Jesus knows everything about us. There is no action—or even passing thought—we can conceal from Him. The people Christ encountered during His incarnation undoubtedly sensed that confronting and uncomfortable reality. But one of them, a woman Jesus met at some remote Samaritan well, felt His omniscience more acutely than most.
[Jesus] said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.” (John 4:16–19)
At this point, a thousand thoughts and questions must have filled the Samaritan woman’s mind. She certainly must have wondered exactly who this was and how He knew so much about her. Calling the Lord a prophet was an open confession to the truth of what He had just said.
Jesus knew exactly who she was. And it is obvious He was quite prepared to tell her who He was. He Himself had raised that issue early in the conversation (John 4:10). But instead of pursuing that question, the woman turned the conversation in a bizarre direction. She brought up what was to her mind the biggest point of religious contention between the Jews and the Samaritans: “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20).
Her words weren’t framed as a question, but her desire for an answer was obvious. I think she was genuinely hoping this rabbi, who seemed to know everything, could straighten out what to her was the fundamental debate of the ages: Who was right? The Jews or the Samaritans? Gerizim or Jerusalem?
Jesus did not brush her sincere question aside. He didn’t reproach her for changing the subject. He gave her a brief but potent answer:
Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:21–24)
With that reply, Jesus accomplished several things. First, he let her know that where you worship isn’t the issue. True worshipers are defined by whom and how they worship. Second, He made it clear that the religious tradition she had grown up in was utterly false: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). He did not airbrush reality or trouble Himself with trying to be delicate. He answered the real question she was asking.
Third, He subtly steered her back to the main subject by telling her that a new age was dawning when neither Gerizim nor Jerusalem would have a monopoly on the priesthood. The era of the New Covenant was just on the horizon. There was a subtle expression of messianic expectation in His words, and she got it.
She gave this amazing response: “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us” (John 4:25). Consider how stunning a statement that is—this woman, raised in a culture of corrupt religion, still held the same messianic hope shared by every other godly person in Scripture.
Now consider the implications of her statement. She knew the Messiah was coming. Hers was a definitive expression of confidence. It was embryonic faith waiting to be born. And how did she think the true Messiah would identify Himself? “When that One comes, He will declare all things to us” (John 4:25). Jesus had already demonstrated His full knowledge of all her secrets. As she later testified to the men of her city, “[He] told me all the things that I have done” (John 4:29).
She was strongly hinting that she suspected Jesus Himself might be the Messiah. When the apostle Peter later confessed his faith that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus told him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). The same thing was true of this woman. The Holy Spirit was working in her heart. God the Father was drawing her irresistibly to Christ, revealing truth to her that eye had never seen and ear had never heard.
Jesus was about to pull back the curtain and reveal His true identity in an unprecedented way.
Christ Reveals Himself
No sooner had she broached the subject of the Messiah, than Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:26). This is the single most direct and explicit messianic claim Jesus ever made. Never before in any of the biblical record had He said this so forthrightly to anyone. Never again is it recorded that He declared Himself this plainly, until the night of His betrayal.
Of course, when Peter made his great confession, Jesus affirmed that Peter had it right (Matthew 16:17–19). But He immediately “warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ” (Matthew 16:20). When Jewish crowds demanded, “If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24), He never denied the truth, but He avoided explicitly stating the words they were clamoring to hear. Instead, He appealed to His works as evidence of who He was: “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me” (John 10:25).
It was not until His trial before Caiaphas, in the early morning hours just before His crucifixion, that Jesus once again revealed His identity as plainly as He did for this Samaritan outcast.
The high priest asked Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:61–62).
That was the very declaration that ultimately cost Him His life. Mark records, “Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death” (Mark 14:63–64).
In light of all that, it is absolutely astonishing that the very first time Jesus chose to reveal Himself as Messiah, it was to a Samaritan woman with such a shady past. But His self-revelation is a testimony to her faith. The fact that He declared Himself so plainly is proof positive that the tiny germ of hope that had her looking for the Messiah in the first place was either about to develop into authentic, full-blown faith—or else it already had sprouted. Jesus would not have committed Himself to an unbeliever (John 2:24).
Scripture says it was precisely “at this point” that the disciples returned from their errand, “and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman” (John 4:27). The Greek expression is emphatic, suggesting they returned just in time to hear Jesus declare Himself Messiah. They were shocked speechless at the scene. John, himself an eyewitness, wrote, “No one said, ‘What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why do You speak with her?’” (John 4:27).
The living water of eternal life isn’t exclusively reserved for the perceived elite of this world. Jesus freely offered it to a Samaritan woman—a woman whom the disciples weren’t even prepared to speak with. Many of the religious leaders had already rejected it, but this ostracized woman was about to receive it gladly. And as we’ll see next time, her actions clearly demonstrated that.
(Adapted from Twelve Extraordinary Women)