John 4: 5-14, 21-26, 34-42
All of us get thirsty, tired, and sometimes struggle with our personal lives. People who depend only on physical water will be continuously thirsty and look in the wrong direction for satisfaction. Today’s text is the conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman he meets at the well.
There were no social dealings between Jews and Samaritans. In those situations, Jesus broke through two levels of prejudice, and his question opened the encounter and conversation. The woman was not only a Samaritan but a woman who represented an oppressed minority. For a Jewish man to speak to a Samaritan woman was unheard of, and she probably had never experienced a similar conversation.
Jesus’ conversation with the woman led to far more than an exchange of words and water. There was a special “going” to the lost. The meaning of “going” from the Bible is often not just travelling across geographic borders, but it means crossing boundaries, and going beyond one’s comfort zone to make the gospel accessible to the lost.
In those days, setting foot on Samaritan soil was not the common way, but Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to go through Samaria. As the Saviour of all people, Jesus had to confront the suspicion and enmity between Jew and Samaritan by ministering all people including enemies. Incarnated Jesus was tired as he was from the journey and experienced the bodily weaknesses of human beings. However, the conversation between Jesus and the woman was initiated and concluded by Jesus. He spoke seven times and the woman spoke six times.
In today’s text, the woman with no voice is a despised Samaritan and morally suspect and isolated from her community. She is seeking water alone in the wilderness. Why would she be alone at a well at the hottest time of the day? The emptiness of the Samaritan woman’s life could not be filled with the physical water from a well. Her thirst would return after every drink.
In verses 10 -12, Jesus offered living water. This confused the woman since she could not understand the moving from physical to spiritual water. The gift of God appeared in this gospel is living water, the water of life, life itself through the Holy Spirit. In Morris’ interpretation, “Jesus is speaking of the new life that He will give, a life connected with the activity of the Spirit. Although Jesus calls Himself ‘the Bread of Life’ (6:35), he does not refer to Himself as the living water. Living water symbolizes the Spirit, whom He would send, than the Christ Himself. It also symbolizes Jesus’ teaching and Scriptures, but it seems likely that the primary meaning here is the Holy Spirit.
The water that the woman had come to draw had to be obtained with hard labour in the sun. Jesus pointed out that the spiritual water is not something for which one strives in difficulty and struggle. In the conversation with Jesus, the woman was interested, confused, and defensive at the same time. She wanted to fill her physical needs and finally saw the spiritual truths that Jesus was teaching her. It is the spiritual water, the living water of Jesus, that gives her a voice others will hear.
The way of quenching thirst is the Water of Life provided by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can provide internal joy for believers. Wonders and signs are exciting and grab people’s attention, but living water for thirsty people comes from Jesus, and genuine faith rests in the promises of Scripture. In the heart of those who trust Jesus have a peaceful spring and strong stream within them. It is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. May we recognise and appreciate the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and the promises of Scripture in our lives.
Jesus welcomes people who are just starting the journey of faith. When the woman is a newcomer to faith, Jesus is so patient and kind to her. The woman is freed for discipleship after Jesus exposes her needs and failings. She becomes his witness. Jesus supports us as we move toward him and grow in understanding. He wants us to deepen and extend our faith, to recognize and acknowledge him for who he is.
In verses 21- 24, we find one of the strongest worship statements from the Bible. Jesus taught us that worship is a matter of person, not place. We learn that worship is not primarily in body, but in spirit. The text does not refer to the Holy Spirit but an attitude of heart which acknowledges God and his sovereignty over our lives. Worship must be done in truth and need to be Christ-centred. God seeks worshipers who must worship in spirit and in truth. The woman had faith through the conversation with Jesus and waited for the coming of the Messiah who would finally put an end to all confusion about the spiritual life.
Next story is a story about how her voice changed a community. In verses 39-41, we already know the woman had a change of heart and mind that indicated new birth. She had gone back to town to announce her meeting with Jesus. She testifies to her community that he told her everything she has ever done and uses her voice to tell the truth about her encounter. The woman’s testimony made a difference in her community, and her voice became the invitation for Jesus to stay in town and reach more people.
Many Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony. The woman’s faith became solid faith after the Saviour had stayed there two days and proclaimed his message. Jesus showed concern for human need, faithfully explained the Scriptures, and he emphasized good news for thirsty people.
Through the food metaphor, Jesus pointed the disciples to the immediate opportunity for ministry, fields for harvest, and all possibilities in all situations and any age. Jesus invites us to open our eyes and look at the fields. Sowers and reapers are often different people. As in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8, some plant the seed, others water it, but God makes it grow. People have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to their own serving. When Christians work together in cooperation rather than competition, more places can be reached with the gospel. May we look at God’s fields together and be ready for the harvest.
Whatever our tasks in the harvest, may we look at Jesus who gives living water and participates in God’s field in cooperation with other workers. I pray that our communities and the world will be changed through being true worshippers, telling the truth, sowing, watering, and living out the gospel.
Sometimes we think our voices do not matter. We have important things to say and wonder if anyone will listen. May we have voices that are loud enough to claim that Jesus is the one who provided living water at a well. Have we imagined that God is listening to our prayers, praises, and testimonies? God invites us to have voices to the world. Witnesses are not responsible for people’s conversion; their task is to tell the truth and live out the gospel.
Today’s text reminds us that, even when we are seeking, thirsting, and believing ourselves in need, God may already be providing what we want. We may think we are excluded in some places, but we are always included in Christ. God declares we belong, and no one can take that away. We can use our voices to speak the truth. May we use our voices to change our communities and praise God. As we thirst for new life, may we find refreshment in the water offered by God in the wilderness. When we are thirsty, may we meet Jesus at the well of the Word and discover God’s blessings in our lives.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)