Today’s message from John’s gospel illustrates Jesus’ boldness in speaking with a Samaritan woman. The context of this was Jesus’ visit to Sychar, a town north in Samaria. Tired from his journey, Jesus sat next to a well and spoke with the Samaritan woman who had come to obtain water.
To fully appreciate this situation you have to understand the in general, Jews hated Samaritans. The animosity goes all the way back to when the Assyrians invaded Israel in about 721 B.C. The result of the invasion was that the local Jewish inhabitants had intermarried with the invaders and, according to popular opinion, polluted the bloodline and compromised their status as God’s chosen, holy and separate people.
The second unusual thing about Jesus’ situation with the Samaritan woman was his presence, alone, with a woman not related to him. Jesus’ speaking with that woman under these circumstances violated etiquette and social norms. But no matter. Jesus had a plan and what he said to that Samaritan woman revealed a spiritual truth we still cherish today.
So, what did Jesus say that was so important? Jesus initiated conversation by asking the Samaritan woman for a drink. The woman was astonished, but the situation gave opportunity for Jesus to expand her thinking. Jesus said to the woman that if she truly knew what to ask for, she would have asked him for living water.
Asked what he meant about the living water, Jesus responded by saying that what he offered was more than literal water. Jesus spoke metaphorically of spiritual water, the type that will relieve a spiritual thirst. After some initial hesitation, the Samaritan woman understood the metaphor of living water. She proclaimed Jesus a prophet and went to tell other Samaritans about her wonderful encounter with Jesus.
Have you had the spiritual, living water Jesus spoke about? Have you had a spiritual thirst that only your faith in God could satisfy? Part of the difficulty is that we live in two worlds, a literal, material world and a virtual, spiritual world. We know what to do when we are physically thirsty because we reach for a glass of water. But often we overlook our spiritual side, and we thirst without knowing what to do or where to go. In this sad state we can feel joyless and profoundly unfulfilled. God doesn’t want this because we deserve more.
We can achieve the utmost out of life but we must nurture our faith. We might not even recognize at first that we have spiritual thirst. But we do thirst, and unless we come to the source—God—we will be looking in all the wrong places and getting hooked on something that is ultimately less helpful. Solving the problem involves asking God for the water of life. When we develop our faith we realize that we are on a journey, and that the chief provision for our life is the water of life that provides our spiritual sustenance.
My encouragement is to recognize our thirst and then come to God to receive the living water. I pray that we will quench our spiritual thirst by coming to God’s well of life and drinking from the waters therein. Sure, our physical bodies will become thirsty again and again. But the good news is that when we consume God’s life-giving waters, we satisfy a need that will sustain our journey indefinitely. Drink it up!