Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you,`Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
There are signs all around us of spiritual need, but they are not always obvious if we fail to see them for what they are. Oftentimes, the obvious problem, seen in behaviors, is more of a symptom than it is the causative issue. Think of it like a wagon wheel, a hub with a lot of spokes extending out in a circular fashion: the hub is heart idolatry and the spokes are behavioral sins. If we address behavioral problems in others or even ourselves, but it’s not the cause, then at best we will have reformation but not transformation.
The gospel is not foremost a behavioral message, though; it is a spiritual message that first touches upon the mind (or heart) and then the thoughts, attitudes and behaviors of a person in which it becomes more apparent that repentance has taken place. Repentance literally means “with the mind” in the Greek (metanoia), because the mind is the control center from which all other activity flows.
These concepts are important when stepping into John 4, because the woman at the well has multiple “spokes” that are not the core issue. Jesus knows this; he knows this about each one of us, too. Notice that he lets those outer behaviors lead to the deeper problem in their conversation, but never does he make the behavior itself the primary problem to be addressed. Thirst could be posited as the primary problem of the Samaritan woman’s life as we will soon see. There are three ways that thirst, a core need, is expressed in John 4:9-26: physical thirst, relational thirst, and the thirst of worship. Today, we’ll look at physical thirst and then look at the other forms of thirst in further devotionals.
Verses 9-14 highlight a very basic problem for the woman. She needed water, as all humans do. There is good cause to believe that Jesus’ running into her at the sixth hour of the day, which was noon, was not uncommon for her as the time she’d get water. It is very likely that her lifestyle was deeply frowned upon by the other people, especially the women, of her town. Most women would go out early in the morning to beat the heat and draw water for the day for their households; she did not.
An old story goes that one night in a town a sign was posted on a telephone pole on the main street. The sign read, “I know what you did and if you don’t leave town in two days I’m going to tell everyone.” Before the two days was up, half of the town was gone! Guilt and shame can work that way. Coming out to the well at noon was foolish if one was to avoid the heat of the day, but if the heat of the day was less of a concern than the heat of public shame, then it could afford the privacy she would desire.
Given our understanding of Jews and their relationship to Samaritans, little needs to be said as to why it would be a big deal of Jesus to ask for water from her. She even tells us why it was a cultural problem in v. 9 (“Jews have no dealing with Samaritans”). Let’s focus on v. 10, though, when Jesus says, “If you knew (oida) the gift of God and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The point He’s making is that she didn’t have any personal knowledge regarding the gift of God or the Messiah. She had no familiarity with Him or His gift of life, for if she did, she would have been begging Him for that, but she didn’t. Jesus was leading this conversation exactly where He wanted it to go.
Much like the conversation with Nicodemus, there is a great amount of spiritual disconnect going on within the woman: He offers living water, but He has nothing to get that water with. Can you hear Nicodemus faintly saying, “How can a man be born again when he’s old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Both conversations highlight progressive revelation as well as mercy and grace; many times Jesus would let people not perceive what He was saying when speaking in parables, but there are other moments when He continued to unfold spiritual truths and opened people’s “eyes” to see.
Knowledge forms a backbone to this conversation, because Christ knows her and He’s always known her better than she ever would ever know herself. As their talk continues, we will see His knowledge put on display. His knowledge is of her thirst for fulfillment, which she is not finding in water, relationships or worship. He is the fullness that she needs as Savior; this will be peeled away the further this passage goes.
If we look closely, we’ll see a person (the woman) in this verbal exchange who does not seem all that smart or noble. She’s probably not your Proverbs 31 type; she’s got a reputation and she’s carrying shame. She’s the type of person most of us pass by and give little thought to; this is probably why Jesus chose her as the gateway to the other people in Sychar. She was quite possibly the least likely person for the Lord to show kindness to in Sychar, in human eyes. This is what made her such a good candidate for the displaying the love of Christ for all people.
Every believer alive today will sooner or later have their opportunity to meet this very woman and to learn her name, hear her story, and call her a friend and sibling in Christ. We will see a person made beautiful by the grace of God and we will marvel yet again at the power of the gospel to save people like her and people like us. We are all sinners equally in need of salvation in the sight of God. We are all people who seek fulfillment in various ways, too, but who are all just as empty as the next person without finding fulfillment in Christ.
Have you drank the living water of which Jesus speaks? It’s eternal life and it comes from placing our faith in Jesus Christ. The offer He made to her is an offer that He makes to each of us even now.
Prayer from Pastor Sam:
Father, wean us off of the empty promises of this world. Help us to find our satisfaction in You. Give us the strength and courage to bear the message of the cross to the people around us. Grow a deep sense of joy in our hearts. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.