The Stranger at the Well
Matthew xiv: 3 to
5; Mark vi: 17 to 20;
Luke iii: 19, 20;
22, to iv: 42.
Jesus was teaching in Jerusalem and in the country
places near it, John the Baptist was still preaching
and baptizing. But already the people were leaving
John and going to hear Jesus. Some of the followers
of John the Baptist were not pleased as they saw
that fewer people came to their master, and that the
crowds were seeking Jesus. But John said to them, “I
told you that I am not the Christ, but that I am
sent before him. Jesus is the Christ, the King. He
must grow greater, while I must grow less, and I am
glad that it is so.”
Soon after this Herod Antipas, the king of the
province or land of Galilee, put John in prison.
Herod had taken for his wife a woman named Herodias,
who had left her husband to live with Herod, which
was very wicked. John sent word to Herod that it was
not right for him to have this woman as his wife.
These words of John made Herodias very angry. She
hated John, and tried to kill him. Herod himself did
not hate John so greatly, for he knew that John had
spoken the truth. But he was weak, and yielded to
his wife Herodias. To please her he sent John the
Baptist to a lonely prison among the mountains east
of the Dead Sea, for the land in that region, as
well as Galilee, was under Herod’s rule. There in
prison Herod hoped to keep John safe from the hate
of his wife Herodias.
Soon after John the Baptist was thrown into prison,
Jesus left the country near Jerusalem, with his
disciples, and went toward Galilee, the province in
the north. Between Judea in the south and Galilee in
the north lay the land of Samaria, where the
Samaritans lived, who hated the Jews. They
worshipped the Lord as the Jews worshipped him, but
they had their own temple and their own 
priests. And they had their own Bible, which was
only the five books of Moses, for they would not
read the other books of the Old Testament. The Jews
and the Samaritans would scarcely ever speak to each
other, so great was the hate between them.
When Jews went from Galilee to Jerusalem, or from
Jerusalem to Galilee, they would not pass through
Samaria, but went down the mountains to the river
Jordan, and walked beside the river, in order to go
around Samaria. But Jesus, when he would go from
Jerusalem to Galilee, walked over the mountains,
straight through Samaria. One morning, while he was
on his journey, he stopped to rest beside an old
well at the foot of Mount Gerizim, not far from the
city of Shechem, but nearer to a little village that
was called Sychar. This well had been dug by Jacob,
the great father or ancestor of the Israelites, many
hundreds of years before. It was an old well then in
the days of Jesus, and it is much older now, for the
same well may be seen in that place still. Even now
travellers may have a drink from Jacob’s well, as we
read in Story 14.
It was early in the morning, about sunrise, when
Jesus was sitting by Jacob’s well. He was very
tired, for he had walked a long journey; he was
hungry, and his disciples had gone to the village
near at hand to buy food. He was thirsty, too; and
as he looked into the well he could see the water, a
hundred feet below, but he had no rope with which to
let down a cup or a jar and to draw up some water to
Just at this moment a Samaritan woman came to the
well, with her water-jar upon her head, and her rope
in her hand. Jesus looked at her, and in one glance
read her soul, and saw all her life. He knew that
Jews did not often speak to Samaritans, but he said
to her, “Please to give me a drink.”
The woman saw from his looks and his dress that he
was a Jew; and she said to him, “How is it that you,
who are a Jew, ask drink of me, a Samaritan woman?”
Jesus answered her, "If you knew what God’s free
gift is, and if you knew who it is that says to you,
'Give me a drink,' you would ask him to give you
living water, and he would give it to you."
There was something in the words and the looks of
Jesus which made the woman feel that he was not a
common man. She said to him, "Sir, you have nothing
to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where can
you get that living water? Are you greater than our
father Jacob, who drank from this well, and who gave
it to us?"
"Whoever drinks of this water," said Jesus, "shall
thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I
shall give him shall never thirst; but the water
that I shall give him shall be in him a well of
water springing up unto everlasting life."
"Sir," said the woman, "give me some of this water
of yours, so that I will not thirst any more, nor
come all the way to this well."
Jesus looked at the woman, and said to her, "Go
home, and bring your husband, and come here."
"I have no husband," answered the woman.
"Yes," said Jesus, "you have spoken the truth. You
have no husband. But you have had five husbands, and
the man whom you now have is not your husband."
The woman was filled with wonder as she heard this.
She saw that here was a man who knew what a stranger
could not know. She felt that God had spoken to him,
and she said, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet of
God. Tell me, whether our people or the Jews are
right. Our fathers have worshipped on this mountain.
The Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where men
should go to worship. Now, which of these is the
"Woman, believe me," said Jesus, "there is coming a
time when men shall worship God in other places
besides on this mountain and in Jerusalem. The time
is near; it has even now come, when the true
worshippers everywhere shall pray to God in spirit
and in truth; for God himself is a Spirit."
The woman said, "I know that the Anointed One is
coming, the Christ. When he comes he will teach us
Jesus said to her, "I that speak to you now am he,
Just at this time the disciples of Jesus came back
from the village. They wondered to see Jesus talking
with this Samaritan woman, but they said nothing.
The woman had come to draw water, but in her
interest in this wonderful stranger she forgot her
errand. Leaving her water-jar, she ran back to her
village, and said to the people, "Come, see a man
who told me everything I have done in all my life!
Is not this man the Christ whom we are looking for?"
When the woman was gone away, the disciples urged
Jesus to eat some of the food which they had
brought. A little while before Jesus had been
hungry, but now he had forgotten his own needs of
food and drink. He said to them, "I have food to eat
that you know nothing of, the food of the soul; and
that food is to do the will of God, and to work for
him. Do you say to me that there are four months
before the harvest? You shall reap, and shall have a
rich reward, gathering fruit to everlasting life."
Jesus meant that as this woman, bad though she may
have been before, was now ready to hear his words;
so they would find the hearts of men everywhere,
like a field of ripe grain, ready to be won and to
Soon the woman came back to the well with many of
her people. They asked Jesus to come to their town,
and to stay there and teach them. He went with them,
and stayed there two days, teaching the people, who
were Samaritans. And many of the people in that
place believed in Jesus, and said, "We have heard
for ourselves; now we know that this is indeed the
Savior of the world."