The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” — John 4:25-26 (ESV)
As Jesus and a Samaritan woman that he met at the town well discuss things about God, she speaks of her belief that one day the Messiah will come into the world. This is interesting of itself, because it is clear in other passages that the Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah, but here we see that at least one Samaritan (a mixed race people that had Jewish influence from centuries before) also believed that the Messiah would come.
There were multiple expectations for the Messiah at the time, but they included that he would be a king, would save people from their oppression, would be holy, and would be sent from God. In the words of the Samaritan woman, her expectation of the Messiah included him being a great prophet. She mentioned that aspect of the Messiah, probably not because the idea had entered her mind that Jesus was the Messiah, but as a conversation extender, since Jesus was clearly a prophet, having just revealed to her that she had already had five husbands, and was living with another guy — and that it was interesting to note that he shared a gift that the Messiah would have.
Now what is really startling here is that Jesus comes right out and tells her that he is the Messiah that she (and presumably the other Samaritan’s) had been waiting for. Around Jewish people, Jesus was a lot more careful what he would say about himself. But not here: he just comes right out and says it.
A lot of people today think that it is accurate to consider Jesus to be a great teacher or perhaps a great prophet. But in this particular passage, we see that it would be wrong to think of Jesus only in that way. Jesus himself claimed to be more than that — he claimed to be the Messiah, someone sent from God to be a king, to set people free.
Given that he was crucified without becoming a king on this earth and without setting people free, except for the ones that were healed by his prayer, he was clearly wrong… Unless the claims of his followers about him are correct: that he rose from the dead; that he remained in bodily form on the earth for several weeks; that he ascended to heaven; and that he rules and reigns from there.
Because if the claim that Jesus made about himself being the Messiah is not true, then we must think of Jesus — as C.S. Lewis has eloquently written — as a deluded person, or a liar, but in any case not as a great prophet or teacher or holy man. It is left, then, is for each person to decide. Which is he to you?