One day Jesus was walking outside of a town in Samaria called Sychar. He happened to find himself on a plot of ground that was once owned by the Patriarch Jacob--land that was handed down to his son Joseph. On this land was a large well which is often referred to as Jacob’s Well. Jesus found himself to be tired from the long journey and he stopped beside the well to rest. Unfortunately, it was high noon, and the heat of the day had set in.
A few moments later, a young woman from Samaria approached the well. Since all of Jesus’ disciples had gone into town to purchase lunch, Jesus asked the woman if she would be kind enough to draw some water from the well for him to drink. You see, the predicament that Jesus was in was simple...deep, deep well and nothing to lower into the well to bring up the water.
The woman replied to him, somewhat sternly and with the slightest hint of disgust: “You are clearly a Jew. I am a Samaritan woman. We aren’t even supposed to speak to each other let alone ask one another for such a gift. Who do you think you are...asking me to draw water for you?” Jews simply were not to associate with Samaritans.
Jesus, in his simple and soft-spoken way responded: “If you truly knew the gift that God has given you, and if you truly knew who it is that is speaking to you; rather than me asking you for water, you would have asked me to draw water for you and I would have given you living water.”Jesus had an unconventional way of speaking. Sometimes his words were confusing.
The Samaritan woman was smart, and quick-witted. “You couldn’t give me any water, you don’t even have anything to draw water with,” she replied. “Where would you get this ‘living water?’” The woman continued on about the impracticality of the whole thing, noting that Jesus must think he is better than Jacob, the father who dug the well in the first place.
Then Jesus invited her to sit beside him. He looked at her with an almost stern calmness. “Everyone who drinks the water from your father’s well will, ultimately, become thirsty again.” He continued, “But the water that I have to give is living water. When someone drinks this water, it wells up inside them, continually nourishing them. They drink of this living water once, and they never thirst again. Simple water from a well may bring life, but the living water brings eternal life.”
At this the conversation became nerving and complex. The Samaritan woman asked Jesus to give her this “living water” so that she might never thirst again, and have no more need to return to the well. Jesus assured her that he would, but first, he asked her to return home and bring her husband to see him. The Samaritan woman’s eyes focused on the dust beneath her. “I have no husband” she said, sheepishly.
Jesus, knowing her true story, looked into her eyes. “You’re right,” he said. “The man that you are living with now is not your husband, even though you have had five husbands before him.” The Samaritan woman could no longer keep focus on Jesus. Her eyes welled up with tears and she broke. She knew this man was wise--like a prophet--and what's more, he knew her greatest sin.
“Sir,” the woman cried, “It's clear that you are a prophet...a...holy man. You know even the deepest secrets of my life. You also know that my heart has drifted from God.You see, my people have always worshipped on this mountain, but recently we’ve stopped because you Jews say that we are required to worship in Jerusalem now. It's too far for us! We can’t make that trip just for worship!”
Jesus calmed the woman and replied, “Dear, woman, believe me when I say that I understand. But know this, a time is coming when it won’t matter whether you worship here on this mountain, or in the temple at Jerusalem. Your people worship in the way they know and they worship something that they do not know. But, my people, the Jews, worship something that we do know--the good news that salvation comes when we worship the Father. Salvation comes when we know God and worship him like the Jews do. But, be encouraged, for a time is coming when true worshippers of God will worship him, not here on this mountain or over there in that stream or any other place. Rather true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, from wherever they are. Because God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in the Spirit and truth.
Confused, the woman replied, “Look, I know that the Messiah, who some are calling the Christ is coming. When he comes, I know that he will help all of us understand who is right, and what is right.
Jesus looked to the woman and simply said, “I am he! I’m the one you’ve been waiting for. The Messiah has spoken to you!”
Jesus and the woman spent the rest of the time waiting for the disciples to return talking about the woman’s life. Jesus told her everything she had ever done; right, wrong and in-between. Jesus’ words were not of condemnation, but also not of acceptance. It was clear that what had been done in opposition to the will of God was wrong, and needed to be made right. But this difficult conversation gave way to healing--redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.
When the disciples arrived back with lunch, the woman retrieved her jar and went on her way back home. Once she arrived there, she wasted no time in telling everyone about her life-changing experience with the Messiah they had all waited and hoped for for so long. “He told me every detail about my life, everything that I ever did,” the woman exclaimed in the relief her new-found freedom afforded her. “He wants to meet you all and speak to you as well! Come with me,” she eagerly persuaded.
When the Samaritans arrived to see Jesus, he spoke to them with the same authority and power he had spoken to the woman earlier at the well. Because of his many words to them, and his ability to know every minute detail about their lives, many more became believers in the two days that Jesus spent with them.
One of the elders of the town approached the Samaritan woman, and with a giddiness that only the joy of salvation can provide, he exclaimed to her, “We believe! We believe! And we no longer believe just because of what you said to us, but we have heard with our own ears the testimony of this man. We now know, without the shadow of a doubt, that he truly is the Savior of the world!”
(John 4:1-42, dramatized by Jeremy Heitkam)
The incredible truth of Jesus’ meeting with a Samaritan woman at the well is this: Jesus offers living water.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s also just about the point where the story becomes, well, almost unbelieveable. I mean, what exactly is living water? Where does it come from and how can Jesus provide it? Or...maybe you’re stuck back a little further in the process, wondering, why do I even need it?
Three thoughts about the living water that Jesus offers:
- It isn’t water at all, but rather life. The woman came to the well seeking a bucket full of what we commonly call “water.” Anyone who has taken a science class at some point in their life, probably knows that water is nothing more than two atoms of hydrogen mixed with one atom of oxygen, which provides us with the “liquid” form of water. That’s all she wanted. That’s all she expected. What she left the well with was something so much more. Jesus offered her living water. She came for water and left instead with life. Eternal life, to be exact. He spoke words of healing and forgiveness to her. His words exchanged an earthly life full of mistakes, messed up relationships, immorality and mixed up priorities, for eternal life full of joy, peace, hope, and, most importantly, worship and praise for the one who gives us this life in the first place.
- It’s cleansing water. When I was a little kid we had a dog for which we built a kennel outside our home. Her name was Lady, I think. I happened to be playing near the kennel one summer afternoon and somehow, or another, I got one of the links of her chain stuck in my finger. If I remember right, I went running into the house, probably screaming bloody murder, seeking medical attention from the best nurse I knew at the time--my mom. She carefully removed the chain link from my finger and proceeded to bring my finger over the sink to wash it out with peroxide. Now, somehow I had it in my head that this little brown bottle from the pharmacy contained “special water.” …Hmmmm….yeah. Special water, indeed! “Yeeeeouch,” I cried as the peroxide sizzled away at my open wound. The “special water” has miraculous properties. It washed away the dirt, but it also began the healing process. This, is living water. Jesus offered this water to the woman who had been torn apart by a lifetime of failed marriages and indiscretions. Would this water hurt? Eh, it will probably sting a little...but sometimes we have to suffer a little pain in order to help the healing begin.
- It's water that enables us to worship and believe. Jesus told the woman at the well about a time that was coming when TRUE worshippers would worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth. True worship is lead by the Holy Spirit, not the guy with the guitar or the praise team up front. Those who desire to worship God must worship him as the Spirit leads, and in the truth of the Gospel. Otherwise, you might as well stay home and watch re-runs of the Hour of Power.
Notice what happened to the Samaritan woman, and the others she runs to share her story with.
“...because of his (Jesus’) words many more became believers. ...now we have heard for ourselves, and now we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:41-42)
That’s real belief. That’s real worship. We know that this man is the Savior of the World. Fatih that naturally leads to worship, made possible only by the cleansing, life-giving, living water of Jesus Christ.
The Samaritan woman is given three incredible gifts by Jesus, I call them the three “r’s” of the Christian faith: redemption, reconciliation and restoration. Jesus redeemed her life from the tragic path that had become natural to her. He reconciled her with his gift of living water. He heard her confession of sin (vs.17) and he spoke forgiveness to her (vs.26, 34).
Scripture doesn’t tell us whether or not Jesus restored her. I believe the contextual clues lead us to assume that he did. He taught her how to worship (in the spirit and in truth) and he used her witness to bring many other sinners to faith. If that isn’t context enough for you, then I guess we’ll just have to wait until we get to glory to find out for sure. But be assured of this, brothers and sisters, living water isn’t magic H2O. Living water is real, powerful and strong. And it's intended to give life, cleanse your soul, and enable you to worship and believe. In other words, it is water that redeems, reconciles and restores.
Fill my cup, Lord; I lift it up, Lord; Come and quench this thirsting of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!
Blessings, Brothers and Sisters!