John’s gospel tells us of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well in the town of Sychar. He begins talking about water and amazingly, without changing the subject, He ushers her into the Kingdom of God!
“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”
The story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman does much more than recount an event in history. It tells us important things about Jesus and those he came to save. In fact, if we are willing to look intently for ourselves in the story, we can receive living water, a glorious liquid that will take away our thirst forever! Let’s follow the story simply by listening to the questions that are asked by Jesus and the woman. They will tell us what this living water is all about.
Jesus: “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7)
As we start with this first question, consider this – Jesus never asked anyone a question because He was seeking information. He always knew the answer before He asked! He was God incarnate after all. Instead, He asked questions as a means of revealing something to those He was speaking to. Such is the case here. Know for certain, Jesus is not seeking a drink. He’s opening a heart. Jesus’ question let the woman know that this was going to be a special conversation, different than any she was used to. The question she asks in return confirms this. Let’s look at the setting and the social norms of the time. First, it was a social taboo for a man to speak to a woman in such a public place. The setting tells us even more. It is noon time and the woman has come to the well alone. These two facts speak volumes about the social status of this woman. Women of the village would generally gather and come to the well together in the morning, while the day was still cool. This woman avoided the other women and came alone in the heat of the day. She was an outcast. She was used to people not speaking to her – heads down in silence, passing by without acknowledging her presence. The fact that Jesus spoke to her at all was doubly surprising and very different from what she was used to.
The woman: “How can you ask me for a drink?” (see John 4:9)
The story gets even deeper. You see, Jesus is Jewish and the woman is Samaritan. In the time, Jews and Samaritans did not interact. There was judgment, discrimination, and distrust between the two groups. So not only does Jesus break through the barrier of silence that exists in this woman’s life, He leaps over a high cultural hurdle of hatred to do it! This is indeed going to be a special conversation! Jesus raises it yet another level still by telling the woman that He has living water to offer her. (see John 4:10)
The woman: “Where can you get this living water?” (see John 4:11)
So far nothing has added up. The woman is not being silently rejected, she is not being dismissed as a Samaritan, and now this man is offering her water but He has no rope or bucket. She can be forgiven for being a bit confused. Before getting an answer to this question, she quickly follows with another.
The woman: “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” (see John 4:12, 4:13-26)
This question drips with sarcasm. Jacob was a great man in Jewish history. He’s the one who wrestled with an angel of God and lived to tell about it. He was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. He built the very well they are standing by and it had been there for centuries quenching the thirst of generations of people and their herds. The woman’s question challenges Jesus to top Jacob’s long list of achievements. So Jesus does. He tells her that He knows all about her life’s struggles and sins. He tells her that He holds the key to overcoming those struggles. He tells her that He also holds the key to curing the cultural rift between Jews and Samaritans. He explains all of the things that only the Messiah can explain to her. And then for good measure, He comes right out and says “I am He.”
So how do we get the living water? By finding ourselves on both sides of the story as it continues. First. . .
Be like the woman (see John 4:28-30, 39)
The woman was so filled with joy when she discovered that the Messiah loved her so much to reveal Himself to her despite all of her personal baggage and the cultural barriers that could have kept Him from her, she dropped everything and ran back to town to tell others. Everything else paled in comparison to this great news! She realized that she was now free of the shame of her past and was ready to engage with the rest of society again. The spirit and truth that Jesus described became her living water, and she was a different person. If we will do likewise, we will be filled with the same living water Jesus offered her and we will likewise be changed. No more shame. No more condemnation. Only the freedom and joy of the Good News flowing out of us. Then. . .
Be like Jesus
Jesus cast all judgment and condemnation aside when He spoke to the woman at the well. He loved her enough the reach out to her when no one else would. He loved her enough to tell her what God’s plan for salvation was. He loved her enough to tell her that God had completed His plan for her salvation right there. If we will do likewise with all of those we encounter, especially those that have been abandoned by society’s judgment, the living water will flow from within us as a well spring and never run dry.
It’s a two-step solution – accept the living water from Jesus and pour it out onto everyone around us, particularly the outcast and unloved. Do this, and we will never thirst again. Ever. That’s the truth.
Jesus: “If you drink water from the most famous of wells, you will be thirsty again, but if you drink the water I give you, you will never thirst again. Indeed, the water I give you will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”
That’s the YouTruth. “The Water I Give You”
Copyright 2009, 2011 Dan Buckhout