Jesus talks longer to the woman at the well than he does to anyone else in all the Gospels—longer than he talks to any of his disciples, longer than he talks to any of his accusers, longer than he talks to any of his own family. She is the first person he reveals himself to in the Gospel of John. She is the first outsider to guess who he is and tell others. She is the first evangelist, John tells us, and her testimony brings many to faith.
Jesus’ choice of her is a curious one, because when I say outsider, I mean outsider. The woman at the well was a triple outsider. In the first place, she was a Samaritan, which made her a half-breed and full pagan as far as the purists were concerned.
She was also, of course, a woman. In Jesus’ time, women were not what you would call liberated. They were not even allowed to worship with men, whose morning devotions included the prayer, “Thank God I am not a woman.”