Of all the conversations that Christ had with individuals, one sticks out more than the others. Whereas other accounts include a healing or a parable, John 4 records a verbal-spiritual-strategic conversation between two interesting characters: the unrecognized Messiah, and one who does not want to be recognized. Social convention would not allow them to speak, as it was not proper for men and women to converse alone. Additionally, this woman sought water in the hottest part of the day. In that culture, the women collected water in the early mornings and evenings when the temperature was cool, but here was a woman seeking to avoid the crowds. Jesus also transgressed another cultural line when He, as a Jew, spoke to a Samaritan.
While each of these elements can be further elaborated upon, it is the interesting twists and turns the conversation takes that we shall focus on. It is, in fact, a disjointed conversation. It starts with water, then goes into race politics, and then into history, marriage, prophecy, worship, and the Messiah! A coherent argument doesn’t appear through the narrative; rather, you see the Lord Jesus pursuing the woman’s heart through the art of conversation. The woman seems to get caught up in the conversation and opens up to deeper conversation, but then disengages. Jesus is unrelenting and manages to bring the exchange back to a conversion conversation at the end. This is a tit-for-tat tête-à-tête par excellence!
Throughout the conversation, Jesus hints at different elements of His Messiahship—from the potential eternal satisfaction of the heart, the human insufficiency of spiritual satisfaction, and the promise of the Chosen One to heal the human condition. But only at the end does He reveal Himself: “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:26).
Of the myriad things this conversation can teach and model for us, one important thing is that we are called to enter conversations that direct people to spiritual thoughts. While the core value in the preparation stage is trust, the core value in the plant stage is “consider.” Once a good trusting relationship is established, we are to share and introduce spiritual matters for people to consider.
Though the topic was real water, Jesus shifted the conversation for the woman to consider spiritual water. Though another topic was husbands, Jesus shifted the conversation for the woman to consider her spiritual condition regarding her husbands. Though the topic was race politics, Jesus shifted the conversation for the woman to consider the real spiritual promises of each side.
One of the most wonderful verses of this narrative is verse 28, where John records that “the woman then left her waterpot, [and] went her way into the city.” She completely forgot about the task that she originally came to accomplish. The Samaritan woman then becomes one of the first missionaries for Christ. While some may take three years (as in the previous account in John 3 with Nicodemus) to believe, others will believe through one encounter, one conversation, one tract, or one form of seed that causes them to consider spiritual things.