In John 4:5-42 we meet Jesus at the well of his ancestor Jacob. By now should not be at all surprised that he is doing something he shouldn’t. In this passage he is talking to someone he shouldn’t, he offers living water to the wrong type of person, and he foreshadows a change in the order of things that would have been very unpopular with the Jewish leaders of the day.
He speaks to a Samaritan woman. She was at the well alone in the middle of the day, not the time women regularly went there, so she was trying to avoid people who knew her and would have ridiculed her, staring and talking behind their hands about her. That alone smacks of scandal! This woman he meets at the well is a person whom he should have ignored for at least three valid cultural reasons of the time.
1. Men were not supposed to talk to women they didn’t know, it just wasn’t done.
2. Jews were not supposed to talk to Samaritans.
3. Not only was she a Samaritan woman, but she was a woman who had been married to five different men and was currently living with a man outside marriage.
As the Pharisees were keen to point out, Jesus spent far too much time with sinners, he should have just walked away!
Many of us are familiar with the story as it unfolds; Jesus is alone, he asks for water, she points out all the reasons why he shouldn’t be talking to her, he offers her a different kind of water which will quench a thirst deeper than the physical thirst, she is down-to-earth and points out that he has no way of drawing water from the well and brings up their mutual ancestor Jacob who had dug the well in the stone, he shows that he knows all about her even though they have never met and he is visiting the area, he tells her that he is Messiah and she believes!
Everyone gets thirsty. In fact, water is the most important thing for our basic survival. We can live much longer without food than we can with no water. Sometimes in our modern-day we don’t even manage to recognize when we are thirsty and mistake it for hunger, so after we eat we still have that uncomfortable feeling. This is one of the things you will read about if you are trying to lose weight and or live a more healthy lifestyle. This kind of thirst can be satisfied with a good drink of water.
The Israelites who had followed Moses out of Egypt were thirsty and there was no well or source of water around. (Exodus 17:1-7) This would be a most disturbing circumstance and so we are not surprised when they go to complain to Moses about this and ask for water. The story does not indicate how long it had been since they had their last chance to store up water, but presumably if they had not gone to complain, God would have led them in range of a water source before it was too late. The thing is, though, that while they may have been physically thirsty, what the Israelites really thirsted for was the assurance of the presence, love and care of God with them. This was the test, if God is really with us he should be able to satisfy our thirst. And so God provided water out of a rock, in a way like Jacob would do years later for his people and flocks.
While the woman was talking about water to drink, Jesus was offering himself to us as the source and sustenance of life and assurance of God’s continuing presence with us. Jesus is the Messiah, believe and you need never thirst again!