23: Living water
Jesus sat by Jacob's well near the Samaritan town of Sychar. He was thirsty. He could see a woman walking down the road. She was coming toward the well, carrying a water jar on her head.No, she would not give Him any water. Instead she asked Him, almost frightened, "How is it that You, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink?"
The woman walked past Jesus without greeting Him. She had a small pail attached to a rope. She lowered the pail into the well and used it to fill her jar with water.
She looked at Jesus curiously out of the corner of her eye. Although she could see that He was tired and thirsty, she was going to go home without saying a word to Him.
Suddenly she heard Him saying to her in a friendly voice, "Give Me some water to drink."
She looked at the stranger in amazement. Was she hearing things? The man was a Jew, yet He had spoken to her in a friendly way. A Jew never accepted a drink from an impure vessel belonging to a Samaritan!
Jesus answered, "If you knew who just asked you for water to drink, you would have asked Him for water, and He would have given you living water."
Living water? The woman didn't understand what Jesus was talking about. The warmth in the stranger's eyes melted her hatred and distrust. No, she did not know who He was, but the friendliness and earnestness of His words made her respect Him deeply.
"Sir," the woman said politely, "You have no pail to draw water, and the well is deep. How, then, could You give me living water? Or do You perhaps mean some other kind of water? Is this water, which even our father Jacob, his sons and his flocks drank, not good enough?"
Jesus responded with some wonderful words, "Anyone who drinks of this water will thirst again. But whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst again."
That was puzzling language. The woman did not know that Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who could quench the thirst of her heart forever. The Spirit can make people happy forever, so that they never desire anything else. All she knew was that that living water must be something very special, something glorious.
She did not quite know what to make of the stranger's words. She laughed as she thought how easy life would be if she had some of that wonderful water. She said, "Sir, give me some of that water, so that I never have to come to this well again and draw water."
Jesus was willing to do so. Although she really knew little of that living water, He was willing to give her some. First she would have to recognize her sins and repent of them. Only then could the Spirit of God come into her heart. Therefore Jesus said to her, "Go home and summon your husband."
The woman acted embarrassed. "I have no husband," she said.
Jesus replied earnestly, "You are right when you say you have no husband. You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. In this you have spoken the truth."
The woman turned pale with fright. She felt the eyes of Jesus penetrating the depths of her soul, and she trembled with shame. She knew what a wicked life she had led. Her life was one long story of sin and faithlessness. She was very unhappy and had wanted to change. In her soul was a burning thirst for purity and true joy. She had prayed to God at the ruins of the temple on Mount Gerizim, but it had done no good. It seemed that God simply did not hear her.
Did this amazing man she was talking to know that? He seemed to know everything else about her life. He must be a great prophet, a servant of God!
"Sir," she said, "I see that You are a prophet. Our fathers always prayed on this mountain, but you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where people must pray . . . ."
Jesus told her that the Father in heaven always listens to prayer, no matter where it comes from—as long as it is true prayer arising from an upright heart. She should tell her sins to God and hide nothing from Him. If she would only do that, she would learn that God wanted to love her and had already been waiting for her for a long time.
The woman looked at Jesus in awe. She had never heard anyone talk about God so beautifully. A thought suddenly occurred to her, a thought that made her so happy she trembled. Could this man, who knew all about God and all about people, possibly be the Messiah?
She did not dare ask Him directly. Her heart was pounding. Cautiously she said, "I know that the Messiah is coming, who is called the Christ. When He comes, He will explain everything to us." She waited.
Jesus removed the last of her doubts as He said to her, "I am the one of whom you speak."
The joy and surprise were almost too great for her. The Messiah had come, and He had spoken with her! Now there would surely be much better times ahead.
She turned around and hurried away, leaving her water jar behind. She passed the disciples, who were on their way back from the town, where they had bought food.
When she reached the town, she cried out to the people about the good news: "Come with me and see the man who told me everything I ever did. He must be the Christ!"