Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10
In Jesus’ time Jews and Samaritans in Israel didn't get along. They didn't socialize. The rift went back hundreds of years to the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity. Among other things Jews considered Samaritans to be heretics. In fact some pious Jews going to northern Israel would even go around Samaria so they wouldn't be defiled by interaction with ‘sinners.’ But curiously, Jesus on His way to Galilee took the direct route through Samaritan country. At the Roman 6th hour, approximately 6:00 p.m. (John wrote his gospel in hourly Roman time), He sent His disciples to buy food and sat down at Jacob’s well to rest. A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Here was a recipe for fireworks; A Jewish male and an ‘unclean’ Samaritan woman. A Rabbinic law of A.D. 66 stated a Samaritan woman was considered as continually menstruating and thus unclean. Therefore a Jew who drank from a Samaritan woman’s vessel would become ceremonially unclean.* No self-respecting Jew would find himself in this state of affairs.
This woman was less than ‘faultless,’ religiously speaking. She had been married five times and the man she was currently living with was not her husband. At a point in their conversation Jesus told her to call her husband. The woman said “I don’t have a husband.” Notice the response from the Lord, “You have well said ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands and the one who you now have is not your husband; this you have truly said.” Notice he did not say “And you ought to be ashamed of yourself.” Interestingly instead of countering with suggestions of behavior modification, marriage or church counseling, books on self-help, prayer or study groups, He pointed her to her need for God and His spiritual health and nourishment (Living Water). After talking further the woman left her water pot and headed back to town. She told all who would listen to her about a man “who told me all I ever did” adding, “Could this be the Messiah?” Many Samaritans believed her and believed in Him. They asked Him to stay with them and He remained another two days and many more believed in Him after hearing His words (4:42).
Jesus knew this poor woman had been with the wrong kind of company, probably verbally and physically abused, gossiped about, more than likely despised by the people who knew her, perhaps by those in her very own family, yet He begins His ministry to her with a conversation; “Give Me a drink.” He brought with Him a well of grace that would quench eternal thirst. He did not let her slip away without responsibility for dealing with her sin yet dealt with it in such a gracious and honestly tender way bringing repentance and making her the first missionary to the Samaritan people. “If you knew the gift of God” puts in plain words what it is. Those who drink from muddied waters will never be satisfied but those who drink from God’s well will never thirst again. They will be well watered forevermore.
*The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord & Zuck, Victor Books, Wheaton, p 285