God’s well of living water
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: John 4:4-26
Devotional text: John 7:37-38
In last week’s column, we looked at the importance of wells found in Old Testament scripture. This week, we turn to the New Testament and what Jesus has to say to us about living water and no more thirst.
Before we look at Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, let’s begin with John 7:37-38. During chapters six and seven of John, Jesus had been speaking openly to the people in the temple courts. The religious leaders weren’t happy about it. They especially were angered as the people wondered aloud about who Jesus could be, perhaps a prophet or the Messiah himself.
In the scripture from John 7, Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let them come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within them.”
To better understand these words of Jesus, we turn back to John 4:4-26. While his disciples went into town for food, Jesus remained at the well. As he sat, a Samaritan woman came to the well for water. On seeing the woman, Jesus asked her for a drink.
In those days, Jewish people did not associate with Samaritans. Also, the cultural norm of the time did not allow an unknown male to start a conversation with a female. So, on two accounts, the woman was taken aback when Jesus spoke to her, causing her to ask him why.
Jesus replied, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
Surprised by the words of Jesus, the unnamed woman commented that Jesus had nothing with him from which to draw water from the well, nor a cup to drink it from. Then, looking at him, she questioned Jesus whether he was greater than Jacob himself.
Referring to the well, Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Here, we find Jesus speaking to our souls, to our spiritual needs. The living water he referred to was not mere water from a well that could go dry. The spiritual springs of water from Jesus himself was -— and is — the water that saves us. His well is bottomless and always full. Jesus used the well water as an analogy to represent God’s fountain of life, given through Jesus for our salvation.
The scenario between Jesus and the woman continued with her asking Jesus for the water of eternal life, literally thinking she would never have to return to the Jacob’s Well at all.
From that point, things get even more interesting as Jesus asked her to return to the well with her husband. Replying that she had no husband, Jesus agreed that, yes, she told the truth. Indeed, he told her she had had five husbands, and the man she currently lived with was not married to her.
At these words, the woman’s eyes opened and she knew that Jesus was telling her about her own life. Though still not recognizing him as the Messiah, she was beginning to believe he was a prophet.
Then, she did something interesting; she changed the subject. Jesus had just told her about her failings, though not in a harsh and judgmental way, but as the simple truth; however, she did not want to go there.
Are we any different today? We don’t want people to know our failings either. However, the truth is and always has been that God does know us, through and through, past, present and future.
God also knows that no one is perfect. But guess what? When we turn to Christ as our Savior, we are forgiven. We have a new life in Christ. We have the Holy Spirit within us nudging us to do what is right by following the teachings of Jesus. The Holy Spirit becomes for us God’s “living water.”
In the John 4 scripture, the Samaritan woman changed the subject to that of worship, as she tried to deflect the subject off herself. Do we really think that works with God? When God speaks to us through the Bible, and through the Holy Spirit, it is not with anger and punishment. He speaks to us in love and in forgiveness, with a longing to bring us home to the waters of eternal life.
Let’s look at what Jesus said after getting through the worship question: “Yet, a time is coming, and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
These words of Jesus tell us that where anyone worships is not as important as simply being devoted to worshiping God. In the time to come, the worship of God would not be limited to Jewish believers and temples, but would include all peoples from around the world, whoever they may be as they choose to believe in Jesus.
God as spirit indicates the omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence of our God. God wants us to worship in spirit and in truth. God’s spiritual truth found in the Bible is the truth that emanates from our hearts. It is worship that is true and sincerely given.
Perhaps the Samaritan woman was having trouble taking in all that Jesus said to her.
How would we respond to such a meeting? Because she did not fully understand his words, the woman stated that surely the Messiah would explain all these things when he came.
Jesus replied, “I, who speak to you, am he.”