The Unfair Exchange

The Unfair Exchange

Have you ever had an awkward conversation with someone? The kind filled with gut-wrenching silences, regrettable comments, and uncomfortable laughter?

I have…every week…several times…per day.

And I have to say, with all of my experience, I’m not a huge fan.

That’s why I have some sympathy for this poor woman at the well in John 4:1-26.

Take a minute to read the story.

I mean, think about it, this might be the most awkward conversation of all time!

We go from a ridiculous discussion about water, to Jesus basically calling this lady a slut, to a spiritual discussion about worship, and finally to a dude this lady just met saying he’s God.

Really?! This conversation could not have taken more than five minutes!

How can we possibly go from talking about water, to talking about the Son of God in that amount of time?! I dare you to try that with somebody! If you do, one of two things will happen: they will either walk away and find help for you…or you’ll get slapped in the face.

But that doesn’t happen here. In fact, this girl seems to go along with it.


Well, what if…this isn’t as random as it seems? What if…this was really only about one thing all along? What if I suggest, that from the discussion of water, to the declaration of the Messiah, this was all about worship? And if we dig even deeper, we might find something even more surprising in the story….you and me.

The Setup

Don’t you see? It was all planned from the beginning. Most Jews would have completely avoided Samaria, because Samaritans were unclean. They weren’t Jews. They weren’t good enough. They didn’t know God. But, Jesus not only goes through Samaria – he stops to ask for a drink from a Samaritan woman – and in the process, he broke just about every cultural norm that existed. Religious Jewish men don’t talk to Samaritans, and they certainly don’t talk to Samaritan women.

But Jesus does.

He comes into our sinfulness, and he meets us where we’re at but he paid the price. We see in this story, Jesus is tired. He’s exhausted and worn out.

“Can I have some water?” he asks. “Can I have what you have to give me?” How does the girl respond?

“I’m not sure why you’re asking me. You shouldn’t be talking to me.”

And Jesus says, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

What’s Jesus saying?

He’s saying, “I’m here for you. I came all this way for you. You think I’m here to get water from you? No, I’m here to give something to youWhat you have to offer me, is temporary, but what I have to offer you is eternal.”

“Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

That’s a good deal, right?! Everybody wants eternity! Don’t you? It’s been placed in the human heart. Think about our society today. You can’t turn on the television without seeing a commercial for something that will either make you look younger, feel younger, or live longer. We all desperately want eternity – and this man, Jesus, knows how to get it.

So, how do I get eternity? Tell me Jesus!!!

The Story

Just think. This girl is so close! She’s literally standing right next to a man who claims to have eternity. The anticipation’s killing her! She knows that the next words this man speaks will reveal the secret to her!

But Jesus is the ultimate Debbie Downer. What does he say?

“Go and get your husband.”

Ummm….what? Are you kidding me? What happened to the secret? What happened to eternity? What does this have to do with anything?

Enter awkwardness.

“I don’t have a husband.” She says. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I can picture Jesus with a kind smile on his face look right into this girl’s eyes.

“You think I don’t know?” He says, “I know. You don’t have a husband – for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now.”

This girl is shocked! So close to eternity, and this is what she gets! She doesn’t know how to respond. So she does what anyone would do, and changes the subject to the first thing she can think of: worship.

Why the sudden change? Clearly she was uncomfortable with the way this conversation was going…but why worship?

Now obviously, worship was a big point of controversy between the Jews and Samaritans, and perhaps she was asking him this question to make sure he was legit. After all, he seems to know an awful lot about her. He’s either a creeper or a prophet…better ask him a hard question to see which one it is.


But let me tell you what I think. I think she was so quick to change the subject to worship, because deep down, worship is already what they had been talking about.

How do I know? Read these words by the prophet Jeremiah. This was written about 600 years before Jesus was even born, and it gave me chills the first time I read it. Jeremiah chapter 2 verse 10.

“’Go west and look in the land of Cyprus; go east and search through the land of Kedar. Has anyone ever heard of anything as strange as this? Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones, even though they are not gods at all? Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay,’ says the Lord. ‘For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me – the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!’”  

The Big Picture

So, what do you worship?

This woman worshiped relationships. That’s where she got her ultimate meaning. When one husband proved not to be good enough, she would move to the next one, and the next one, and the next one, and so on. She was looking for perfect love and full satisfaction in something that could never give it to her.

Until Jesus came to the well.

Until Jesus broke down the barriers and stepped into her life.

He does the same for you and me.

We are false worshippers. We knocked God off of the throne and put something else on it. And like this woman, God has no business associating with us. But God sees us, and comes to where we are. And to do that, he paid the price. Not just by walking a long distance, like in this story, but by coming from the throne of glory in heaven to the earth he created and giving up his life.

Will you give him water, and ask for living water? Will you give him your idols, in exchange for the One True God? Is that a fair trade? Is that even a trade at all?

Broken for perfect? Temporary for eternal? Created for Creator?

No, that’s not fair…but that’s grace. That’s the offer on the table.

Will you take it?

 “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” – Romans 12:1
Broken for Perfect? Temporary for Eternal? Created for Creator? It’s not fair, but it’s  GRACE.
Russ Allen

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