Water. Roughly seventy percent of the earth is covered in it. About sixty percent of the human body is made of it. You can only survive a few days without it. Water is an essential piece of the earth and without it humans can’t survive.
Could there be anything nearly as important to life as water?
Samaritans. This was a term that applied to the people living in Samaria, a region of Israel. Samaritans were despised by the Jews for two main reasons.
Firstly, they did not follow Judaism in the same manner that the typical Jew did. Though they were devout followers of the first five books of the Old Testament, they rejected the rest of the Old Testament. To further their religious differences they worshipped on a different mountain side. Samaritans worshiped on Mount Gerazim while the Jews worshiped on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
Secondly, the Samaritans were “mixed racially.” During a time in Jewish history in which 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel were taken away by the Assyrians, the Samaritans married into other cultures and took on some of there beliefs and traditions. This made them “half breeds” in the eyes of the Jewish people.
There was a deep hatred that existed between these two people groups. So much so, that when Jews would be traveling from Judea to Galilee (or vice versa) they would cross over the Jordan river and travel many more miles just to avoid passing through the region of Samaria. This historical fact is the first piece of the puzzle that makes the story that we will be breaking down today stand out.
John 4 is where we will find today’s story.
“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.”
We find Jesus at a historical site of some importance. The Samaritans would have taken great pride in the historical significance of this well. The Jews would probably be quite bitter that this piece of their history was in Samaria. This place certainly added fuel to the fire of hatred that existed between the two groups.
Jesus is tired.
This is a good reminder that Jesus was fully man. He finds himself exhausted, so he sits down. This is an entirety human response to being tired.
Remember Jesus is a man.
In this opening passage we see another powerful reminder. John remembers the time of day that this took place, reminding us that the author of the gospel, John, was there and he remembers the details. He remembers the time. This isn’t a wives tale handed down over generations, but a first hand account from a man who was traveling with Jesus.
Remember John was a witness.
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.)
First thing to notice here is that this woman comes to the well in the middle of the day. This is odd. In this culture people came to the well first thing in the morning. They would get water for the day ahead. Every morning there would be a large gathering of women coming to this well and getting water. This clearly made the well a cultural hub, a city square. It’s safe to assume that this particular woman came in the middle of the day to avoid these interactions.
Remember the woman feels shame.
Furthermore, John mentions that the disciples had went to town to get food. So Jesus and this women are quite alone. So what does Jesus do? He asks her for a drink. This is odd. Men didn’t talk to women. Jewish men really didn’t talk to Samaritan women. This clearly blindsides this women. She responds by asking a question herself, she questions how a Jewish man could possibly ask a favor of a Samaritan women. Jesus responds in the next passage.
Remember Jesus and this woman are alone.
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 responds to her question in a very interesting way. He certainly doesn’t give an answer she could have anticipated ,but He gives a poetic answer loaded with meaning.
What does Jesus mean?
Jesus is declaring himself the Messiah to this woman. He is identifying himself as the “gift of God.” He’s saying if you knew who I was you would ask me for a drink and in return I would give you “living water”. Living water is an allusion to himself, Jesus says if you ask, I will be there, I will meet you where you are at. And I will give you life, eternal life.
The women responds to this message by questioning who Jesus is. She asks him if he is greater than Jacob, She is starting to sense that something more special than a request for a drink of water is happening. But she doesn’t know what, so she deflects.
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.”
Here we see a dialogue between Jesus and this woman. Their conversation is quickly taking off and Jesus is prepared to answer her questions. At first we see the women still doesn’t get it. She is still thinking concrete, physical water. She is still worried about a basic need, thirst. little does she realize Jesus is offering up the solution to a need even more elementary, even more essential, Life.
Jesus tells this woman that she will be thirsty again when she drinks from this world, she will need to come back to the well and drink again if she continues to drink it’s water. Her thirst will not be quenched. However, Jesus also tells this woman that there is a source of water that is different. He tells her that he has this water and that if you drink His water, things will be different. The water Jesus is offering is perfect, it is without flaw, it is the ultimate gift. It will quench her thirst.
The women immediately knows she wants that water. She asks for it as soon as Jesus says he has it. But she still doesn’t understand that Jesus isn’t marketing for some new brand of water or a special kind of Gatorade that you only need to drink once. She is still thinking about her basic need of thirst. She hasn’t yet realized that Jesus is trying to fill a need more important than thirst.
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Here the conversation takes a turn. Jesus asks a leading question. Jesus probes into an area of this women’s life where she has another unmet need, a need more important than thirst. A need for Love, a need for acceptance, a need to be made whole. A need that she has been trying to fill with men, and it hasn’t worked. Just as this women walks to the well for water everyday, to quench her thirst, she also walks to a man everyday, in at attempt to have her needs met. And this action plan has failed her time and time again.
Now this women sees that Jesus is no ordinary Jew, she calls him a prophet and then deflects with an unrelated question about geography. She knows where this is headed and she is scared of the direction. She tries to change the subject but now Jesus knows the real need, and is not going to let it go unmet.
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am He.”
The ending of this conversation is clear. Jesus lifts the veil on the water analogy he was using with this women and blatantly declares himself the Messiah. He used her question about geography of worship to say that the time when places of worship doesn’t matter anymore has come. A time when nationally, race, status, wealth, criminal records, and addictions don’t matter. A time when all one must do it reach out and take a drink and the living water will purify, and the living water will flow up into eternal life.
Later on in this story we see that the woman at the well does convert, that she decides to put her needs in the hands of Jesus. She doesn’t stop there though she gets her whole town involved. John says in verse 39 “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.” This women’s decision to change didn’t just impact her, it changed her entire community.
There is a need greater than thirst. The need for life. There is only one solution that can fulfill that need. He is the Highest quality of H2O you can find. He is the Messiah.
There are many needs that we try to meet by going down all kinds of different roads and by trying all kinds of different drinks, but whether your need is thirst, or love, or acceptance, there is one solution, there is one answer, there is one place to go to have your needs met.
Come to the well. The one with living water is there. He will not stop at meeting your needs, He will redefine your needs. Come to the well.