In the days of Yah'shua (Jesus) anything or anyone connected with 'Samaria' or 'Samaritans' was to invite contempt from the Jews. Part of this stemmed from the Jewish insistance that the Samaritans were half-breeds and therefore not worthy of the blessings and privileges of the Mosaic Covenant. Since 721 BC following the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel, the country had been settled with foreigners from many nations who were to intermarry with the endogenous Israelites, forming what was known them, and today, as 'Samaritans'.
Following the Babylonian captivity when the Jews were returned in part to Judea, the Samaritans had asked to participate in the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem. The Jews refused and from that time onwards an independent religious tradition asserted itself in Samaria to challenge the one in Judea.
Thus Samaria presents an interesting 'third force' for it can neither be classified as 'Jewish' nor 'Gentile' and into this scene we find Yah'shua (Jesus) preaching a gospel that transcends these religious secularisms.
The theme of the story of the Samaritan woman and her conversion revolved around the concepts of spiritual water (which quenches inner needs), and physical water. To begin with, the Samaritan woman is concerned that Yah'shua (Jesus) has even dared to talk with her, or even ask for water at her hands, for to have done so in those days would, in the Jewish religious tradition, have meant that Yah'shua (Jesus) had become 'unclean'. But it was not uncommon for Yah'shua (Jesus) to flout all the hypocritical innovations of Jewish belief at that time in order to teach His spiritual message.
In was noon when Yah'shua (Jesus) came to Jacob's well at Sychar, the hottest part of the day, and though no doubt in need to water Himself chose to use the scene as the means of converting this Samaritan. When she hesitates to give Yah'shua (Jesus) water from the well, He promptly offers her living water which she totally misunderstands, asking Him how He proposed to secure water without a bucket and line (which Yah'shua/Jesus did not have). Degree by degree, the woman's attentionn is captured by His thought-provoking statements, and as the dialogue progresses, the more Yah'shua (Jesus) reveals what He is telling her until His purpose, then fully known, is translated into conversion that snowballs until half the town has partaken of His world too.
Throughout it is clear that though the Samaritan is hesitant about Yah'shua's (Jesus') words (for she cannot understand why a Jew should be conversing with her, probably discerning His nationality from His accent and manner) she becomes more and more drawn to Him until her understanding is fully opened. She begins to desire the never ending stream of living water that Yah'shua (Jesus) offers thinking He will turn Jacob's well into a miracle mountain spring. It is not until He starts revealing her married life that she begins to discern that He is speaking spiritually and from there on she begins to think in heavenly terms instead of earthly. In that she does one better than Yah'shua's (Jesus') Jewish listeners for repeatedly they fail to understand that Yah'shua (Jesus) is speaking to them of heavenly matters and not earthly ones. For, for the Jews of that period, life had turned into a series of accurate, conscientious performances, fulfilments of legal requirements, without any regard for inwards motivation. Indeed, their lives were empty of religious content. And here was Yah'shua (Jesus) dispensing with the wave of His hand all the outward manifestations of religion (such as animal sacrifice) with its spiritless eye for meticulous legal detail, replacing it with a living religion in which the individuals were the centres of Yahweh's personal universe and not satellites in a legal one. Yah'shua's (Jesus') conversation with the woman was intimate and revealing, centering on herself so that she could understand her weaknesses and deficiencies. And then, when she was hungering for truth, He served it to her in abundance, inviting her to accept Him as Saviour, the expected Messiah, to demonstrate faith in His ability to purge her of her sins. Physical temples were to be done away with, He told her, including the Samaritan one on Mt.Gerezim and the Jewish one on Mt.Moriah, for now every human body would become the temple of worship. Yahweh would be worshipped in "spirit and truth", He declared to her, for Yahweh belongs to the realm above and not to the physical realm below.
The woman of Samaria was thunderstruck: Yah'shua's (Jesus') message sunk in like a child returning home to its mother, causing her to run into the city with excitement, abandoning her bucket and line by the well, to collect all those who would hear and come along to meet her Messiah. The result of her conversion was a massive missionary programme in Sychar with many being led to the truth, thus setting the scene for future apostolic missionary work. In a sense, then, the Samaritans were the springboard to spreading the word to the Gentiles.
So what are we to understand Yah'shua's (Jesus') purpose was in the story of the Samaritan woman? He focussed the attention of religion from the nation to the individual, teaching people to think in spiritual terms and not outward, physical ones. His mission was to bring salvation, by being the Light of His Father Yahweh, to convince Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile alike to accept His Messiahship and to trust their eternal destinies in Him. The Samaritan woman was an ideally symbolic convert, being of a race despised by the Jews who thought themselves wrongly to be the elect and chosen of Elohim (God) by virtue of their race and tradition, she was a woman (who in Yah'shua's/Jesus' gospel was to become equal with man and not second-class citizens as was typical), and above all, she had the faith to listen and believe. She did not contend with Him as the Jews did, her questions were honest and sincere. And she demonstrated the true spirit of conversion by evangelising on her own initiative without any prompting from Yah'shua (Jesus). Once possessed by the Ruach (Spirit), she was free. For Yah'shua (Jesus) came to bring truth and freedom.