Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. ) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” – John 4:4-15
This passage is infused with water and references to water. The well described as “Jacob’s well” is not mentioned elsewhere in the bible, although there are many wells described in the old testament. The only reference I could find that associates Jacob and a well was in Deuteronomy 6:10-12. This passage describes the promised land and “wells they did not dig“. It was actually talking about God’s provision for the people of Israel in the Promised Land and how this provision should not make the Isrealites proud and forgetful of their true water source.
Jesus is tired and probably thirsty and He stops by the well in need of water. Apparently the disciples have gone into town to get food. I am not sure why they did not all stop for water first. It was around noon, likely with a blazing sun shining down from above. Jesus is at a place where God has been providing life-giving water ever since the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River into the promised land. They have struggled to remember who their water source really is and what they should do when they are thirsty.
The Samarian woman is fetching water for her family when she encounters this lone Jewish man by the well. I am not sure why Jesus did not get water on His own, perhaps there was no bucket to lower into the well. It would make some sense that people would bring their own buckets to lower into the well to control access and prevent contamination. For whatever reason Jesus asks the woman for a drink from the water she is drawing from the well. The woman is surprised because Jewish people do not talk or hang out with Samaritans.
In order to contextualize the magnitude of this social and spiritual shift it might help to think of an analogous act today. It would be a bit like a rich person in a business suit showing up alone at a homeless encampment under a bridge somewhere to ask for a drink. This is an imperfect analogy, but it does give one an idea of the magnitude of this meeting and interaction.
The woman asks Jesus “How can you ask me for a drink?” She is completely confused by this cultural clash and the conversation she is having. Jesus looks into her soul and responds “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” This woman is confused about the living water that Jesus is talking about just like Nicodemus was confused about being born of water.
She is viewing this event from a purely earthly perspective and understanding, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?” This part of the passage answer my earlier question about why Jesus did not get the water Himself, he had nothing to draw the water with from the deep well.
Jesus’ answer to her is drawn from deep water indeed: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus is providing a window between the worlds of the secular and spiritual for the Samaritan woman – a person that most Jewish people would not event talk to let alone invite into eternal life. There are several aspects of this response that are interesting so let’s pull apart the sentence and see where it leads.
The first part is focused on physical and spiritual thirst. The physical water from the well satisfies a physical need for water but does nothing for our spiritual needs. There is a sense that the our spiritual need for Living Water should make us feel just as thirsty as our physical need for water. I confess that this is not a common occurrence for me. When was the last time I felt spiritually thirsty? I think this is because we often replace our water supply with secular sources. This blog is actually an effort on my part to pay more attention to the spiritual hidden wells all around me.
The second part of Jesus’ statement is even more profound. He says “the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This is an amazing statement. If we choose to partake of the spiritual living water that Jesus freely offers to all then we will have eternal life. I do not think this living water is a magic elixir that can repair our cells and make us live forever. Jesus is talking about a regular consumption of this spring of Living Water that results in our arrival at the undiscovered country – eternal life.
The woman responds with what appears to be partial understanding “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” She is unable to make sense of this spiritual squall she has just experienced. The rest of this story in the subsequent chapters (16-26) is that Jesus looks into her soul and helps her to understand how her choices are linked to her ability to receive the living water He is offering. This is true of all of us. We must all choose daily to seek out the living water that Jesus is offering this woman if we are to satisfy our spiritual thirst.
Prayer: God help us to accept the living water You offer to all those who are thirsty.