One of Jesus’ most famous cross-cultural encounters involved a woman in Samaria. We are not told her name, and so she is known simply as “The Samaritan Woman” or “The Woman at the Well.”
When Jesus asked her for a drink, she must have been shocked. It was highly improper for men and women to converse in public. Not only that, but all Samaritans were despised by the Jews for their idol-worshiping and mixed blood. Jesus reached across both those divides with His love.
Despite their vast differences, Jesus began to tell her about God’s love and plans. He said to her, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and Who you are speaking to, you would ask Me, and I would give you living water” (John 4:10). He explained that “those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), and revealed to her, “I Am the Messiah!” (John 4:26).
Jesus then challenged the woman about her lifestyle, shameful even by Samaritan standards: “You don’t have a husband — for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now.” (John 4:17-18). No normal person could have known all this about her–she realized He was a prophet, and believed His teaching.
God’s people had been instructed that sinners should “Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you!” (Ezekiel 18:30). In Jesus’ day, John the Baptist had been preaching for people to “repent of your sins and turn to God” (Matthew 3:2).
Jesus’s words so excited the woman that she “left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!'” (John 4:28-29). “Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because [of what] the woman had said” (John 4:39).
In a few minutes’ time, the Samaritan Woman had gone from being a great sinner, to being greatly forgiven. She believed in Jesus not just as a prophet, but as The Messiah, and was unashamed to tell everyone she could about Him. Her story — her testimony — inspired her fellow villagers to worship Him too.
What story helped you decide to accept God’s Salvation through Jesus Christ? Has telling your own testimony ever brought someone to a point of decision?