We Met at a Well

well photo

I love Rom-Coms. Today I did Netflix searches for You’ve Got Mail, Must Love Dogs, When Harry Met SallyLove Actually, and Something’s Gotta Give. Some of my absolute favorites. They’re sweet, easy to watch, make me smile, put me in the best mood, and remind me of my amazing mom, who introduced these wonderful films to me.

All of these movies set up a scenario in which two individuals are bound to fall in love. You’ve Got Mail opens with 1998-style Internet cues, Must Love Dogs depicts two recent divorcees who both begin exploring online dating, and When Harry Met Sally opens with a long and fateful car ride. We’re told who to vie for from the very beginning, which is what makes the forever-love declaration at the end of the movie so satisfying.

This may also be why I love the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4 so much. In it, Jesus travels through Samaria and stops at a well at noon, and shortly thereafter a Samaritan woman arrives at the well also. For early readers of John, this set up would be like us hearing Signed, Sealed, Delivered in a romantic comedy, because, over and over again in the Old Testament, couples meet at wells. In Genesis 24:1-7 Abraham’s servant finds Rebekah at a well so that she could marry Isaac; in Genesis 29:1-12 Jacob meets Rachel at a well before marrying her; in Exodus 2:15-21 Moses protects Zipporah from shepherds at a well, and ends up marrying her. This trope in the Old Testament happens over and over again, to the point that a man and a woman meeting at a well in the Torah is like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meeting in any movie ever. Instant magic.

So in John 4 Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well, which is meant to draw to mind the love stories in the Old Testament. Jewish-Samaritan relations were pretty rough at the time, so when Jesus asks the woman for water, she asks why he would ask her to draw water for him. Jesus responds, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water” (v. 10). The woman questions Jesus’ ability to provide living water, and Jesus answers, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life” (v. 13-14). She then begs him for the living water, she and Jesus discuss her rather sordid relational life, and they engage in a theological discussion. Finally, she runs into the city proclaiming, “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?” And she brought the people of the city to Jesus.

In the incredible beauty of this narrative, the Samaritan woman and Jesus meet at the well, and she finds the One for whom she’d been searching. She had previously had five husbands, and her current partner was not her husband, and Jesus knew this before she ever mentioned it. Yet when she comes to the well, she finds not another husband, like other women find at their wells, but rather, Jesus meets her and offers her the possibility to never thirst again. The love story then is completed, not by marital love, which had failed her over and over again, but by the deep and endless love of God.

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