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The most popular location to find a wife for the patriarchs was the well. The servant of Abraham stood next to “a spring of water” (a well) and prayed that God would show him who should be Isaac’s wife (Gen 24). Jacob met Rachel at the well (Gen 29). And Moses met Zipporah at a well (Exo 2).

In all of these examples from the Old Testament Gospels the well was outside the land, the father of the bride is mentioned, the bride tells the good news, and the patriarch or his servant are invited to stay.

In John’s New Testament Gospel, Jesus leaves Judea and came to a town of Samaria (4:5). While this is not technically outside the Promised Land, it was considered to be so in New Testament times because it was not in Judea (4:3). And Jesus sat down beside the well (4:6). Then a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well (4:7). She names her father as Jacob (4:12) (we know from the story that she would be a descendant of Jacob’s son Joseph, 4:5). After the encounter with Jesus, she left her water jar and went back to town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29, 39). And when the Samaritans came to Him they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days (4:40).

If you are familiar with the woman at the well motif in Genesis and Exodus you would be expecting that the woman who came out to meet Jesus would become His wife. This would have been scandalous enough in the eyes of the Jewish people because the woman He would meet at a well in Samaria would be a Samaritan. But we also would be expecting the woman to be a young virgin (cf. Gen 24:43). Instead, Jesus notes that this woman has had five husbands and she is now living with a man to whom she is not married (John 4:18).

The really scandalous truth that was a stumbling block for the self-righteous Pharisees was that the woman at the well is the bride of Christ. I do not mean this in some kind of Da Vinci Code myth kind of way – the scandal is not that he married the Samaritan woman at the well or Mary Magdalene but that He is the bridegroom of the church. And the church includes many who did not grow up among God’s people but met Jesus after multiple divorces and while living in sin.

So the next time you find yourself at the most recent form of the “water cooler” consider telling those who come for a drink of water about the one who knows everything that they ever did and died for the sins of everyone who would come to believe in Him. And ask God to continue sanctifying you so that Jesus might present the church to Himself holy and without blemish (Eph 5:27).

[Update: I have preached on this theme as recently as 2017]

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