To appreciate the story of the Samaritan woman at the well we should recall what St. John wrote about his Gospel. He said there were hundreds of wonderful stories about Our Lord’s life, but he chose to tell only those stories that showed that Jesus was the Messiah, and that we have life through believing in him. The story of the woman at the well makes these two points very very well.
In Chapter Two of his Gospel John told us that the disciples were just beginning to believe in him. In Chapter Three Nicodemus who came by night believed no more than that Jesus was a man come from God. Now in Chapter Four the woman, coming at bright noon, announced to the people of Shechem that Jesus was the Messiah.
The conversation between Jesus and the woman had to do with “living water” or with God’s grace. It made a beautiful image to imagine a fountain of living water within her, springing up to eternal life.
An interesting sidelight to this story is that this person Jesus chose for his finest revelation was an old flirt. The respectable women of the town left her to walk out to the well alone. She had been married four times, but now she was living in a casual relationship.
The woman disregarded propriety in launching into a conversation with a strange man. She had a sly meaning in asking Jesus if he were greater than Jacob who gave the people that well. She was referring to the time when Jacob had a surge of virility when he saw the beautiful Rachel approaching.
In choosing the woman to receive his revelations about grace and about his being the Messiah, Jesus was telling us that some socially unacceptable people might have great inner worth. As well as being an old flirt, the woman was a despised foreigner. Ssnobbery earns no points with God.