When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, the scripture makes it plain that she was at the lowest point of her life. Jesus usually met people at their greatest time of need and in the case of the Samaritan woman, that time had come. Women in that part of the world in that time customarily went out to draw water in groups, and they did so at a certain time of day, usually late in the day when it was cool. This is confirmed in two places in scripture. Genesis 24 verse 11 – And he (Abraham’s servant Nahor) made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women (plural) go out to draw water. And in 1 Samuel 9 verse 11, we read that Saul and his servant were seeking Samuel the prophet and were met by the women (again, plural) of the city as they were coming out to draw water. It’s very unlikely that this custom had changed by Jesus’ time, so the fact that the Samaritan woman was drawing water – alone – during the hottest part of the day tells us that there was a problem in her life. As we know from the account in John’s gospel, the problem was her immoral lifestyle, which was brought out in the course of her conversation with Jesus. She may as well have been IN that well and in a spiritual sense, she was.
In that same sense, many of us have felt like we were stranded in a well or at the bottom of a deep pit at some point in our lives. And before we accepted Jesus Christ, we were just like the Samaritan woman. We may as well have been stranded at the bottom of a well. Even in our Christian walk, we sometimes experience brief moments when it feels like we’ve fallen into a well and can’t get out.
So let’s use that imagery. Imagine actually having fallen into a well or a deep pit or a cave. First of all, there a couple of things about falling into a well that you can be certain of: One, there’s nowhere to go but up. And two, if someone is kind enough to throw you a rope, it doesn’t do you much good if you don’t grab ahold of it. Spiritually speaking, the same holds true. When you hit bottom, the only way out is up. Because of His love for us, God gave us a way out. He’s the one holding the rope at the top of the well. Of course the rope in this illustration represents God’s free gift of grace. It’s there for the taking, but you have to accept it. You have to grab the rope.
If you watch any of cable channels, chances are you’ve seen a documentary or two about people who were mountain climbing or hiking in a remote area and accidentally fell into a crevice or deep pit. It’s happened. But what if those people refused to be rescued? Suppose someone threw them a rope, but they refused to believe there was someone holding the other end of the rope? We would call that unbelief. What if they believe but simply choose to ignore the truth that they’re doomed to die unless they grab the rope? That’s probably a good description of spiritual blindness. Or, what if they said they don’t need the rope because they can climb out of the crevice on their own? That would describe people who believe they can save themselves through works. What if they just decided to live out their lives at the bottom of the well and for whatever reason, they never took hold of the rope? That describes people who are lost for all eternity if they die without Christ.
If you were to witness to someone and lay all of this out they way I’ve laid it out here, they’d probably tell you that no one in their right mind would refuse to grab the rope if they fell into a well or crevice or some kind of deep pit. No one in their right mind would refuse to be rescued, they would say. And they would be right. Yet every day, people refuse to grab the rope that God has thrown to them to rescue them from whatever spiritual well or pit or crevice they’re in. They refuse to believe there’s a God at the other end of the rope. Or they acknowledge the existence of God, but they ignore the truth that anyone who rejects Jesus Christ stands condemned. “Yeah yeah, I believe God is real, but I don’t want any of that Jesus stuff.” they say. Or they think they can be saved by living a good life or by being a good person, or by doing more good things than bad things with the hope that the good will outweigh the bad.
Any reasonable person who was stranded in a crevice or a pit or at the bottom of a well would want to be saved. With that in mind, the Bible makes it very clear in very familiar passage in Romans 3 that every person, living or dead, has sinned. So spiritually speaking, everyone has fallen into a pit. Everyone is stranded at the bottom of a well, whether they realize it or not, unless they’ve grabbed the rope. The good news is, God is on the other end of that rope. He’s waiting patiently. He wants everyone to be rescued. God’s grace is there for all. As we witness to people, our challenge is to show them how real and how deep their spiritual well is, and as followers of Christ, our calling is to show them the rope!