First, a short reminder: The Samaritans were not “half-breed Jews.” Something like 90% of the original population of the Northern Kingdom had been taken away by Assyria, and replaced with pagan folks from Hamath, and some from Elam and from other places scattered around the Assyrian Empire. They were granted an apostate priest from the old Northern Kingdom to teach them about the local deity, who gave them a very perverted version of the Books of Moses. Mostly what they learned were the rituals and some history. When the Judeans (Southern Kingdom) returned from Babylon, the Samaritans pretended to worship the same god and welcomed them home. When they weren’t allowed to bring their paganized version of worship into the Covenant, they became permanent enemies of Judea. The two had harassed each other for centuries.
Jews in Jesus’ day typically crossed the Jordan somewhere within Judea, hiked along the east bank until they were beyond the northern border of Samaria, then crossed back over into Galilee. They wouldn’t dirty their feet with Samaritan soil. But for reasons not stated, Jesus just had to pass through Samaria. The disciples were with Him. They stopped one day at Jacob’s Well and Jesus took a break. The disciples went into the town near the well to buy some food. They took with them the little animal skin bucket they normally carried that He could have used to draw water, so He was left in the heat of midday without access to the water far below ground level in the well.
Most days the women of the village of Sychar would gather in the cool of the morning to draw their water for the day and to gossip. They likely did it again in the evening. This gal was a social outcast, so she came during the middle of the day. Jesus asked her for a drink. It was a normal request and in the process of giving Him a drink, she commented on how Jewish men seldom spoke civilly with Samaritans unless they wanted something. She would know about that, of course, as we shall see.
Jesus ignored this rude gibe and told her something totally unexpected. She had a way to get water from the well, but He had “living water.” It was a common expression for water springing up from a natural fountain. She was puzzled how He could claim to have such water when He didn’t even have the means to get water from this well. He responded with an even more extravagant claim about how His living water would quench thirst forever.
She was still focused on mundane things, of course. Perhaps it was sarcasm when she said that it would sure be nice to have water bubbling up inside of her so she could just quit bothering with this chore. Jesus needed to prod her into thinking on a different level, so He changed His tack and asked her about her husband. Could she bring him out to meet Jesus? She admitted she had no husband.
Jesus then showed He was hardly your average Jewish man. He seemed to know everything about her already, noting that she had been married and divorced five times already, and was shacking up with yet another man. She was little different from a prostitute. She didn’t argue with Him, but simply noted He must be a prophet, at least. Moving the subject off herself, she asked this prophet a question that must have been annoying her for quite some time. Why do Jews insist on having their Temple in Jerusalem when the Samaritans had been worshiping at Bethel since ancient times? Where is Jehovah’s throne?
His reply was quite unexpected. He said that very soon everyone who actually cared to worship the Heavenly Father would not bother with either location. Granted, the Jews were the original people of God, and their version was correct as far as it went. The Samaritans came late to the game and were fed a bunch of nonsense. But that distinction didn’t matter, because all of that was done. It was already time to make a new distinction. From now on, it was going to be a matter of a higher realm — it was all about the spirit, not the flesh. God was now seeking those who would worship Him in a spirit of earnest commitment. God was not an earthly ruler, but a spirit being and you cannot deal with Him on a lower level. You have to meet Him on the spiritual plane.
She was lost by this. All she could say was something about how, when the promised Messiah came, surely it would all be straightened out. Jesus told her that He was the Messiah. His explanation was the divine truth of things. Here Jesus flatly claims to be the Messiah to a Samaritan, a woman with nothing to lose by believing Him.