the woman previously known as the woman at the well

image by the talented chinese artist, he qi (take a look at his stuff)

John 4:39-42 (paraphrased just a bit):

Many of the Samaritans in town believed in Jesus because of the story the woman told about him — “He told me everything I ever did,” she had explained.  So they came to Jesus and asked him to stay with them for a while.  Jesus agreed and stayed a couple of days.  And because of his words during those two days, many more became believers.

Then they told the woman, “We used to believe in this guy just because of what you said; but now we’ve heard for ourselves, and we know that this Jesus really is the savior of the world.”

A few thoughts:

  • An encounter with Jesus Christ is worth telling others about.
  • Perhaps we should share more with others our encounters with Christ, and less what we think they should believe in order to be saved.
  • If we don’t have anything to report to others, have we really encountered Jesus?  We can’t share what we don’t have.
  • Notice the woman in the story is not responsible for the reaction of those to whom she has told her good news.  It’s God’s job to draw and to save men.  Our task is merely to point them towards Christ.
  • It would be nice to know what words and teachings Jesus shared with the Samaritans in those two days, because they seem to have been quite effective.  But they’re not given.  I’ve got two guesses: 1) he spoke about the kingdom of God and the good news it is for all mankind, and 2) perhaps it wasn’t the exact words that were important, but more the truth in them and the caring with which they were spoken.
  • The Samaritans already believed in Jesus based on this woman’s words.  How much or how deeply they believed we don’t know.  But we do see accepting Christ shown as a process — and not a single point in time.  This story involves making disciples, not getting people saved.  It’s about direction, not crossing a line from outside to in.
  • The average church-goer would probably make this text practical by suggesting we share with others what Jesus has done in our lives, and then invite them to church, so the preacher can share with them the important words that will convince them to become Christians.  But we will have interpreted poorly if we do so.
  • The church is the body of Christ today, so I would expect that it is our collective community to which these seeking believers would come in order to know Christ better (not a particular minister, pastor, or teacher).
  • Also, I can’t help but think that these important words spoken by Jesus are likely to be found in scripture.  Perhaps we should point others to his words there?
  • Jesus gave two days of his time for the Samaritans in this story.  Do we make time available for those who would seek to encounter Christ through us?  And are we, as a spiritual community, even together for more than a couple of hours a week?
  • “Savior of the world” is important in this story because many would have argued the gospel was not for the Samaritans.  I’d suggest our churches should be demonstrating the universal nature of the good news, its goodness for all people in all places.  We sometimes tend to portray the kingdom as being for people like us.

Any other thoughts?



Filed under evangelism, musings on the Word

11 responses to “the woman previously known as the woman at the well

  1. Great thoughts, Brett. I love the way you are a leader among Christians even from a far away place.

    Although, admittedly, you’re never far from where you are.

    • funny that you call me a leader. i’m just trying to be a good follower. but i guess that’s what paul means when he says, “follow me as i follow Christ.” not that i’m willing to say such. i just do a morning bible study and sometimes put it on the blog…

      thanks a lot for the encouragement, bernard.

  2. I meet with a group of men on Wednesday nights and we were discussing these very topics when it comes to what does ‘witness’ , ‘discipleship’, and ‘gospel’ mean.

    I wish I would have had your points for the conversation.

    • you know, tony, these blog conversations are my “wednesday night men’s group.” thanks for being a part. i’m glad i’ve met you on here, or on your blog, or pete’s, or jessica’s… wherever we met.

  3. Hi Brett,

    I stumbled upon your blog. New to this forum but couldn’t help but appreciate your work.

    While I agree with the gist of your post, I also interpret the Samaritan woman’s story differently and believe salvation to occur at a given time in time and space-though it may be hard to pinpoint that moment.
    Verse 41 states that ” Because of his words, many more believed”, emphasis on “MORE” and not the same people who believed because of “her words”

    I hope I make sense.
    Blessings in Christ

    • hi jean, i’m glad you came by the blog. welcome anytime.

      the reason i said what i did, though, was not from v. 41 (“many more became believers”). rather it was from this wording in v. 42:

      “They said to the woman, ‘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.'”

      that seems to imply that they have now added a much deeper belief than before. granted, you’re right that this alone doesn’t prove salvation is a process.

  4. JMF


    I’m late checking in today, and fully expected to just enjoy a quick reading of whatever you had on the menu today.

    This turns out to be one of your best posts. Ever (yes, I’ve been meandering through the archives occasionally).

    Points 1-4 are a great help to me; I’m working on a numerical growth strategy for our church, and this fits beautifully into what I’m trying to suggest we do.

  5. JMF

    LOL, I figured you’d like that. 🙂 We have no assertive structure for introducing Christ to people, or for plugging them in to a community of believers.

    So, I’m trying to come up with something.

    My impression of you is that my “church growth” statement makes you cringe…so fire away.

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