By John Fitzsimmons
Bible Reading: John 4:4-26
The chances are the woman in this story knew the location of every water source in the area. So when Jesus said what he said she probably didn’t take him seriously. She most likely thought he was being funny. All she sees in Jesus is a weary Jewish traveller, and after all, why would Jesus ask her for a drink if he had his own water supply?
Jesus is offering her living water. Living water refers to water that flows, moving water as opposed to still water that could be found in a cistern, a still well, or a pond. Living water was precious and valued and was the only water that could be used in ritual washings to purify unclean worshipers. However, the living water Jesus is talking about has the potential to quench her deepest thirst, satisfy her deepest longing, meet her deepest needs and make her clean before God, but she doesn’t understand, she thinks Jesus is just being humorous.
All she can say is “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” This reminds me of Nicodemus in the previous chapter when Jesus tells him “You must be born again”. All Nicodemus could think is ‘I’m too big to crawl inside my mother’s womb and be born again.’ Both Nicodemus and this woman are a picture of us! We don’t get it until God opens our spiritual eyes.
But there is another reason this woman didn’t understand what Jesus was referring to. She didn’t have the verses in her Bible! She didn’t know the truth that would help her understand what Jesus was talking about. Being a Samaritan her Bible would have consisted only of the first five books of the Bible. This reminds us of the importance of accepting all of God’s Word. There are many Scriptures this woman wouldn’t have known about like Zechariah 14:8 and Ezekiel 47:9 which talk of living water flowing out of Jerusalem. These passages tell us of the grace and knowledge of God and of the life transforming power of the Holy Spirit. In Isaiah 1:16-18 water also speaks of cleansing. John picks up on all of these uses of water or living water in his gospel.
Also she wouldn’t have known Jeremiah 2:14; “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” This verse speaks of God’s people rejecting the fresh, running, unending supply of God’s grace and goodness and instead trying to find satisfaction apart from him just like the girl in the drama.
Many of us make the same mistake we try to find satisfaction and happiness in other things apart from God. In relationships, achievements, possessions, eventful social lives… These things can’t satisfy our deepest thirst & some of them leave us in a worse condition & only increase brokenness, shame, dissatisfaction... We all need Jesus more than we know! He is the only one who can satisfy, cleanse and fill us with the transforming reality of His Holy Spirit!
In verse 12 the woman asks Jesus; “Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus says to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Here are three interesting things about Jacobs well. Firstly there was a seat for weary travellers beside the well. Secondly it was fed by an underground stream. And thirdly the well is still producing water today! Today the well lies within the complex of an Eastern Orthodox monastery in the in the West Bank. For thousands of years this well that Jacob dug and that Jesus sat at has been producing fresh water satisfying people’s thirst.
This woman asks Jesus; “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” Of course the answer YES… In Christ there is a place of rest where you can lay you’re weary and restless soul. In Christ there is a never failing stream of living water that springs from the endless love and unlimited resources of an immeasurable God! This woman thought Jacobs well was deep, but the well of Jesus is bottomless, overflowing & eternally fresh…
One day, as impressive as it is, Jacobs well will fail, but there is a well that flows forever! It is a well of living water that can satisfy for all eternity! You cannot get this living water from anyone else but Jesus. He alone is the source! There is no lasting heart-satisfaction in this world, only in Christ. Jesus alone can fill up the empty places in our inner most being. Jesus alone can give lasting and eternal joy. Jesus alone can wash us and make us clean before God. Jesus alone can fill us to overflowing with the Holy Spirit... What He gives is a stream of living water, once you believe in Him he sets it flowing into your life, and it flows for all eternity.
The woman in this story didn’t understand what she was being offered, nor did she understand who Jesus was. In V15 the woman asks; “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” She was still thinking in the natural. Thinking about making her life easier by not having to journey to the well everyday… Jesus was talking about satisfying the deepest longing of her heart. So he does not give up.
Out of the blue in V16-18 “Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” Jesus takes the conversation to a deeper level.
He has offered her living water but she doesn’t understand what he is talking about. So what does Jesus do? He goes into the murky depths of her private life and brings up her sin! Jesus knows her past and he also knows her present but he still loves her. Nothing is hidden from Jesus. He sees everything. His eyes search the very depths of our souls, just like they did this woman’s, and they bring things up that make us uncomfortable. Sins which have taken root. Issues we’ve buried. Things we’ve avoided dealing with. Things we’ve done & things that have been done on us. Jesus will not stay on the surface of our lives! He will dive deep into our lives & put his finger on things we didn’t even know where there or things we’ve forgotten. He will make us face up to ourselves & our issues.
Jesus will not stay on the surface of things. He shines his light into our hearts, into the darkest places of our lives. As John has already said in chapter 1:9 of this gospel; Jesus is “the true light, which enlightens everyone”… I admire this woman! Even though Jesus brings up her issue, her sin in her case, she still remains in The Light! She continues to speak with Jesus. She does not run back into the darkness, she stays in The Light.
This is exactly the point when many back off or walk away from Jesus, when he shines his torch into the dark areas and exposes what they try to hide. It is too uncomfortable, too convicting, and too real. We all do it at times & at some level. Jesus shines his light on our issue and we scamper back into the darkness, because it’s too painful to contemplate… We would rather talk about what is wrong with the government, or work, or church, or even the weather, than what is wrong with us…
But can I encourage you? STAY IN THE LIGHT! Don’t run back into the darkness. I know it is uncomfortable, but understand this; when Jesus shines his light on your issue it is not to condemn you, but to free you from sin and condemnation! John 3:17 says; “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” When Jesus puts his finger on your sin, or your issue, it is because he wants to help you. In this gospel of John Jesus is not only revealed as ‘The Well’ and ‘The Light’ but he is also revealed as ‘The Lamb’! John 1:36 declares; “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” When Jesus plunges into the depths of your life and reveals your sin it is ultimately so he can take your sins away, as far as the east is from the west! And with it he takes all the shame, all the guilt and all the condemnation.
This woman’s life was filled with these things. The reason she came to the well at 12oclock in the day (which was the hottest part of the day) was because she wanted to avoid the other women… As well as going to the well to draw water many woman would use this time to catch up on the latest gossip. She could not bear the shame of being the subject of their gossip. That’s likely why she said (even though it was probably with a hint of sarcasm) “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here and draw water.”
In her mind if what Jesus said was true, if he could give her such water then she would not have to leave her house everyday and face all the shame and condemning looks. This was appealing to her. However Jesus wanted to do more than that! He had a better plan. He wanted to cleanse her of all the sin, shame, guilt, and condemnation altogether and give her a new start!
It’s interesting to note that when the woman changes the subject to worship in verse 20 Jesus never brings the conversation back to the issue of her sin! He doesn’t go anywhere with it. He doesn’t see the need to bring it up again. Why? Because he didn’t bring it up to condemn her, he brought it up to identify the thirst she doesn’t even know she has. Jesus has moved into this woman’s inner life. He has used the prophetic key to let himself in. The living water he has offered her, it is not water you drink with your mouth. It is water you drink with your heart! This woman has a thirsty heart. No woman goes through sexual relationships with six men without either starting desperately thirsty or ending desperately thirsty.
The reason Jesus brought up this woman’s history of failed relationships is to show her that her heart was desperately thirsty. To show her there was a deeper issue. Perhaps she thought she could find happiness & satisfaction by finding Mr Right. But it didn’t work out that way. Even if she had have found Mr Right he would still not have satisfied her thirst. No one will ever find all they need in another human being. We should never place that expectation on anyone. If we do we will live our whole lives disappointed and frustrated and we’ll lay too heavy a burden on others. Other people can never be for us what we need most…
This woman moved from relationship to relationship to try and satisfy her thirst, but maybe for you it’s something else. Maybe you move through friends, jobs, careers, hobbies, or even churches... trying to find meaning or fulfillment… Let me tell you that you will not find it in any of the above. They may satisfy for a time but they will not quench your deepest thirst…
All of us need to drink continually of this living water Christ is offering. When we do we no longer need to wander from here to there looking for something to satisfy us, something to complete us, something to give us meaning, identity and happiness. When we have drunk of this water Jesus offers we don’t need to look anymore, we have found what we’ve been looking for in him. It’s all found in him. All our deepest longings are met in him. No one or nothing else can complete us, satisfy us or give us what we truly crave. We were created to find ultimate and lasting satisfaction in Christ alone. He is the only one who will not disappoint!
When Jesus told this woman “Go call your husband” he knew exactly what he was doing. He was identifying her deepest thirst. He was getting her to ready to receive what she needed most – living water! He was able to look beyond her sinful past & present because he was going to the cross to die in her place to pay the price for her sin so he could have her heart.
The lady in the story is not unlike the girl in the drama. She lost connection with Jesus by trying to find what only he can give in other things. Then when she came to the end of herself Jesus stepped into her mess & saved her. He wants to step into your mess & reveal himself as your Messiah…