Did the woman at the well understand that Jesus was offering her eternal life? Is that the kind of salvation she, and other Samaritans, were expecting from the Messiah? Were they thinking in eternal terms? Or did they believe in Him with no thought of salvation, let alone of eternal life, at all?
Well, what did Jesus say He would give the Samaritan woman?
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink’, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
He would give a gift of living water. That was metaphorical language. If Jesus said that to me, I probably would not have understood Him. It seems the woman did not understand right away. Hence, Jesus clarified what He was speaking about:
“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).
He was offering her the gift of eternal life.
Notice the implicit promise that eternal life is permanent. If she had it, she would “never thirst.” One drink is all it would take. If it was not permanent, she might thirst again. But Jesus said that would never happen.
The Samaritan woman eventually picked up that Jesus might be the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus admitted it:
The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:25-26).
When the woman heard that, she dropped her water pot and ran back to the village to tell everyone. Did the Samaritans give any indication they understood the definition of Messiah included being the One who gives salvation? Yes, they did:
“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
So the Samaritans understood the Christ came to bring salvation. In fact, given His conversation with the woman, we can safely assume that Jesus told them about eternal salvation, too.
Although John only gives us a summary of Jesus’ powerful ministry in Samaria, the evidence is very clear—their concept of the Messiah (or the Christ) was not an empty one. They did not believe in Jesus without also believing in Him for salvation. On the contrary, they knew the Messiah is the Savior of the world. When they believed, that’s what they believed in Him to do—give everlasting life to believers.