in our head which often arrest our best intentions. Consider the several excuses, highlighted in the first paragraph, that this woman could have had. She wouldn’t allow this nor her water pot to hinder her. How can we be bold enough to speak for Christ, though we might not be evangelists? A prayer as brief as Nehemiah’s (Neh 2:4) at the opportune moment with a heart that appreciates Christ will strengthen us to speak as we should.

Her Message (v29)

Sometimes we think we are incapable of sharing the gospel because we are not preachers of the gospel. Notice that the gospel was not preached in a sermon by the woman, but she very simply stated: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (v29). That’s it. It wasn’t a sermon like Peter’s in Acts 2, progressing through the life, rejection and resurrection of Christ. She didn’t rehash the history of the nation of Israel to prove God’s progress in revelation and worship like Stephen in Acts 7. She simply told them what she knew.

Come. She invited people to hear the Lord Jesus. Sometimes we feel we are inadequate to communicate the gospel clearly. It is good practice to have on hand a gospel tract to hand to someone as you share a little about what the story in the tract is about. We can also invite people to hear the message of the gospel, which ought to focus on Christ. It is a good habit to have printed invitations to hand to colleagues and friends as you invite them to hear the gospel at a meeting.

See a man. Her relationship with males was rocky and far from ideal, but this man was vastly different. Pointing people to Christ is to present them to a Person who will change their life and eternal destiny. That is what this woman did. We can share something about how this man is special to us. Shouldn’t we all have something hidden in our heart about the uniqueness of Christ?

That told me all things that ever I did. If we are saved, then we have a testimony. This woman simply told a condensed form of her testimony. She knew the shame of her past, as did all the townspeople. If this man she spoke of knew and could yet change her life, certainly He can change any life. A short word to the religious, such as “I’ve always believed in God and Christ, but I realized I wasn’t going to heaven,” can open up a conversation.

Is not this the Christ? The woman first understood Jesus to be a prophet (v19), but upon further conversation and the confession of Jesus, she learned that this was the Christ (v25). The Samaritans held that only the Pentateuch was authoritative, and they were looking for the Prophet like Moses from among the people with the words of the Lord in His mouth (Deu 18:18). This woman knew that this was not a prophet but THE Prophet, the promised Messiah. He could tell her “all things” about her past and therefore this must be the promised coming One who would “tell us all things” (v25). She simply presented this man for who He was and allowed the others to see for themselves.

Her Manner (vv35-38)

As the people of the city were coming out to the Lord at Jacob’s well, “in the mean while” (v31), the Lord would teach the disciples a lesson about sowing and reaping. The Samaritan woman is the perfect example of the lesson. The disciples perhaps would think great work would need to be done with these people before any spiritual harvest could take place, but the woman saw fields ready to harvest. She saw wages of eternal value. Through Moses’ writings, the Word of God had been working in these Samaritan people, while John the Baptist and the prophets had been working in Judea, and now it was time to reap. We never know what God is doing in a soul behind the scenes. We only know there is an urgency in the gospel.

A Multiplication (vv39-43)

The woman had no idea what the results would be. It would be a chain reaction. First, she took the gospel to them. Next, those who came out believed and requested that the Lord stay for two more days with them. Finally, “many more believed because of his own word” (v41) and understood that “this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (v42). Comparing the beginning with the end of the story, we find her to be an unlikely, unnamed heroine. She was a woman open to the truth, and then willing to share the gospel. We can do the same as this woman, dependent upon the Spirit of God and knowing that God desires to save.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.