5 Things That Happen When You Encounter Jesus
We start with the setting of the story:
1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only His disciples), 3 He left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as He was from His journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
As always, there’s some hubbub from people who aren’t into what Jesus is doing and don’t understand exactly what’s happening, and this leads Him to move on for a bit. As He’s heading to Galilee, He passes through Samaria. This is an area that Jews wouldn’t have been excited to stop in. In fact, most of them would’ve gone the long way around so they could avoid Samaria completely. Samaritans were a racially mixed people who were part-Jewish and part-Gentile. Jews and Gentiles were united in not liking them, but Jews would’ve seen them as dirty and unclean. Samaritans also had their own version of the Pentateuch and their own temple on Mount Gerizim, which will become important later in this story. So it’s about noon and Jesus is tired so He takes a rest at Jacob’s well.
Now we’re going to see what happens when a Samaritan woman has an encounter with Jesus.
An encounter with Jesus:
- Will often not be what we expected
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)9 The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
We see a few ways here in which this unnamed woman is surprised by meeting Jesus. For one thing, it’s noon and she’s probably not used to seeing anyone at the well. Most people would’ve come to the well in the morning or in the evening when the temperatures would’ve been cooler. But as we’ll learn when we see more about her character in a few verses, she probably had reason to want to avoid being there at busy times. There are probably a lot of people in town who look down on her. So seeing anyone there at all is unexpected. She’s also surprised because she knows that He’s a Jew and He should therefore hate her. Most Jews wouldn’t have interacted at all with her because they would’ve thought it would make them unclean. He’s not only interacting with her, but He’s asking her for water. He’s not worried about being made unclean by her. And again she’s surprised because she’s a woman and He’s a man. It probably wouldn’t have been normal for a strange man to be talking with her so casually. So she’s coming up against a lot of unexpected things!
I know in my own life when I come to Jesus, I usually have a lot of my own expectations. But He has His own plan and it’s often different from mine and always better. I might expect Him to give me answers on a question I have, and instead He just gives me more of Himself. I might expect Him to guide me to a specific route He wants me to take in my life, but instead He reminds me to just seek Him first and everything else will follow. I might expect Him to take certain sorrows or troubles out of my life, but He instead just tells me to trust Him and wait patiently. I might expect Him to teach me one thing, but He teaches me another instead. Whatever it is, Jesus likes to surprise us and remind us that He’s got it under control. So when we come to Him, we should learn to expect the unexpected!
- Addresses questions we didn’t know needed answers
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
We see her here very focused at first on the literal water at this well. She’s never heard of living water. She doesn’t know to look for it or hope for it. She doesn’t know to ask for it. But Jesus introduces her to this question. But I love that as soon as He explains it to her, she’s all in…even though it seems she doesn’t completely understand what He’s talking about. She’s now the one asking for a drink.
Think about the time in your life before you knew Jesus, or maybe after you knew Jesus but you were wandering or struggling. During those times, did Jesus ever reveal something to you that you didn’t even know you needed? I know that’s happened to me. It’s kinda like how we talked about Him being unexpected. There have been plenty of times when I’ve come to Him wanting Him to help me maybe deal with someone who’s being annoying or frustrating to me. But the question I didn’t know I needed an answer to turned out to be, “What is it in your heart, Kristin, that needs to change in the way you interact with this person? In what ways are you not relying on Me? In what ways are you not believing that the gospel applies to this person? How do you need to focus on being more like Me rather than trying to change this other person?” It’s stuff like that. Kind of annoying, right? But really good for us. Jesus is patient and reveals things to us when we need to hear them in ways that we can respond to. That’s what He begins to do with the woman here. But then He gets even deeper.
- Reveals the gross parts of us
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered Him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
Jesus knows exactly what this woman’s biggest struggle is. He could just immediately say to her, “Well, lady, you’re sexually immoral. Everyone in town knows that you’ve been sleeping with quite a few different guys over the last few years. You’re living in sin with someone right now. You need to make some major changes.” That would’ve been overwhelming and probably off-putting. But He also doesn’t say to Himself, “I know she’s got a lot of sin issues, but I don’t want to offend her or go through the awkwardness of having a hard conversation, so I’ll just ignore it.” That would’ve been wrong as well!
Instead, Jesus knows the importance of revealing sin to the sinner in a loving way. He gently lets her realize what’s going on with herself. He tells her to bring her husband to the well, and she sees an opportunity to admit what’s been going on with her. He reveals the gross parts of her immorality, but also shows that it’s not enough to make Him bail on her as He sticks around to keep talking with her.
When we truly have an encounter with Jesus, He’ll do this with us, too! Sometimes we don’t want to have our sin pointed out to us, and that can even occasionally make us not want to come to Him. But we should remember that He’s kind and patient and He doesn’t point out our sin without also being there to help us overcome it and change.
- Gets to the true heart of the issue
20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
Similar to the above point, we now see that Jesus will always get to the true heart of the issue, whatever it is we’re dealing with. He’s revealed her sin to her and she’s understood that He’s a prophet. He knows things He couldn’t have known by any natural means. So since He’s a prophet, she now brings up a question that’s been bothering her for a long time. Like we mentioned at the beginning, the Samaritans had their own temple on Mount Gerizim, but the Jews had the temple in Jerusalem. Since she knows He’s a Jew, she knows He believes Jerusalem is the place to worship. So she asks Him to clear up the discrepancy between her people’s tradition and His. What He reveals to her is that the heart of this worship matter isn’t necessarily the past and the traditions of these two people groups. The heart of the issue is what’s happening now – those who worship God must do so in spirit and truth and the Messiah has arrived.
It’s easy for us to get distracted by secondary issues and skip the truly important issues. Sometimes we want to argue about whether we should have traditional or contemporary music in a worship service at church, but all the while we’re not focusing on actually worshipping Jesus in our hearts and actions. When we truly encounter Jesus, we can be certain that He will get to the heart of the issue, no matter what we do to try to distract from it.
- Sends us out to tell others about Him
27 Just then His disciples came back. They marveled that He was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to Him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His word.42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
This is my favorite part of this story. Jesus has been an unexpected person in her life who revealed the sin she struggles with and cares about the heart of her issues. She’s been amazed by Him and believes Him when He says that He’s the Messiah. Now His disciples come back, surprised to see Jesus talking to a strange Samaritan woman, and she takes the opportunity to slip away. While she’s gone, Jesus takes the opportunity to remind His disciples that there are a lot of people out there ready to be harvested for salvation. Little do they know, they’re about to see a real-life example that this is true!
When she gets back to town, the woman tells everyone she can find that she’s met the Messiah! Picture this – the woman who just a few hours ago was going to the well in the middle of the day to avoid seeing people comes back into town running around, gathering up as many people as she can find. What a change! She tells them that He knew everything about her, He’s a prophet, and her enthusiasm for Him makes them want to meet Him themselves. They believed her based on her testimony about Him, but then they encountered Him and believed even more.
So this, I think, is the most important thing we need to remember about a true encounter with Jesus. When we truly know Him and He’s done all this work in our hearts, we can’t possibly keep it to ourselves. We should be compelled by what He’s shown us and by the love He’s placed in our hearts to help other people meet Him and be changed by Him. A true encounter with Jesus sends us out to tell others about Him.
So what’s your story? How have you encountered Jesus? How has He changed you? Who do you want to tell about it? Be like the woman at the well and get out there and tell people about it!