The biblical scholars in their wisdom have tied the Old and New Testament readings together quite well. As the Israelites traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land via the Desert of Sin, they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water to drink, so they got angry with Moses and tested the LORD. A frustrated Moses implored God to help him before the people stoned him. God ordered him to take the same staff he had used to divide the Red Sea and to strike a rock at Horeb to get water for the people to drink–take elders of Israel with you to do this task (to act as witnesses to God’s power). The fact that the Israelites doubted God’s willingness to provide for them, even when they did not deserve it, does not stop God from giving people what they need (justification by grace and providence).
Growing up in the dry, rocky land of Israel, Jesus knew firsthand that water was a precious resource. He must have seen his mother and other women spend hours of their days hauling water for cooking, drinking and cleaning. When he met the Samaritan woman at the well in the hot noonday sun, he knew how hard she had to work to meet the needs of her family. Water is heavy. Remember the old adage, “A pint is a pound the world around?” So, a five gallon bucket of water weighs at least forty pounds, plus the weight of the bucket or water jar. Imagine having to carry water several times a day to meet the needs of a family and often it was at least a mile to the source of potable water. My Grandma had an old EZ washer (there is an oxymoron for you!) and there was nothing easy about washing and rinsing clothes with that machine. My brother and I carried two 2 1/2 gallon buckets in two different trips from the lake (one trip for wash water and another for rinse water) because the well water to the house had excessive tannic acid in it and it would turn the clothes orange. Do you know what a clothesline of orange underwear looks like? If Grandma decided to have an extra rinse (for either white or really dirty work clothes) to insure that the clothes were clean, we had to made a third trip to the lake 600 yards away from the house. We understand how hard it must have been to do laundry for a family without a washing machine and having to walk long distances for the necessary water.
Have you been a bit thirstier than usual this time of year? It is 10+ degrees warmer and the humidity was only 4% yesterday, adding to our thirst. Jesus knew that he needed to overcome his thirst in the heat and asked the woman to give him a drink but male Jews did not talk to women in public and Jews did NOT talk to Samaritans. In spite of the gender and cultural differences, Jesus asks because she can meet his need. Jesus has an “a-ah, relief” moment on the way. Water is necessary for survival and we in Arizona already know that but do we ever think about our spiritual survival and the living water Jesus offers through the Holy Spirit? The Samaritan woman has her “a-ah” moment coming soon.
The narrative never tells us if Jesus gets the cup of cold water he requested but there is something much more important going on. We do not know if this unnamed woman took the time to draw water for Jesus. She does stop what she is doing, because she is amazed that Jesus is speaking to her at all. By merely noticing her, Jesus has opened up a world of new possibilities to a woman weighed down by guilt and shame. Jesus has not come into her life to demand something that he needs. Surely, Jesus was thirsty, but he knows that the woman at the well is carrying a far heavier burden. He wants to give her much more than just a cup of water, he wants to offer her water that will remove her thirst forever.
·Jesus knows who the woman is and can see the painful secrets in her heart.
·Jesus recognizes her thirst for forgiveness and acceptance.
·Jesus offers what she needs even before she knows enough to ask for help.
Unlike Jesus, the woman does not even have to voice her request, “I can give you living water,” he says, “Water that can heal your spirit and ease the pain in your heart.” This water is truly refreshing.
The woman is so consumed with the daily task of hauling heavy buckets of water that she cannot grasp the magnitude of the wondrous gift Jesus is offering. She is eager to end the back-breaking work that defines her life. When Jesus tells her that he has water that will forever cure her thirst, she replies, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (v.15). Jesus is offering to open up all of eternity to her, and she is focused on making fewer trips to the village well.
How often are we ready to settle for less than what God wants to offer us? How often do we hesitate to ask for anything from our generous God who is prepared to let love and blessing and forgiveness flow over us like an ever-flowing stream?
There is no way that the woman could visualize how refreshing this water is. Jesus is not suggesting a better way to do her chore. He is NOT proposing to create a better work environment for her. He is offering to ease the burden of her troubled soul and to release her from the pain of guilt. This woman is living with a past that makes her an outcast in her own village-and she has been married multiple times, and even worse for her day, age and culture, she is now living with a man who is not her husband. She carries a burden of guilt, shame and rejection–a far weightier burden than the water she hauls every day. Jesus does not want to ease the burden of her hands and back, he wants to ease the burden of her heart–to remove the pain of isolation and disgrace. Jesus is offering the gift of God’s life-giving Spirit, water that wells “up to eternal life” to God’s people (v. 14). The Samaritan woman has exactly what Jesus needs in that moment–water–and he has just what she needs, even if she does not realize it: grace, forgiveness and the promise of new life. WOW! How refreshing! Not a bad trade for a cup of water.
In all probability Jesus will be thirsty again after he drinks the water from the woman. His living water will meet a deep need inside her. Even if we do not know for certain that Jesus received water from this woman, we get to “see” Jesus’ transforming love when it is given and received. Jesus tells her that he is the Messiah, the One that they all have been waiting and hoping for .
Jesus tells her that the time has come for true worshipers to worship the Father in spirit and truth, for God seeks such as these to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth” (vv.24-25). Jesus offered this tired, thirsty woman a chance to be transformed. She can be made clean with only one drink of the water he is offering her. The woman has been through a lot in her life and when she finally understands what Jesus is telling her, she rejoices and wants to share this gift of new life and hope with everyone she knows. The sins of the woman’s past are behind her and she takes the “living water” and runs back to her town to tell the good news to others. Every one she approaches, she tells, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done. He cannot be the Messiah, can he? They left the town and were on their way to him” (vv.29-30).
Are we thirsting for someone who knows us as completely as Jesus does and still loves us anyway? Are we looking for forgiveness and a new start? Are we looking for understanding, rest, renewal and peace? Are we willing to acknowledge the mistakes we have made, to cast off the burden of guilt and the weight of regret? Jesus offers us all these and more if we are willing to accept the “Living Water.” I invite you to take a sip of this water and say, “A-ah!”