The Lord loves people, all people. There is no ranking system with God, that some people are better, others not so good. God loved the Jewish people and God loved the Samaritan people. God loved the spiritually minded, ritually clean Jewish disciples, and God loved this mixed-race, mixed-religion people the woman coming towards the well had descended from. God respected her and God honored her.
When do prejudices stand in our way, in these uncomfortable situations?
For the kind of person who lives an outwardly blameless life: how do we act around a person who does not? Do you and I make them feel comfortable around us, or do they sense our disapproval?
For the kind of person who has felt judged by others, rightly or wrongly: how do we act around someone whose judgment we fear? Do we assume they will not like us, or treat us kindly? Do we approach with a chip on our shoulder?
Notice how Jesus reached out to her in such a simple and vulnerable way. He asked her for a drink of water. Though Jesus is God, Jesus is also a man, and he knew what it was to be hot and tired and thirsty, to have physical needs. So, Jesus was simple, humble, and transparent about his lack, and her ability.
There is never a time when one person has all the resources and the other person has all the needs. We need each other, and for those who think they have nothing to offer others, and for those who think they have nothing to gain from others (or at least from certain others), here is the truth Jesus modeled that day: Every human interaction involves something to give and something to gain, on both sides.
What would it be like to see Jesus all alone, waiting for us? The woman walking towards the well did not know who he was, just that he was a young man, and he was clearly Jewish.
She had to have been surprised he was there at all, even more surprised that a Jewish person would talk to her, let alone a Jewish man.
The sun was blazing down on them both, the man was clearly hot and thirsty. I picture her drawing water and pouring him a drink, even as she asked him how he could possibly be willing to drink water from Samaria, from a Samaritan cup, poured from a Samaritan jug, by a Samaritan woman. It was not a secret how Judeans saw Samaritans.
She was unprepared for Jesus’ answer.
If you had perceived the gift of God and who is the one saying to you: ‘Supply a drink for me,’ you would ask it of him and he would have granted to you -living- water.John 4:10
What was Jesus talking about?
Living water in ancient times meant fresh running water which remained healthy and pure, like a fountain bubbling up through the rocks from some artesian depths (as the mouth of the River Dan). Often water stored in cisterns would grow stagnant, so a source of fresh water was especially valued in the desert. Even wells like Jacob’s could potentially go bad or run dry, so a stream was the most valuable of all since it meant there was a continuing source of water no matter how hot and dry the rest of the area got.
“Sire,” she said, intrigued and puzzled, “You do not have a thing to draw with, and the well is deep. . .” Perhaps she let that statement hang in the air between them for a heartbeat. “So,” she said, perhaps looking around him then raising her hands in a questioning manner, and asked, “Where do you have the living water?” (John 1:11)
They both understood this was a fair question.
The prophet Jeremiah had compared God to living water, and rejecting God for earthly sources of satisfaction as being like drinking stagnant water from broken cisterns.
“My people have committed two sins:Jeremiah 2:13 (NRSV)
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
There are other references in the Hebrew Bible that speak to this idea of God being the source of fresh, pure, living water, but none of them are in the first five books of the Bible. It is possible the Samaritan woman would not have been familiar with this concept.
Perhaps she begin to warm to her theme, now feeling defensive about the especially good quality of water Jesus was now drinking, water she had herself drawn for him in the heat of the day, offering him hospitality even across the barrier of hostility that existed between her people and his people.
“You are not greater or mightier than our forebear Jacob, who bestowed the well to us he also himself drank out of, [as well as] his sons and his cattle?” (John 1:12)
Though she had kept speaking on the earthly plane, about fresh, bubbling water, her question touched on more. She was on the fold of a new dimension, the possibility only faint, but the implication profound. Reaching across that fold, she opened the way for revelation.
Jesus, discerning her inner being, continued in the spiritual plane.
“All who drink from this water will be thirsty again.” Jesus must have lifted up the cup she had given him, took a drink, then set it down on the well, its source. (John 4:13)
“But, everyone who drinks from the water of which I Myself will bestow to them,” and here I see Jesus lifting up the hand that once had held his cup and now placing it at his chest, “This one,” Jesus then lifting his other hand to reach out to the woman, indicating she was the ‘one‘ he meant, “Will not be thirsty into eternity.” Perhaps Jesus let -that- statement hang between them for a heartbeat.
“But rather,” He might have then said with notes of excitement and promise, “The water that I give to them will become in them a fountain of water springing up into eternal life.” (John 4:14)
There was no missing the metaphor. “Living water” was something Jesus bestowed that would spiritually enliven the person receiving it and living it out.
The spring of living water would be inside her, and she would have a fresh source of life-giving water day and night for all eternity.
You and I know Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of God was certainly familiar to the Samaritan woman, though in her scriptures, God bestowed the Spirit only upon those who had been called to a special work for the Lord.
The fold was beginning to unfurl, and the impossibly pure light of truth was beginning to spread like rays of hope and joy from within the new dimension being revealed.
[As I translate the text, I will be using third person plural to denote neutral third person singular, in keeping with the direction the English language has been evolving into for the past twenty or thirty years.]
[Living Water I The LUMO Project, http://www.freebibleimages.org]