This is the second in a four-part series on Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the well.
Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was making more disciples and baptizing more than John (although Jesus’ disciples were baptizing, not Jesus himself). Therefore, he left Judea and went back to Galilee. Jesus had to go through Samaria. He came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, which was near the land Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus was tired from his journey, so he sat down at the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” His disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.
The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.)
Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!” – John 4:1-15 (CEB)
I find it interesting that the Samaritan woman’s challenge is whether Jesus is greater than Jacob or not. She seems to gloss over God’s gift who is speaking to her and what living water might possibly be. Instead, she focuses on how Jesus is (or is not) going to fetch it from this well or any other. I wonder why this is.
The woman isn’t stupid. We can see this in her historical knowledge, which will continue to be on display in this passage. We will also learn that she knows how to survive in a world where the odds are never in her favor. But survival is not the same as hope.
Some scholars believe the woman is stubborn an unbelieving when she understands Jesus literally. Maybe.
But maybe this woman knows there is no such thing as a free gift. There is no such thing as some “living water” – at least not for her. Maybe she is deflecting from the impossible things Jesus is saying because experience has told her that the impossible is just that – impossible.
My heart aches at that.
This woman has no expectation that her needs will be met. She labors every day to fill a bucket with water that will never satisfy her true thirst. No expectation it will cleanse her from whatever dishonor is upon her. So, yeah, maybe it is easier to pick a fight with this stranger than allow herself to hope.
Jesus has painted a picture of what the Samaritan woman longs for in her deepest self. He describes a spring of water that never dries up. Water that satisfies not just our bodies but our thirsting souls. Water we don’t just drink but that gushes and leaps within us. Water that is not just life but eternal life. The woman longs to have the thirst of hopelessness satisfied. She wants hope to gush and leap within her pushing away the stagnant water of failure, loneliness, and dishonor.
The living water Jesus offers us is not a magic tonic that solves all our problems or makes the world go away. It is God’s gift of faith and hope that sustains us. It is the calm stream that provides peace in the midst of the storm. It is the crashing waterfall that moves us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly. It is a gushing, leaping spring of cold, sweet water that renews our inner nature everyday reminding us that Christ lives within us.
We know the Samaritan woman is going to have to return to the well for actual water. What Jesus offers her is the opportunity for it to be nothing more than that.Jesus' Living Water isn't a magic tonic that solves all our problems. It is God’s gift of faith and hope: a sustaining, gushing, leaping spring of cold sweet water, renewing our inner nature everyday reminding us Christ lives within… Click To Tweet
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Come to the Table: Communion Liturgies of Invitation to Celebrate and Experience the Love of God is a collection of communion liturgies inviting worshippers to experience and respond to the Gospel.