Although this unnamed Samaritan woman appears only in the gospel of John, she has the greater part of a chapter devoted to her story (John 4:1-42). Her encounter with Jesus is significant for its modelling of male-female and Jewish-Samaritan relationships, for its identification of Jesus as the living water and Messiah, and for its portrayal of the Samaritan woman as an evangelist to her own people.
The identity of the woman of Samaria as an evangelist seems to bind together all the other themes of the story. When Jesus reached across the invisible boundary dividing men and women and Jews and Samaritans, he set the woman free to reach across the invisible boundary dividing herself from the people of her town. When the woman understood Jesus to be the Messiah, she discovered living water not just for herself, but for her whole community.
As an evangelist, the Samaritan woman did not wait to be commissioned or ordained for public ministry. She did not wait for a committee on outreach to study the needs of her neighbourhood. She did not even wait until she had finished her daily work of drawing water. Untrained, with her personal life still unresolved, this woman began to tell everyone about the good news that she had received from Jesus. Today we might say that she was acting missionally.
As a witness to her own people, the Samaritan woman proved to be more effective than Jesus’ other disciples. When they returned from the town, they brought back only bread. When the woman returned, she brought back people to listen to Jesus. The unnamed woman reached her neighbours in a way that Jesus’ other disciples would not or could not reach.
This story is included in Remember Lot’s Wife and Other Unnamed Women of the Bible.
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