Tuesday, March 6, 2012


For at least a week I have been wrestling with the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 and exactly what it means to me. Like really struggling. I think I rewrote my blog 3 times. It was quite the frustrating experience. But it was good for me to really seek the truth out of this story. I have heard the story before. Jesus meets the woman at the well, asks her for a drink, and then teaches her that ‘living water’ will be the only thing to ever satisfy her thirst. It seems so simple. But for some reason, I couldn’t get a grasp on what it really meant in my life.

At first it was easy for me to brush this story off, because it appears that it doesn’t apply to me. It seems kind of irrelevant. First of all, I am not a Samaritan. Second of all, I already know that Jesus Christ is the source of the living water. Third of all, I wouldn’t need convincing like the Samaritan woman, that Jesus is the Messiah. I believe all of those things. We, unlike the Samaritan woman, get the advantage of having a hardbound book of truth, the Bible. She had to have a face-to-face encounter with Jesus to understand the truth of the living water. I think what happens in her encounter with Jesus is something we can probably relate to.

The passage starts off with Jesus meeting the Samarian Woman at the well and asking her for a drink.

 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 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.)

I imagine the woman getting to the well alone, with the burdens of the day on her. Apparently women in that day would all go to the well together to get their water for the day. They used getting water at the well as a social hour. The Samaritan woman appears to be alone. Maybe the other women didn’t invite her. Maybe they do not accept her. And because of this, she’s probably just thinking- let’s get in and get out so I can go do the rest of my chores for the today. On top of it all, there is a stranger at the well, a Jew in fact. Jews and Samaritans never acknowledged each other. They aren’t exactly on a friendly basis. So she wonders why the Jew, who is also a stranger, approaches her and asks her for a drink. She doesn’t know who the stranger is or what he can do. She especially doesn’t know why he’s asking her for a drink.

10 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.”
This stranger, waltzes into the Samaritan’s woman’s well, into her normal routine. Not only does he cross the social boundaries between Samaritans and Jews, now he is saying that if the woman really knew who he was, she would ask HIM for living water. If I were the Samaritan woman, I would be wondering what living water even is. More importantly, I would wonder who this stranger is that claims to have access to living water.

 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 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?”

She now she reacts like any rational, normal person would. She wonders how he is going to provide the living water. The well is deep and he has nothing to get the water out with, so how can He provide living water? And is the strange Jew greater than the owner of the well, Jacob, who gave them the well? How can he provide water from a well that is not his own? 

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.” 15 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.”

Jesus tells her that this living water quenches all thirst eternally. At this point the Samaritan woman has warmed up to the idea of the living water. She realizes that Jesus has something that she wants, but she doesn’t quit understand the magnitude of what he has. She thinks that he has a quick fix to the daily hassle of going to the well to get water. He could offer some sort of magic well that will never make her thirsty. She is probably envisioning herself never having to make a trip to the well again because she will have a “spring of eternal life”. She doesn’t know where the spring will go, how she will explain this spring to her friends, but all she knows that the magical spring will make her life so much easier.

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 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.”
 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

At this point, Jesus breaks into her ordinary life with something very personal. Jesus hits on a sensitive subject with her, to show that he is no stranger, he actually knows her. The fact that Jesus knew her baggage hits home with her. The woman previously had 5 husbands in the past, and now she was currently living with someone who was not her husband. Jesus knew where she came from, what burdened her, what made her weak, what was her biggest struggle in life.

 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
   21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 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. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The personal connection made by mentioning her past of 5 husbands has hit home with the woman. She realizes that he is a prophet.  But Jesus tells her that this is more than just a religious experience from a prophet. The woman had been worshipping “what she did not know,” and a time is coming for her to step up from mere religion into faith of what she does know. The Samaritan woman must worship God in spirit and in truth because that is what God calls of us.

 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

 At this point the woman realizes that she had not been worshipping in spirit and truth (as seen in the sinful life she had been living) and that she was in need of the Messiah.  And she thinks that God will send a Messiah to reveal all truths to her. Jesus lays his claim to fame here, that he is the true Messiah. The identity of the stranger became the image of a Messiah, a savior. He came to meet her at the well to seek a personal relationship with her. He had explained all that he needed. She must worship God in sprit and truth, not looking for religious experiences. He came so that she might have a living, personal relationship with her.

The Samaritan woman completely underestimated the power of the stranger. To many of us, we know that Jesus exists. But he only exists in religious experiences to us. We would never expect Jesus to meet us in our daily circumstances. Yet he does. He meets at our “well.” He meets us in our normal routine. Not only does he meet us, but he knows us. He knows our burdens, our weaknesses, and our struggles. He meets us just as we are. And finally, not only does he meet us knowing exactly where we are in life; he has a solution for our burdens. He offers us living water. He offers us exactly what we need to never be thirsty again. Real satisfaction. Real fulfillment. Real cleansing. He offers us a real relationship with him. But we doubt, just like the Samaritan woman. We wonder how he is going to do it. We many times don’t even give Jesus a chance to provide living water for us. To us the well looks deep and we can’t see God’s “bucket” or plan. So we seek our own ideas of hydration. We seek relationships, self-fulfillment, our own plans. We are afraid to let living water flow through our lives because we lose control of when and how the water flows. The living water cleans our stains of brokenness, hurt, and mistakes so that we can become closer to our perfect creator. Living water allows me to set aside my ideas, and be completely consumed with God’s power and presence in my life. I don’t need a plan of how my life goals will be attained or how my thirst will be satisfied. All I need is living water.

So today I am reminded to look up. To not look deeper into what I am doing (the well), but to lift up my head from whatever my most pressing task is and take a moment to remember the promise that living water flows from above, from Christ alone. It doesn’t come from looking deeper into the well. We, in our limited knowledge think fulfillment has to come from this earth, from the well. I look deep into the well and see my baggage, worries, concerns, struggles, and questions. The living water He provides cleanses me and will never make me thirsty again. It will provide for me. Part of having a relationship with God is based on the absolute assurance that the water he provides will be ALL that I need. I won’t need relationships, I won’t need job security, I won’t need lots of money, lot’s of excitement and fun. All I need to do is to look up so that he can provide all that I need. To rest on the truth that dehydration will only be quenched by living water. Are you thirsty? Don’t look down into the well. Look up.

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