Summary: Like the woman at the well, we are thirsty for salvation, and Jesus waits for us with living water at the well.
Introduction: Our reading today is so completely rich with meaning that I am going to go through it verse by verse. I hope in this way to open the text that it might address us where we are, for Christ always comes to us no matter where we are.
Prayer: Lord God, we come thirsty. We live in a land that is overflowing with blessings and yet we are hungry. We thirst for Your living waters and we hunger for Your bread of life. Fill us with Your Word that we might be filled with Your light and life. Amen.
John 4:5-30, 39-41
So Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by His journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
We can forget that Jesus was fully human, but this text reminds us. He was tired. He was probably also warm. It was noon, midday, and He was resting. In the middle of the day, the well would have been deserted. Women came for water in the cool of the morning and in preparation for cooking and cleaning in the late afternoon. No one came in the middle of the day unless they wanted to avoid everyone else.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
The Samaritan woman was surely an outcast. She must have been shunned and either forced to draw water in the midday heat or chose to draw water when no one else would be there. The other thing that is interesting is that Jesus addresses her directly. In this time, men seldom addressed women in public.
(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)
Jesus has sent the disciples on. It is as if He has planned for this encounter and doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to talk to this woman. Had His disciples been there, a private conversation could not have happened. (A point to remember: Jesus always goes ahead of us. We never go into any situation alone. When we come to the well, thirsty, Jesus is already there, waiting for us.)
The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
Jesus has broken down two barriers. First, he spoke to her, a woman. Second, he cuts through prejudice. When the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, they carried the Jewish leadership off to exile in Babylon and resettled the land with Assyrians who married Jewish people left behind. The result was that the Hebrew people hated the Samaritans, considering them “half-breeds.” The Jewish peoples followed more strictly the rituals of the Jewish faith, including the requirements to worship at the Temple. The Samaritans considered the mountain of Shechum as the holy place for worship. Since Jews had to obey certain ritual prescriptions that Samaritan did not observe, so they could not share the same eating and drinking vessels. For a faithful Jew, drinking from a cup that was used by a Samaritan would have been like drinking from a cup that was used by an animal like a dog. The tension between the Jews and the Samaritans was ugly, even though they shared ancestry.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
Jesus is revealing who He is, but what does He mean by “living water?” It is the opposite of “dead water,” which is everything that pulls us away from life with Christ. It is our routines that place us in front of the television set for hours at a time. It is the same old arguments that we get into every day. Dead water is our addictions whether to food, alcohol, nicotine, solitaire, or destructive relationships. Dead water is whatever draws the life out of us.
The woman said to Him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
Jesus is greater than Jacob, which the Samaritan woman is beginning to suspect.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”