My Journey through John’s Gospel- Day 4


Day 4: John 4:1-42 “Finally Quenching My Soul Thirst”

It was the heat of day in Samaria, located in what is now central Israel. Depending on the time of the year, it could have been upwards of 90-degrees F. In any case, it was rugged land, and when Jesus and his disciples arrived in Sychar in Samaria, he was worn out. Resting at Jacob’s well at noontime, the last thing one would have expected to see was someone coming to draw water. That was hard work reserved for the cooler early morning or late evening hours.

Something was odd about a Samaritan woman coming by herself to the well. Surely she didn’t expect to find anyone there, least of all a Jewish man. It was equally odd to find someone like Jesus there. John even points out the obvious: “For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) That was an understatement. It was every bit of a long history of mutual resentment and exclusion between these two peoples.

So when Jesus asks this Samaritan woman for a drink from the well, her incredulity-laced response was well put. [Paraphrasing a bit] “How on earth can you ask me for water? Don’t you know who I am– who you are??”

Then Jesus gives an invitation she could have never expected. He offers living water. That’s an image surely even a Samaritan would have gotten. Living water was a well known image for God’s gift of life, healing, and salvation. (See Isaiah 44:3 and Jeremiah 2:13) But I think the shock of what Jesus said and her own defensive animosity got in the way. Jesus doesn’t have anything with which to get water. What is he saying– that he’s greater than the patriarch Jacob who gave them this well?

But Jesus persists. Water from even the best of wells will leave people thirsty again. But the water he gives will be more than a cup of water. It’s a real spring of water that makes a well of eternal life, he says.

I remember once drinking fresh water from a spring. It was on the downside of Mt. Baldy in New Mexico while on a Boy Scout backpacking trip. We had just climbed with full packs thousands of feet to the top of the mountain, and equally as difficult, went down the other side with tired legs. At the bottom was a fresh water spring. To this day, I have never had water more clear, fresh, and naturally cold than that. That more than quenched my thirst.

Then we learn about some scandal concerning this Samaritan woman. She had been married 5 times before and was now with a man who was not her husband. Jesus revealed that. Somehow he knew, and it explained why this woman, obviously the loose woman in town, used and thrown away, came to the well by herself to get water alone.

Alone… unloved. I have felt that way so many times. It’s even worse to feel that way surrounded by other people. Nothing I know of makes me feel more alive than to know that I am loved and embraced for who I am, not just what others want me to be, project onto me, or want from me.

This Samaritan woman had tried and failed so many times to be that alive. Six men later, and she’s still at the well by herself to be unnoticed at the heat of the day. She was thirsty. Oh how thirsty she was.

*******

Why is it hard to pray? Why is it hard to worship? Why can I go so long and realize that during that whole time, I’ve neglected to pray? How can I go through the motions of worship for so long only to realize that it was only words? I know I’m not the only one who could admit this. How is that possible?

Answer: It’s because we’re not sure of who’s on the receiving end of a prayer or a praise. If we were, we’d be all about it! If one of my favorite musicians was in the same room, it would be hard to not strike up a conversation, ask a bunch of questions, and tell him how much his music means to me. (Prayer and worship?) I know who this is and their value.

But God… Yes, God is infinitely huge and God’s ways and thoughts are beyond our full comprehension. We understand as much of God as an ant does of a giant oak tree. But probably the most mysterious, fearful thing of all is what this God thinks of me. Does God want to bother with me anymore? Does God like what he sees? Does God really have my best in mind? How well does God tolerate all those doubts and quibbles I have?

Living water is not mere religion. The living water Jesus mentioned is himself. It’s God. It’s the gift, as he goes on to explain, of being a beloved worshiper not bound by any human cultural or religious categories. Jesus demonstrates that in his willingness to be in the “despised” land of Samaria, patiently engaging and accepting of this Samaritan woman. Then Jesus was welcomed by the other Samaritan town folk and stayed with them for two days. That kind of fellowship and hospitality was completely unheard of in that day. That’s the refreshing power of living water.

These Samaritans embraced Jesus as Savior because of what he taught and because he demonstrated what he taught by being with them as their Savior. Oh God, let this truth sink into me even more.

I am so thankful that living water is not a religious formula, a program, or a book. It’s not dogma or ritual or rules. Sure, I have found I have drank in living water from the sacraments, from the company of other believers, and from the traditions of the church. But living water is not confined to these things– not at all. Living water is the embracing, transforming presence of God in Jesus Christ in my heart.  Drinking the water is simply my opening up to receive Jesus again and again. Anything that communicates and affirms his love, truth, and way can indeed quench my deepest thirst for love, for meaning, for joy.

Now… to not settle myself on “water” that still leaves me thirsty. It greatly comforts me to know that even then, Jesus is there at those wells to offer something much, much more. He offers me– Christopher David Owens– himself. I am truly never alone or abandoned to myself!

Jesus, Living Water, continue to teach me what it means to take in the life you provide. Continue to show me how through simple worship of prayer, praise, listening, seeking, questioning, you quench my deepest thirst, welling within me life that has no end– life for today and into the ages to come. That is enough for me.

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4 Comments

Filed under Reflections

4 responses to “My Journey through John’s Gospel- Day 4

  1. This was awesome. I’ve always loved the phrase “living water.” It is so descriptive & brings to mind so many images. And desires & longings. And another GC…I am actually in the middle of writing a post about God’s Spirit that references living water. :)

  2. thecrediblehulk

    Alone… unloved. I have felt that way so many times. It’s even worse to feel that way surrounded by other people.

    Having suffered from depression since my early 20’s, I understand as well what it is like to be alone in the midst of others, to feel isolated. I have always thought myself fortunate however, that unlike the Samaritan woman I have been surrounded all my life by people who love me – even when I cannot recognize that love, or feel it. My mother, my step-father, my friends, my lovers, my beloved Sophie – they have all been willing to take on the burdens that come with knowing me, accept them, and fight the darkness on my behalf, sometimes for years at a time, when I was too weak to do so.

    The love of Jesus for the forsaken, for the damaged, for the impoverished, for the broken and the rejected of society, is what demonstrates his greatness, his majesty. It is what gives power and glory not simply to his sacrifice, but to his life and teachings as well.

    Living water is not mere religion. The living water Jesus mentioned is himself. It’s God. It’s the gift, as he goes on to explain, of being a beloved worshiper not bound by any human cultural or religious categories. Jesus demonstrates that in his willingness to be in the “despised” land of Samaria, patiently engaging and accepting of this Samaritan woman. Then Jesus was welcomed by the other Samaritan town folk and stayed with them for two days. That kind of fellowship and hospitality was completely unheard of in that day. That’s the refreshing power of living water.

    Absolutely right. I think sometimes in its determination to drive home the idea that we are saved by faith alone, the Church (and I mean that in the broadest possible sense) downplays, or at its worst neglects, the lessons that Jesus taught during his life. If all that were important about Jesus was his crucifixion and resurrection, the gospels would be much shorter and the New Testament could probably fit in tract format.

    For myself, I don’t care much about Christ’s death and resurrection (I know that makes me rather a minority here). But I care deeply about the message and teachings of the living Jesus. They are beautiful things.

    As for prayer & worship, and why it is difficult – I think that is because it is a different type of communication. I have never believed that God needs anything from us – not our worship, not our love, not our praise. God is not temporal – He knows the beginning, he knows the ending, and He knows everything in-between. In the end then, it seems to me that prayer and worship are mostly about giving, and that it what God wants from us – to give. To ourselves over to God’s will. To give ourselves to those in need. To give kindness to one another. To give ourselves like clay to a mold, to be made in God’s image in thought, word, and deed – knowing the frightening truth that no matter how we try, we will be but poor copies, but having enough love for God and each other to dare anyway.

    • thecrediblehulk

      Razzin frazzin WordPress eliminated all my formatting! Oh welll, I trust you will recognize where your writings are quoted.

  3. Thank you for your honest and worshipful response to this story of the woman at the well. I am also journeying through John and at the same time getting some lessons ready to teach on the women of the gospels.

    This is one of my favorite stories. Jesus, though tired and thirsty, is purposeful in his conversation with this woman. I wonder how many of these opportunities I completely miss in my busy day to day life. I fail to see the foreigner, the sinner, the one I assume has no interest in the gospel. I fail to start a conversation or to bring to bear the most important of all topics – the living water. I pray that I will grow to be more like Jesus in my interaction with others. And, like you, to drink deeply of this living water every day.

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