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.) 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.”
The parenthetical note in verse 9 is shocking if you understand the context, “for Jews have no dealing with Samaritans”. There was such animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans that a Jew would walk miles out of his way to avoid crossing through Samaritan territory. They were considered half-breed traders to the faith, heretics and idols worshippers who were worse in some ways that the pagans around them, because they once were a part of Judaism in the past.
Not only is it shocking that Jesus spoke to a Samaritan, which the woman acknowledges, but the fact that Jesus is speaking to a Samaritan woman is even more disturbing and confusing to her, because men would not normally speak to a woman they did not know. But here is Jesus breaking all conventions to speak to a Samaritan woman.
So what are we to make of that? The word that comes to mind is dignity. Jesus treated this woman, and all women with dignity. He treated her as a person of value. He did not gloss over her sin as we will see later in the chapter. But he did not interact with her primarily as a sinner but as a person in need of grace and mercy as well as some shocking truth to put her on a path to God.
From the immediate context we can assume that this woman is an outcast in her own village. She is alone at the well gathering water in the heat of the day. Women at that time would do this early in the morning, gathering the water they needed for the day before the heat of the day. They would also make it a social event. Even today woman don’t go to the restroom alone. Back then they would do as much of their chores together as possible. This woman is alone. The other women do not include her in their circle. When we find out about the number of men she has had we understand why the other women don’t want her around. Nobody wants her near their man, just in case.
Jesus pushes all that aside and speaks to this woman and engages in a conversation that quickly takes a turn she did not expect. He focuses on giving her a new life by way of living water. She doesn’t understand what he is offering. She thinks he is offering her some kind of water that will make it possible for her to never have to come to the well again, to never have to be reminded of her shame by being there in the heat of the day, isolated from others and reminded of her sin. What she will find is that Jesus is in fact offering her a way to remove the guilt and shame of her sin and a way to be no longer be isolated and cast out but we welcomed into the fellowship of Christ and a relationship with God.