How we need life-giving water! One of the amazing things about the Bible is that you can be reading a familiar passage and suddenly the words seem to leap off the page and hit you between the eyes. This happened to me the other day with verse 6 of our reading: "Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired from a long walk, sat wearily beside it." I was reminded once again of the tremendous significance that Jesus was fully human. Here is the Son of God – tired and thirsty – needing physical water -sitting there on the edge of the well and appearing to be wasting time with a Samaritan woman. No righteous Jew would talk to such a person, let alone a woman and, if you go on to read the story, a woman of quite some reputation.
Here she is, at the hottest part of the day, coming to draw water from the well outside her village, probably to avoid meeting people who knew her character, and Jesus asks her for a drink. And everything snowballs from here ending in Jesus giving her an extraordinary message about fresh and pure water that would quench her thirst forever. What these verses reveal first of all is that the gospel is for every person regardless of race, creed, social position or past sins. Secondly that opportunity to minister the Word can come from a chance encounter. Spurgeon once said, "Don’t hold back because you cannot preach in St. Paul’s; be content to talk to just one in a cottage. You may cook in small pots as well as big ones. As spark is a fire. A sentence of truth has heaven in it. Do what you do right, and leave the result to God." What we also see here is that every one of us has a need to be satisfied. We’re all born thirsty. Thirsty for the physical – food, drink, shelter, clothing, security, friendship and love. Thirsty for knowledge and wisdom. Thirsty for all things spiritual – a vital ingredient which is often missing in our lives. We can have all the riches and pleasures of the world but still be desperately unhappy, because we are thirsty! That’s why many verses in the Bible draw a parallel between the physical and spiritual aspects of our lives. As our bodies need water, so do our souls – so we thirst after God as one thirsts for water, because He is the "fountain of life." The picture of living water is one of the peace and satisfaction that God brings. This is what Jesus means by living water, and as the Messiah, only He can give this gift which satisfies the soul’s desires and quenches our thirst.
The woman confuses the two types of water, because nobody had spoken to her about spiritual thirst before. That’s why she points out that Jesus doesn’t have a bucket to use to get the water from this very deep well. Although He was tired and giving Himself a breather, what appears to be an idle moment, turns into a moment of communion, as He shares the gospel with her. It results in her glimpsing something she had been resisting all her life – the power of God’s Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life. She realises she can come to Jacob’s well, draw water, but will soon be thirsty again. However, if she takes the water Jesus offers, she will never be thirsty again. The still water of the well will be replaced by a vibrant "spring welling up for eternal life." It took me a long time to admit I was thirsty for God. I’ve never been without physical water. Never been dehydrated. But I had a dry and parched soul. Spiritually my life was empty. I had needs deep within my heart that were not being met. I was thirsty for meaning, purpose, security and stability in my life. Right now this could be you. If it is, remember that your life can be changed by the grace of God’s living water which is freely available.
The Amazon River is the largest river in the world. It’s mouth is 90 miles across. So much water comes from the Amazon that its currents can be detected 200 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. Ironically, sailors in bygone times, caught in windless waters, less than 200 miles from the coast of South America, often died of thirst. If they had known what we know now, they could have simply lowered their buckets and drank their fill.
The tragedy around us today is that God, the fountain of living water, is not 200 miles away, but right here. It’s just that people don’t realise they can draw from His spring. There are so many thirsty people who have made the choice not to accept Jesus Christ – preferring to satisfy their thirst in other ways – which ultimately is short-lived – for they are soon thirsty again.
Water is mentioned hundreds of times throughout Scripture. It communicates something of God’s character and provision for all creation and for every living creature. Without water – there is no life – either physical or spiritual. But if after all our thirsting we turn to the Gospel and choose to lower our buckets into the well of salvation, the Lord will restore our souls and lead us to quiet waters by. Isaiah 41:17-18 says this: "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, I the LORD will hear them, I will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water."
Today, may we, for whom water flows at the turn of a tap, and crucially while we still have the time, ponder what it means to thirst. In the presence of Christ. AMEN.