EXEGESIS: JOHN 4:5-42
Pamela Ayn Austen
Does Jesus Condemn
The Fallen Woman?
5. So [Jesus] came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
6. Since Jacob’s well was there, Jesus, weary from His journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8. (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9. “You are a Jew,” said the woman. “How can you ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10. Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11. “Sir,” the woman replied, “You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where then will you get this living water? 12. Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock?” 13. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. 14. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.” 15. The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16. Jesus told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17. “I have no husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said to her, “You are correct to say that you have no husband. 18. In fact, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. You have spoken truthfully.” 19. “Sir,” the woman said, “I see that you are a prophet. 20. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place where one must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21. “Believe Me, woman,” Jesus replied, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23. But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship him.
24. God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth.” 25. The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26. Jesus answered, “I who speak to you am he.” 27. Just then his disciples returned and were surprised that he was speaking with a woman. But no one asked him, “What do you want from her?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28. Then the woman left her water jar, went back into the town, and said to the people, 29. “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
30. So they left the town and made their way toward Jesus. 31. Meanwhile the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32. But he told them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33. So the disciples asked one another, “Could someone have brought Him food?” 34. Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months until the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ripe for harvest. 36. Already the reaper draws his wages and gathers a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. 37. For in this case the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.
38. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the hard work, and now you have taken up their labor.” 39. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40. So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41. And many more believed because of his message. 42. They said to the woman, “We now believe not only because of your words; we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man truly is the Savior of the world.”
There were several occasions in Scripture in which Jesus came across a woman that the world scorned and condemned, whether her seeming failures were by her own stumbling, or whether she had been cast down due to other peoples' cruelty and abuse; but Jesus never once condemned these women who were offensive in the world's (or the church's) eyes. On the contrary, he treated them as equal to all others whom he had loved and healed, and he didn't chide or condemn them. And in this particular case, it didn't even matter to Jesus that this Samaritan woman had been married five times, or that she was, at that time, merely living with a man without being married. It didn't matter to Jesus, because he said in John 12:41, "I have not come to judge the world, but to save it." In saying that: then who in this world has the right or power to condemn any woman who falls or fails or is pushed down by the workings and slanders of others? Are you qualified to judge and condemn another if even the Son of God doesn't? Or this: are you qualified to judge yourself as condemned, because your conscience or some other accuser afflicts you? You are not qualified to condemn. Jesus came to seek and save the lost; or to reassure those whose conscience torments them, no matter how much they confess to God what they have done.
The Samaritan woman was so used to being condemned, especially by the Jews, that she was rather aghast that Jesus was asking her for anything, let alone speak to her at all. She was not only a woman, but a woman of a town and people who were despised by the Jews. But Jesus didn't care about either one of those things. She could have been viewed by others as an Orc from Mordor, and he would have accepted her humanity as legitimate, and he would have accepted her soul just as worthy to be saved as his mother Mary's or the twelve Apostles.
In verse 10, Jesus lets the woman know that if she asked him for "living water", or rather, his grace and Spirit, he would give it. He offers her eternal life for the asking, that's how much he condemned her.
Then she says, without understanding that he was really talking about spiritual things, "Give me this water."
How does he accomplish giving her the spiritual water of his grace and Holy Spirit?
He first has to build her faith, because it is faith that receives the water, which is the Grace of God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6 So he baits her and says, "Go get your husband." This isn't the first instance in which Jesus baited the truth hidden in a woman's heart, like a fish, in order to bring it up from the depths and reveal it. He did the same thing in Matthew 15 when he told the Canaanite woman, who was begging him to drive the demon out of her daughter, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel," and "It is not right to throw the children's bread to the dogs." To show his disciples that this Canaanite woman had as much humility and faith as they did, he got her to tell what was in her heart, and she said, "But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master's table," to which he praises her for her great faith, and he heals her daughter, though his own disciples had originally said to him, "Send her away, she's bothering us!" (Jesus's disciples rarely seemed to know what Jesus was all about, and even with the Samaritan woman at the well, we're told in verse 27 that they were astonished that Jesus was speaking to her at all, to which Jesus said, "Look up, the fields are ripe for harvest!" V. 35)
The woman, not wanting to reveal her worldly shame, simply said, "I have no husband." But Jesus knew beforehand that she would hide the truth deep in her heart, like a fish in the depths. So, Jesus didn't wait for her fish to take the bait. Just like the miracle of feeding the four thousand and then the five thousand with a few small fish, Jesus took what little she offered, and he produced the rest himself. He said, "You're right when you say you have no husband. You've had five husbands and the one you have now isn't your husband. You've told the truth." She gave a little truth, a little fish, from her heart, and Jesus multiplied it before her eyes. To this woman at least, it was a miracle.
When he revealed her hidden truth, she then had to reassess him with this question: was this man from God? "Sir, I see that you are a prophet!" And since he revealed the hidden truth that only God could have known at that moment, then something was conceived and began to form life within her heart. Faith. However, she presents him with a dilemma that she had probably been wrestling with for a long time. She says, "Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you [Jews] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem."
And with that, Jesus opens the truth to her. He is the Messiah, and his salvation is of the Spirit; and the Father seeks any and all who will worship him in Spirit and Truth. Because while salvation came by way of the Jewish nation, salvation isn't dependent on the Jews or Israel. The Holy Spirit of God is not stuck in one vicinity with one people. God does not have a Holy Site in this world anymore. His Holy Site is in our heart. You do not have to travel to Jerusalem to find God.
This woman then told others about Jesus, and they came to Jesus because of her testimony. She was a link in the chain of Christianity, spreading from faith to faith. Romans 1:17
So the answer is: No. Jesus does not condemn the fallen woman, the divorced woman, and the despised and rejected woman. "The Lord raises the poor from the dirt, and lifts up the needy from the garbage heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor at the table." 1 Samuel 2:8 And how does he do this? "For who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." 1 John 5:5