4:28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

Sometimes, the smallest details carry the greatest weight. John says that after the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman was interrupted by Jesus’ disciples,

the woman left her water jar and went back to the city.

It is such an odd little detail – she “left her water jar”. Why do we need this piece of information? To see the significance of the woman leaving her water jar, go back to John 2:6 and the story of the wedding at Cana. After it has been discovered that the wine for the wedding banquet is running out and Jesus’ mother has told the servants to follow Jesus’ instructions, John says,

Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. (John 2:6)

Commenting on this verse I suggested that these “six stone water-jars” stood for the whole ancient system of law, tradition, ritual and religious practice that Jesus inherited as a pious Jew that he came, not to do away with, but to transform.

The Samaritan woman, by leaving her “water jar” is indicating that she has realized her liberation from her own old religious system. She has discovered the freedom of her true nature. Through her encounter with Jesus, she has come to know herself as a being who is created to “worship the Father in spirit and truth,” rather than according to the rigid restrictive practices of a religious system that had become fixated on form, location, and law. She walks away from the stale water of social expectation and cultural demand into the refreshing well-spring of the Spirit.

It is this experience of liberation/“salvation” that makes it possible for the woman to return to her village and proclaim to the Samaritans her discovery of the Messiah in the person of a Jew.

Depending on the English translation, the boldness of this woman’s affirmation varies.

The NIV has the woman speak in somewhat cautious terms:

29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

In the NRSV, she sounds positively sceptical:

29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

 Strangely, it is the ancient King James Version that puts the most ringing affirmation of faith on the lips of this woman, who according to the KJV, returned to her village and declared:

29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

Whichever translation is the most accurate, the fact remains, that this woman has the courage to go to a group of Samaritans and suggest that she has found the Messiah. And this Messiah for whom they have all longed, is not a Samaritan, but a Jew. It was a bold affirmation, even if delivered with caution.

What inhibits me from making a bold affirmation of the deep mystery I see revealed in the person of Jesus?