Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman is a classic example of Johannine narration. Organized dramatically, the narration synthesizes the theology of the Gospel of John, both from the Christological and the Ecclesiological points of view.
The narration in John 4 is very dramatic, unfolding in two major scenes with introductory and concluding scenes and an interlude between major scenes.
The narration can be divided in the following way:
John 4: 1-6 – Introduction
John 4: 7-26 – 1st scene: Jesus and the Samaritan woman
John 4: 27-30 – Interlude
John 4: 31-38 – 2nd scene
John 4: 39-42 – Conclusion
There are mainly two theological streams in the narration corresponding to the two purposes of the Gospel, as articulated in the Epilogue (Jn 20: 30-31), Christological and Soteriological. On the one side, the identity of Jesus is revealed progressively and parallel; and on the other side, there is a progressive transformation of the life of the woman.
The Christological stream shows the progressive revelation of the identity of Jesus. Jesus at the well, in the beginning was a Jew, a stranger and nothing more. As the dialogue progresses, Jesus is revealed as the gift of God, giver of living water, prophet, Messiah, and finally the saviour of the world.
The Soteriological experience of the woman may be noted in the following moments. A woman who is dependent on natural water and is isolated from the community expresses her desire for living water which Jesus can give. Her transparency becomes clearer as she renounces the “husbands” and expresses her concern towards the authentic worship of God. As an external sign she gives up the jar and is integrated into the community and becomes a proclaimer of her experience and a missionary.
The narration may be interpreted from various angles, such as a call, a conversion, a model of evangelization, and a prayer experience.