“A Broken Life and Living Water” | John 4: 1-5
“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water
will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water
that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water
that I will give will become in them a spring of water
gushing up to eternal life.’” — John 4:13-14
We are in the third week of the season of Lent — the 40 days leading to Easter, not including Sundays. Our theme for this Lent is “Broken…Yet Made Whole.” Sunday we will see Jesus and his disciples on a journey from Jerusalem to Galilee.
There were two routes Jesus and his disciples could have taken: straight up through Samaria or out of the way to the east, crossing the Jordan river and going up on the eastern side of the Jordan and then back across the Jordan into Galilee when they had gone far enough up to avoid Samaria. Unless they had to do otherwise, Jews in Jesus’ day went east, crossed the Jordan, up the east side, then back across to Galilee.
Why would they do that? Because the Jews and the Samaritans despised each other — and had for centuries! But, the gospel of John says that Jesus “had to go through Samaria.”
Why did he have to? I believe it is because he had to show them what God is like. To do that, he HAD TO cross the barrier built by brokenness. On the way Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman when he and the disciples had stopped for water at a place called Jacob’s well.
There are a couple of clues in the biblical passage that show us that she was a broken woman: she was alone at the well at noon, which indicates that she was avoiding the other women who would be there to draw water at cooler times of the day. She had had five husbands and was now living with a man who was not her husband.
We can only imagine that she knew brokenness in her life. After Jesus asked her for a drink from the well, she responded, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” Just to make sure John’s gentile audience understood, John gives us a little parenthetical statement of explanation: “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.”
Then Jesus tells her that if she only knew who she was talking to, she would have asked him and he would have given her living water. There is some confusion, because “living water” was the common phrase to describe spring water. Living water is always better because of its purity and because you don’t have to dig a well and draw it up — it gushes forth.
She’s looking around for a spring that she’s pretty sure isn’t there. After all, if there was a spring nearby, Jacob wouldn’t have dug this well! She’s a little indignant. You can imagine her thinking, “Who does he think he is? Doesn’t he know that the people around here would have been using a spring if there was one, instead of drawing this water up one bucketful at a time?”
Jesus then spoke these words to her: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
The impact of Jesus’ acceptance and love for her was tremendous! Never before had she been treated like this by a man. She discovered in Jesus acceptance, love and respect. She discovered in Jesus the living water that made her whole.
When she met Jesus she discovered in him what she really needed all through her years of searching. She needed to know that her life mattered. She needed to know that in spite of her failures, in spite of her weaknesses, and in spite of her sin, she was a person of worth.
She did not know who she really was until she met this teacher from Nazareth. And when she met Jesus, her life was transformed — and she would never again be the same. She had brought her jar out to the well to draw water, but in her encounter with Jesus she discovered something far more significant: she was given the living water of wholeness and life.
In what ways are you broken? For what do you hunger and thirst? Sunday we will bring these questions with us as we meet Jesus at the well.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster